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Head Rush Ajax by Brett D Mclaughlin
Head Rush Ajax

JimAnderton, April 24, 2006

I've listened to several talks on Ajax, read a few articles, and even put together some sites that use it. I decided to read Head Rush Ajax by Brett McLaughlin with the hope that it would deepen my Ajax skills and help me get into more advanced uses of it. Before I get in to my personal opinion of this book, let me tell you a little about it. First, check out the table of contents:

1 Using Ajax: web applications for a new generation
2 Speaking the Language: making ajax requests
3 She Blinded Me with Asynchrony: asynchronous apps
4 Web Page Forestry: the document object model
4.5 A Second Helping: devloping dom applications
5 Saying More with POST: post requests
6 More Than Words Can Say: xml requests and responses
7 A Fight to the Finish: json versus xml
Appendix 1: A Few Special Bonus Gifts: extras
Appendix 2: "All I Want Is the Code": ajax and dom utilities

Focusing on the content for a moment, if you're a total HTML newb, you might want to focus on honing those skills before reading this book. And, if you're already a kick-butt web developer looking for an Ajax reference manual, this isn't it. However, if you're somewhere in the middle you should read on. If you are comfortable with HTML and have at least minimal Javascript and DHTML experience this might be a great first step into Ajax.

The author starts at the very beginning of the Ajax story and does a great job explaining what the various technologies are that make Ajax work. He uses a few different (comical but effective) example applications to teach the topics. You'll create apps like a snowboard sales report, a pizza ordering site, a top-5 CDs site. They're good examples because they're simple enough to just get the points across without losing you in the details. The book is not dependent on any particular server technology. It would be applicable for developers using asp, Java, php, etc. Toward the end of the book, there is a comparison of JSON and XML. Finally, in an appendix, there is a nice collection of various Ajax and web-related toolkits.

Now, a word about the overall style or approach of this book. You can see from the table of contents, the Head Rush style comes with a little attitude and more than a few corny jokes. This was my first Head Rush book and I must say the look and feel is a big departure from your typical technical book. There are LOTs of different fonts and graphics. The text is very conversational and easy to read. The style of the book makes for an enjoyable read and it does good job getting the entry-level developer into Ajax. Their goal is to keep you engaged to improve your retention. They hammer home the basics through repetition and varying methods of presentation.

So, what did I think? We'll, given that I am an experienced developer already somewhat familiar with Ajax, this book didn't go deep enough for me. But, while the content of the book was a little more basic than I had hoped, I did enjoy reading it. I found it easy to concentrate on even in a distracting environment. That's more than can be said for some more traditional technical books. The Head Rush style won't appeal to everyone so I highly recommend taking a look at the sample chapter posted on the O'Reilly site before investing. If you are completely new to Ajax and the style of the sample chapter appeals to you, I would highly recommend the book. Just keep in mind that, once you finish this book, you may want a second, more technical Ajax book to further deepen your skills.

Currently reading Pragmatic Ajax. (
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