Head Rush Ajax

Paladion
By Paladion

June 2, 2006

If you have read a Head First book, you will be very comfortable with Head Rush Ajax. Visual metaphors, humor and surprise in these books engage the reader thoroughly. Having heard the buzzword called AJAX, you may be eager to learn it quickly. This unpretentious book is just right for you.

Head Rush AjaxAJAX, shorthand for Asynchronous Javascript and XML is arguably the hottest kid on the web application block. AJAX, quintessentially a Javascript technology, enables web apps to be more responsive. Sites like Google Maps showed the power of Javascript to provide a richer user experience.

Several new AJAX books have hit the market to help developers get to speed on the technology. In October 2005 came Dave Crane and Eric Pascarello’s Ajax in Action, one of the earliest good books on the subject. Head Rush Ajax, part of O’Reilly’s Head First series came out in March 2006 and became very popular. So I was expecting some excitement when I picked up the book.

This was my first Head First book, and I must confess I’ve become a fan. The book is unpretentious, and gets the basics of Ajax across fast. It’s more enjoyable than most technical books, even when the jokes fall flat.

The book is targeted at HTML and Javascript developers who are acquainted with writing web front-ends. Step-by-step, it introduces the key elements of Ajax: rich internet applications, asynchronous requests, the HTML DOM, and XML. Each of them gets a dedicated chapter, sometimes two, as the author shows with examples how Ajax improves upon traditional apps.

Along the way, a few nifty techniques and security tips are thrown in. The use of dummy variables in the request to avoid browser serving GET requests from cache is one such. A lively chapter on JSON introduces the alternative to XML. An interlude on SQL Injection concludes that the best way to prevent it – even in Ajax apps - is server side validation. We, of course, believe that parameterized queries are the best defense.

I enjoyed the easy style and non-linear narrative. The Head First series uses visual metaphors, humor, and surprise to engage the reader. And it seems to work looking at the book’s popularity– today it’s among the top 25 computer books on Amazon.

If you are already working on Ajax and familiar with its concepts, this book is not for you. You might find an advanced book, like Ajax Hacks by Bruce Perry, more useful. But if you are new to Ajax, then Head Rush Ajax is probably the fastest way to learn it.

Reviewed by: Roshen Chandran


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