One day last year my client decided we needed to incorporate AJAX into their web site. AJAX was considered the big thing, and by not having “it” we were going to fall behind some of our competitors.

“What do you want to enhance using AJAX?” “What do you mean? Just install AJAX.”

Ok. I’ve been doing a lot of work with JavaScript for years, including DOM manipulation and other Web 2.0-ish type trickery, but AJAX as a concept was something I had yet to explore. After reading resources available online, I decided to jump ahead a bit and buy a book on the topic.

I picked JavaScript & Ajax, Visual Quickstart Guide for a number of reasons.

  1. It featured a beginner’s look at AJAX

  2. It is part of the Visual Quickstart series - anyone who knows me will know that I love how professionally this series is put together

  3. It features a full-colour DOM object reference flowchart

I will admit this book is not the most comprehensive resource out there, for JavaScript or for AJAX. If I had wanted a more solid reference manual I would likely have sought out a book that focused solely on AJAX or solely on JavaScript. My trusty old tome Mastering JavaScript has always been a great reference, and I won’t get rid of it any time soon.

Although the title of the book is JavaScript & AJAX, the truth is this is a book about JavaScript. Right in the introduction the authors admit they simply added Ajax in this (6th) edition. Beginning the chapter on Ajax, we learn that the name of the book was changed to include Ajax in order to cash in on the success of the methodology. I won’t fault the authors for making that move - in fact I would consider a book about JavaScript to be incomplete nowadays if it did not include a discussion on Ajax.

I bought this book because of its practical discussion. The authors describe generic tricks such as adding dynamic dates and form validation to your site, something older books don’t always consider in much detail. Although the language itself hasn’t really changed since the 90s, the way we use it has. For that reason alone I like to upgrade my bookshelf to keep up with the current trends.

This book features a full colour reference chart for DOM properties. This may not be useful to people who like to use syntax-highlight and code completion software, but I still tend to write JavaScript in plain text editors, so any attribute I don’t know off the top of my head is handy to have at my fingertips.

In all, the authors have done a good job of bringing together a thorough primer for JavaScript. The book identifies itself as targeting beginner to intermediate programmers, an assessment I would tend to agree with. If you’re looking for a decent reference, easy to access, without a lot of jargon, this is the book for you.