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Mike Riley

Dr. Dobb's Bloggers

Murach's JavaScript Book Review

September 19, 2009

JavaScript certainly seems to be a hot publishing topic lately, with several tutorial books recently released into the tech book marketspace.  While each of these cater toward specific audience demographics (web designers and/or programmers), Murach uses their established large printed format to train readers on the nuances of JavaScripting.  Does the approach work?  Read on to find out.

Written by JavaScript veteran Ray Harris, Murach's JavaScript and DOM Scripting is a 750+ page, 20 chapter book that dives right into a working JavaScript example and spends several chapters deconstructing the technical components that comprise the functionality, from the XHTML page container to the CSS stylings and of course the JavaScript syntax interacting with the DOM.  Broken out into four sections, the first provides a quick tour of JavaScript testing and debugging as well as 'crash courses' in XHTML and CSS.  The next section, nearly 200 pages long, is all about JavaScript - statements, flow control, arrays, functions, objects, regular expressions, input and output.  Section 3 on DOM scripting provides the bulk of the book with over 240 pages reviewing basic and advanced DOM scripting, handling and manipulation as well as scripting forms, tables and CSS.  The section concludes with a review of DOM 2D and 3D animation techniques ranging from using the JavaScript Math library to calculate radians and square roots to generate smooth animation.  The final section of the book concludes with a catch-all chapter on controlling web browser windows (i.e., pop-ups, window resizing and cookies) followed by a chapter on today's most popular JavaScript libraries, including jQuery, Dojo and Dojo Dijits.  Each of the book's chapters conclude with an application utilizing the techniques revealed throughout the corresponding chapter, along with several exercises to help reinforce the knowledge imparted.
The book's format mostly adheres to the Murach 2-page training style of present concept, show code. However, a number of lengthier explanations and code listings break that tradition.  While necessary to convey the deeper intricacies of the language, its use disrupts the learning rhythm at times.  One of the aspects I most admired about Murach's titles is their ability to condense challenging or verbose topics into a single page and demonstrate that concept in action on the corresponding page.  I was unsure how to interpret this extended approach in certain segment of the book from that tradition, though it did seem to bog down the otherwise left page/right page flow I have grown to appreciate from other Murach's titles.  Regardless, I still found the educational angle used in this book much more conducive to quicker learning compared to other JavaScript texts.  And while the book is a bit more pricey than its competitors, it's also larger, physically easier to read and specifically constructed to move information from page to reader's brain as effectively as possible.  And while the book's code can be downloaded from the publisher's website, I would encourage potential readers to code along with the listings - learning is so much more meaningful and engaging that way.  If you haven't seen a Murach book before and are looking for a unique reading experience and relatively thorough, up-to-date introduction to JavaScript, Murach's JavaScript and DOM Scripting is a book you should definitely consider checking out.


Title: Murach's JavaScript and DOM Scripting
Author: Ray Harris
Publihser: Mike Murach & Associates
ISBN: 978-1-890774-55-4
Pages: 764
Price: $54.50


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