Thursday, July 27, 2006

Book Review : AJAX in Action

I have today completed the 1st of the 4 parts of this book and i must say that i loved reading it due to my growing interest in the AJAX methodology and the web application development, in general.

Part 1 of the book talks about what and why about AJAX, introduces the framework and toolset and the core technologies you need to know about when working on AJAX. This part is divided into 3 chapters (introducing AJAX, simple example with code and importance of refactoring the AJAX Javascript code).

Part 2 (this is where i am now in my reading) talks about the techniques to employ for coding the client and the server. Comprised of 2 chapters.

Part 3 (which i am yet to read) discusses about enhancing user experince (usability stuff that you should consider while developing AJAX application), security and performance of AJAX application. Comprised of 3 chapters.

Part 4 provides example applications using AJAX methodology like Dynamic double combo, type-ahead suggest, web portal with autosave functionality, live search using XSLT, and building a standalone RSS Feed Reader. Comprised of 5 chapters.

The reason i like this book alot is because i did not know much CSS, HTML DOM or Javascript before and there this book introduces those subject areas in a way that is relevant to the development of AJAX based application. And thats what a J2EE developer like me will require. We dont necessarily need to learn Javascript to develop libraries like Scriptaculous (i mean not like a web front end designer would want to know). All we need to know about CSS, Javascript and HTML DOM is to be able to work comfortably with those while making an AJAX application. The book has pretty good introduction to these topics and hence i have benefitted alot. The Appendix B named Javascript for object-oriented programmers is more than what i think i will need to know about the language. CSS and HTML DOM are introduced in chapter 2 and used throughout the book in the several examples thus giving one alot of room to practice. The coverage of examples using the most common scenarios where one would want to use AJAX methodology is also very nice. It also talks and demonstrates with examples, the use of different frameworks (like Rico, prototype, scriptaculous, etc) and also tell enough about the frameworks based on which you can decide which one will best suit your needs on a certain project. In short, you become educated enough to make a good decision on what framework to use for your project which can help you cut down the timeline for the project. If you are new to AJAX then do check out the book's website for a screencast by the authors on what is ajax. I just checked out on a few frameworks mentioned in the book and following are the ones which interested me most:

  • Rico: built over prototype library provides a AjaxEngine Javascript object which you can use to simplify the AJAX request/response and also provides some widgets like accordian for one.
  • DWR: Direct web remoting is an application framework which allows Java objects to expose their methods directly for AJAX requests to clients.
  • Echo2: is also an application framework which like DWR does not require you to know HTML, CSS and Javascript enabling the user interface to be created in pure Java. It provides a visual designer as an eclipse plugin using which you can layout your web forms easily and the corresponding code will be generated in Java. The SDK is open source but the eclipse plugin is not (a free trial for 30 days is available). Will write more as i read and learn more from this excellent book.

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