Book Review
Java 2 for the World Wide Web

Java 2 for the World Wide Web
Visual Quickstart Guide
Dori Smith

PeachPit Press
Price: $21.99
SBN: 0-201-74864-9

Imagine your site has nifty content but lacks a bit in the interactivity department. Further suppose that your goals are beyond the abilities of HTML or JavaScript. In short, you have decided to add some Java 2 to your website. The question might occur to you: “Hey, where can I learn some beginning to intermediate level Java 2 programming in a pleasing visual manner?” Dori Smith aims to answer this question with Java 2 for the World Wide Web Visual Quickstart Guide. (Authors note: In reading this book you might be left with the impression that Java 2 can only be used for the World Wide Web. In reality Java 2 is so nifty that it is disabled in the latest offerings by Microsoft and is used to help power the new linux based PDA made by Sharp. So there’s more to Java 2 than cool interactive web pages.)

The first question that crossed my mind before even getting the book was: “Visual Quickstart Guide? Why? It’s a freakin’ programming language!” Honestly, what pictures could the author possibly show me besides snapshots of long pages of programming language? Well there are plenty of pictures of just that. So, the question remains, is the visual part of the guide a complete waste? Well the shots of programming language could easily be relegated to plain old text but the vagaries of Java 2 are such that same applet looks vastly different on various computers. Imagine you use a Mac wannabe (say a compackard). If you carefully code several hundred lines of programming your newly birthed applet is gonna look way different on a Windows machine than it does on classic Mac. Naturally it looks best on OSX, but heck, OSX makes bad porn look good. The point being that when writing applets for different systems understanding the differences in the end product can be enormously important. What looks fine to a Windows user is not what looks fine to a Mac user. This is where the visual part of the book shines. You can get a feel of how to set the parameters so that your applet will perform on a wide variety of machines. This compatibility is particularly important with Java 2 which was conceived to be cross platform solution. (Actually that’s a lie, Java was conceived for set top boxes, it was reconceived as a cross platform solution).

For those of you who have read other Dori Smith offerings you’ll find the writing style and layout familiar. If youÕve never bothered to crack a Dori Smith book before you won’t be left out in the cold. While the author states that it is assumed you have a passing knowledge of HTML knowledge of HTML is not necessary to get a great deal out of this book. If you read this book and play with the examples you’ll learn a good deal about Java 2 whether you ever want to use it on a web page or not. The layout and flow of the book are logical (from simple to complex) and easily followed without being too mundane. Each chapter builds on the previous text so skipping around is probably not a good idea unless you are using the book as a reference manual.

Java 2 applets tend to be fairly long when compared to JavaScript or HTML coding, especially at the beginning level. It would take quite a bit longer to make an applet say, borrowing the author’s first example, “Hello World” with Java 2 than HTML. I suppose this is because Java 2 can do quite a bit more than HTML. Still if you skip the preface and start staring at the examples you’ll find yourself wondering whether it is really worth your time to type all that code in just to play tic-tac-toe. Of course if you bother to read the preface you’ll realize that you don’t have to type all the indented, bracketed code. It’s not magic; the author thoughtfully provides the actual examples from the book on the web. That means you can just copy the author’s hard work and add your own bits of inspiration.

Of course the real test of these instructional books is how far they get you. If you can program some code that does something useful, entertaining or intentionally useless then the book has achieved the author’s goal. If, on the other hand, you read the book and can’t make a decent applet then the book has failed. With this in mind I would call the book a success. You can program some pretty cool stuff after digesting the book. It’s not going to tell you how to make up some completely original gotta have applet but if you have a flash of inspiration and want to make said miracle applet this book will get you there (if you want to go beyond the web find a different book). The book isn’t everything you need to know about Java 2 (and it doesn’t aim to be) but it is everything you need to know about Java 2 unless you’re getting paid to program Java 2.

Bottom Line: This is a good solid introduction to Java 2, particularly if you’re looking for web interactivity.

MacMice Rating: 4 out of 5

Chris Seibold

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