I have followed and been a fan of Dan Wellman’s writing for some time and when I noticed he was asking on Twitter for people to review a new book he was writing I jumped at the chance.
I have been using jQuery for several years now on a mixture of commercial and personal websites and on various web applications and whilst I don’t always think it is the right solution for a problem, when a library is the right solution jQuery is one of the best. In my current role we heavily use jQuery so I believe I am qualified to accurately review this book.
So, is jQuery HotShot a good read? Or does Dan fall into the trap that so many jQuery writers do and leave you with pages of poorly written jQuery that doesn't conform to any best practice?
I am happy to report that true to form Dan has produced an excellent book that manages to explain some of the core features of the library in interesting and memorable ways. He has greatly increased my understanding of some of the features that make jQuery an excellent library.
With hardly any preamble we are thrown straight into a fun example of using jQuery to create a sliding puzzle game. The example manages to assume no prior knowledge but at the same time doesn't bore someone with prior knowledge by walking at a snails pace, as the book continues the examples get more and more involved.
One of the reasons that jQuery HotShot is able to get straight into good examples is that the examples themselves are littered with little best practice tidbits, for example;
Joining an array of substrings to form a single string is much faster than building a string using the + operator on substrings, and as we're working repetitively inside a loop, we should optimize the code within the loop as much as possible.
Without needing a chapter or section dedicated to optimisations we have been able to find out about the need to take care about what we do inside loops and also learn a quick performance tips when dealing with strings. This certainly doesn't have any direct bearing on the task at hand, but helps point the reader towards the best way of doing things.
My favourite example used in the book is probably the Bounty Hunter mobile site that hooks into StackOverflow looking for questions to answer, but the book covers a wide range of examples including building browser add-ons using jQuery and how to build your own jQuery (which introduces things like grunt.js, node.js, git etc.).
I am kind of cheating, because I was already aware of Dan's writing and work so I knew that he knows his stuff, but you honestly do get the impression that a real expert in their field is writing this book, the way the information is presented shows that he has a deep and broad understanding of the subject material.
Something that I loved but that some might not was how involved the examples were, by this I mean that you could tell the feature or features an example was trying to explain and there are far more concise examples that could have been used, but they would either not have been as fun or wouldn't have had a grounding in the real world.
One small niggle I have with the book is that the terminology for the sections within a chapter don't suit my personality, subtitles like "Prepare for Lift Off" and "Engage Thrusters" belong more in the fluffy self-help books I love to read as opposed to a technical book, but I am fully aware the majority of people probably love that kind of stuff! Another tiny irk is that one of the examples talks about infinite scrolling, and I personally think that infinite scrolling is the devil!
All in all I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and as someone who has been using jQuery in anger for a very long time I did come away haven't learnt a truck load and I imagine you will too. One day I might write a blog post about the things I have learned from this book, in the mean time you should just go ahead and buy it!
jQuery HotShot Resources
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