Archive for the Books Category

Book Review – Prototype and script.aculo.us

Posted in Books on February 9, 2008 by Shaun

I’ve always fancied running a book review feature on this blog, covering technical books I’ve read and mixing in the odd review of any fiction I read.  It never got past the thinking about it stage so I figured I’d just do it and see if this takes off in any way.  Feel free to make your own comments, and to let me know if you found the review interesting or even if you think it’s rubbish and I should stop.
I may not bother paying any attention to you of course but hey you never know ;0)

So my first book is titled ‘Prototype and script.aculo.us’ with a sub title of ‘You Never Knew JavaScript Could Do This’.  As the title clearly suggests, this book is all about the Prototype and script.aculo.us JavaScript libraries that are extremely popular amongst web developers especially developers of AJAX based sites or applications.

After a good week with this book I think a better subtitle would be ‘The Missing Manual’ because that is exactly what this book is.  Prototype has had a hard time, despite it’s popularity, in the past because people found it really hard to figure out how to get the good stuff out of it, how to make this baby burn.  Later came some much better documentation on the prototype site, and now we get the good stuff.

This book is for everyone who wants to unleash the power of Prototype and ‘scripty’ (the developers pet name for script.aculo.us – no doubt because they were sick of typing it out in full).  The book is put together well, the reading style is easy and you can either just read along or, to get more out of the book, you can follow the examples and code them yourself so you see it in action.

Right off the bat you’ll get to see how prototype gives you full CSS3 power without relying on the browser, and you can see how to build some truly awesome routines that will make your life so much smoother.  Whether you are a web developer for small sites or a developer working on enterprise web applications, there is something in this book for you.

Topics covered include:

  • Discover Prototype
  • What it is
  • Jargon and concepts
  • Explaining the $’s
    • $W, because array literals are boring
    • $A, the collection unifier
    • $H, make a hash of things
  • Regular JavaScript on Steroids
  • Advanced Collections with Enumerable
  • Unified Event Handling
  • Playing with the DOM is finally fun!
  • Form Management
  • Ajax has never been so easy
    • Streamlining
    • Polling
    • Debugging
    • Accessibility
  • More useful Helper Objects
  • Performance Considerations
  • There’s a neat task at the end of the prototype section so you can build a task list to put your new skills into action.

    The Scripty section includes:

    • Discover script.aculo.us
    • The modules of script.aculo.us
    • Using it in your pages
  • Visual effects
    • What are they and why use them
    • Core effects
    • Effect Helpers
    • How to create your own
  • Drag and Drop
  • Autocompletion
  • Building DOM fragments the easy way: Builder
  • In-Place Editing
  • Sliders
  • Sound without Flash
  • Extending and Contributing
  • There’s a section on further reading to help you carry in learning and a section on installing and using Ruby too as these libraries are deliberately built to play nice with Ruby and in many cases you’ll notice how they do things in a Ruby sort of way :0)

    Source code from the book is available but it took me a couple of minutes to find it as it wasn’t obvious from the book, or I completely missed the bit that showed you where to get the source, anyway it’s here if you want to go get it.

    The book is published by the Pragmatic programmers label and you can get more details or purchase it here I got my copy through compman in the UK for £15.39 Amazon have it for £16.49

    If you use or are thinking of using these libraries in any shape or form in your sites or applications I can’t recommend this book enough.  It will open up the power of the libraries to you and may just give you that extra spark to innovate.

    I give this 10/10 it’s a great book.

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