Book Review: Learning jQuery 1.3

I get asked for book recommendations on various subjects with some frequency (more so recently as everybody’s training budget is circling the drain). For jQuery, the best book I had found and the one I always recommended was Learning jQuery, by Johnathan Chaffer and Karl Swedberg (Packt Publishing, 2007). I don’t buy very many programming books, but that one was a great investment. Prior to jQuery and this tome, Javascript programming was my least favorite activity. Afterward, I’ve been writing whole web applications with no server-side programming whatsoever using jQuery.

So when Packt Publishing contacted me to do a review of Learning jQuery 1.3, I was happy to do so.* Aside from updating the book and code examples to the latest jQuery release, a number of improvements make the book even better than the previous edition.

Learning jQuery 1.3 is targeted at web designers and developers and assumes a basic knowledge of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript syntax. Emphasis on the word basic; if you’ve played with HTML and JavaScript even a little, you won’t have any problems using this book. Basically you’ll need a text editor for the HTML/CSS/JavaScript, and for some of the samples in the AJAX chapter, you’ll also need a PHP-enabled web server. Full sample scripts for the book can be downloaded from Packt Publishing (a whopping 26MB of them, with full web site examples including images).

The layout of the book hasn’t changed much since the first Learning jQuery; the chapters are the same and are in the same order (with the old Plugins chapter being divided into two chapters).

Chapter 1 - Getting Started
Chapter 2 - Selectors
Chapter 3 - Events
Chapter 4 - Effects
Chapter 5 - DOM Manipulation
Chapter 6 - AJAX
Chapter 7 - Table Manipulation
Chapter 8 - Forms with Function
Chapter 9 - Shufflers and Rotators
Chapter 10 - Using Plugins
Chapter 11 - Developing Plugins
Appendix A: Online Resources
Appendix B: Development Tools
Appendix C: JavaScript Closures
Appendix D: Quick Reference

There are a couple of noticeable improvements over the old layout. The first is the inclusion of a handy Quick Reference to the jQuery API, including selector expressions, event methods, effect methods, etc. The second improvement is a big one and fixes my only real gripe from the first book. The index, which was fairly spartan on the first book, has been greatly expanded and improved. The book is now much easier to use as both a learning guide and a reference tool.

Overall the layout of the book is very clean and logical. The chapters are divided into topics you’ll need to hit as a developer, and the material is presented in a clean and logical way. You can view a sample chapter here.

The first thing that jumps out at you is the foreword by John Resig, the creator of jQuery and a genuinely brilliant guy (I highly recommend checking out his blog). I usually ignore blurbs and forewords and dive right into a book, but having John Resig give his seal of approval to a book is a significant thing. If you’re looking for a book on jQuery, his recommendation is a big endorsement.

The book starts with a gentle introduction, going over jQuery and its history, and walks you through your first “Hello World” jQuery page. After that, you’re off to the races, from selectors to DOM manipulation to effects to using JSONP for cross site queries without a proxy. The way the book is laid out it’s easy to skip around to exactly what you’re interested in doing. The plugins chapters have great information on popular plugins (including jQuery UI) and how to write your own.

If you are thinking about getting started with jQuery or you’re an experienced user looking for a handy guide on the framework, I can’t recommend Learning jQuery 1.3 strongly enough.

*Full disclosure: I did get a free eBook edition of Learning jQuery 1.3 so I could do the book review.