The Modern Web: Multi-Device Web Development with HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript – #bookreview

The Modern Web
Multi-Device Web Development with HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript
Peter Gasston
(No Starch Press – Kindle, paperback)

After a quick first glance, you might look right past this book. You might assume its title, “The Modern Web,” simply introduces some kind of heavily footnoted, academic study of the Internet.

Not so, Web breath. In this case, it’s the subtitle that should grab your attention.

Whether you hope to go into web development, or you’re already there, Peter Gasston’s new book can help you get an improved grasp on three important, device-agnostic tools that will be essential to your work and career development. They are: HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript, that not-so-simple programming language that many new web specialists often try to avoid learning. (That’s because, typically, it’s easier, more fun and a bit less cryptic to work with HTML5 and CSS3.)

Also, Gasston notes, there have been big explosions in the number of libraries and frameworks that use JavaScript, further clouding a developer’s ability to know which ones he or she should learn next. (The author limits his coverage to four: jQuery, YepNope, Modernizr, and Mustache.)

Gasston’s well-written book zeroes in on the three “web technologies that can be used anywhere, from open websites to device-specific web apps.” And on all sorts of devices, ranging from tiny phones to tablet computers to wall-covering HDTVs.

And his teaching aim is to show you “modern coding methods and techniques that you can use to build websites across multiple devices or that are tailored to the single device class you’re targeting.”

By the way, “websites” is simply a shorthand term the author uses “to avoid repetition. The features you’ll learn from this book are relevant to websites, web applications, [and] packaged HTML hybrid applications–in short, anything that can use HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.”

Gasston also wants you to learn that “fast” is the main thing that matters to those who will use your site. “Your site needs to be fast–and feel fast–regardless of the device it’s being displayed on,” he emphasizes. “And fast means not only technical performance (which is incredibly important) but also the responsiveness of the interface and how easily users can navigate the site and find what they need to complete the task that brought them to you in the first place.”

His 243-page book contains many short, useful code examples and illustrations, and is excellent for developers who have at least a little bit of experience with HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript but aren’t sure where and how to focus their energies and attention for the rapidly changing career road ahead.

The Modern Web offers a well-organized introduction, plus 11 chapters:

  1. The Web Platform
  2. Structure and Semantics
  3. Device Responsive CSS
  4. New Approaches to CSS Layouts
  5. Modern JavaScript
  6. Device APIs
  7. Images and Graphics
  8. New Forms
  9. Multimedia
  10. Web Apps
  11. The Future

There also are two appendices: Browser Support as of March 2013 and Further Reading.

Peter Gasston has been a web developer for more than 12 years, and his previous book is The Book of CSS3.

He notes that “[t]he Web is constantly evolving, and book publishing means taking just a single snapshot of a moment. Some things will change; some will wither and be removed. I’ve tried to mitigate this by covering only technologies that are based on open standards rather than vendor-specific ones and that already have some level of implementation in browsers.”

He urges developers to stay alert to changing Web standards and to “be curious, be playful, keep on top of it all. He stresses: “There’s never been a more exciting time to work in web development, but you’ll need to put in an extra shift to really take advantage of it.”

Si Dunn

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Specificity, Selectors, and the Cascade: Applying CSS3 to Documents – #bookreview

Selectors, Specificity, and the Cascade: Applying CSS3 to Documents
Eric A. Meyer
(O’Reilly, paperbackKindle)

If you know some basic CSS but wonder how the “cascade” part of Cascading Style Sheets works, here is a useful guide.

Actually, this is a 73-page, two-chapter excerpt from the upcoming fourth edition of Eric A. Meyer’s CSS: The Definitive Guide. If you are learning CSS, dealing with CSS issues, or moving to CSS3, this small book can provide you with numerous how-to examples to apply to right now.

The first chapter focuses on “Selectors.” Selectors are not clearly defined at the beginning. But they generally are described elsewhere as “patterns” that can be used to select the element or elements you want to style in a document, such as headings of a certain font sizes or paragraphs with text in specific colors.

Fortunately, the first chapter’s code examples, descriptive paragraphs, and illustrations quickly clarify how to put selectors to work in a document. “[D]ocument structure and CSS selectors allow you to apply a wide variety of style to elements,” the author notes.

The second chapter’s topics are “Specificity and the Cascade.” And the initial technical definitions get a bit dense. For example: “When determining which values should apply to an element, a user agent must consider not only inheritance but also the specificity of the declaration, as well as the origin of the declarations themselves. The process of consideration is what’s known as the cascade.”

Uh, okay.

Once again, fortunately, the second chapter’s code samples, illustrations, and follow-up paragraphs quickly clarify what is going on. And they enable you to learn by doing, seeing the outcome, and applying what you’ve learned to documents of your own.

Si Dunn

Learning Web Design, 4th Edition – Beginner’s guide updated for HTML5, CSS3 & JavaScript – #bookreview

Learning Web Design, 4th Edition
Jennifer Niederst Robbins
(O’Reilly, paperback)

Eager to learn web design, but not sure where to start and what you will need? Need a steady, guiding hand as you try to figure out how build your first web pages?

This handsome new edition of Learning Web Design can be your how-to, go-to handbook for a long time, whether you are a newbie or already have web experience.

The expanded and updated guidebook now includes coverage of HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript. There is also some focus on ensuring web pages display well on mobile device, and on making graphics files smaller for faster loading.

Subtitled “Beginner’s Guide to HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and Web Graphics,” Jennifer Niederst Robbins’ book is a complete, well-illustrated course. It can help you get a solid grounding in the fundamentals of web page creation and web design.

The book’s 603 pages are organized into 22 chapters and five parts. The parts are:

  1. Getting Started
  2. HTML Markup for Structure
  3. CSS for Presentation
  4. JavaScript for Behaviors
  5. Creating Web Graphics

“There are many levels of involvement in web design, from building a small site for yourself  to making it a full-blown career,” the author notes. “You may enjoy being a full-service website developer or just specializing in one skill. There are a lot of ways you can go.”

In general terms, she divides “web design” into “four very broad categories: design, development, content strategy, and multimedia.” On a small website, you may be responsible for understanding and implementing them all. But if you work for a company with a very large website, you may be just one member of a big team that supports and updates or changes its pages. And your job may entail just one limited aspect of web design.

But the more you know and can show that you know, the better your job security and career options may be. Learning Web Design likewise can be an excellent reference handbook for students studying web design in college or high school. And, if you have a solo small business and are reasonably computer savvy, this book can help you put together, post and maintain a good website even if you have never touched HTML.

The author, a long-time veteran of web design, includes numerous tips and references to additional materials. She also ends each chapter with a “Test Yourself” quiz, so you can “see if you picked up the important bits of information.” And don’t worry. The answers to all of the questions are in Appendix A.

Si Dunn

Learning PHP, MySQL, JavaScript, and CSS, 2nd Edition – Dynamic websites #programming #bookreview

Learning PHP, MySQL, JavaScript, and CSS, 2nd Edition
Robin Nixon
(O’Reilly, paperbackKindle)

Robin Nixon recently has updated and expanded his popular 2009 “step-by-step guide to creating dynamic websites.” The new edition has an added section that focuses on Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), so the book “now covers all four of the most popular web development technologies.”

Nixon notes: “The real beauty of PHP, MySQL, JavaScript, and CSS is the way in which they all work together to produce dynamic web content: PHP handles the main work on the web server, MySQL manages all of the data, and the combination of CSS and JavaScript looks after web page presentation. JavaScript can also talk with your PHP code on the web server whenever it needs to update something (either on the server or on the web page).”

The book’s opening chapters introduce (1) what dynamic web content means and (2) how to set up a development server on your Windows PC, Mac, or Linux machine. After that, Learning PHP, MySQL, JavaScript, & CSS, 2nd Edition follows the structure outlined by its title. First, you get a five-chapter tutorial on PHP programming. Then, two chapters show how to use MySQL. One additional chapter shows how to access MySQL using PHP, and two related chapters deal with (1) form handling and (2) cookies, sessions and authentication, using PHP and MySQL.

Three chapters introduce JavaScript programming. A fourth chapter covers “JavaScript and PHP Validation and Error Handling.” And one additional chapter describes “how to implement Ajax using JavaScript.”

Ajax, Nixon explains, “not only substantially reduces the amount of data that must be sent back and forth [between a browser and a server] but also makes web pages seamlessly dynamic, allowing them to behave more like self-contained applications.”

CSS gets its turn next, with an introductory chapter, a chapter on advanced CSS with CSS3, and a chapter on accessing CSS from JavaScript.

Finally, in the “Bringing It All Together” chapter, Nixon shows how to build a simple social networking site, using all of the tools introduced in the book.

Learning PHP, MySQL, JavaScript, & CSS, 2nd Edition is an excellent how-to guide for web development beginners who have moderate computer skills and a little bit of experience with HTML and static web pages. The book is nicely written and well-illustrated, and the code examples generally are easy to follow. Screen shots and other descriptions of expected results also can help keep you moving forward on the right path.

No book can cover everything you need to know, of course, particularly when several different types of software are involved. You may need occasional help from someone who has used one or more of the described programs. And some of the screen examples may appear a bit different on your machine as new software updates are released. But Robin Nixon’s updated edition can take you a long way toward the goal of learning how to design, create, post, and maintain dynamic web pages, using free, open source tools.

Si Dunn

Dreamweaver CS6: The Missing Manual – 1000+ pages of good website how-to information

Dreamweaver CS6: The Missing Manual
By David Sawyer McFarland
(O’Reilly,  paperback, Kindle)

Dreamweaver website development and management software has been around more than 14 years. This makes it almost ancient by software standards. Yet, with each new release, it keeps steadily evolving, improving and adding more features and capabilities. And it is well-supported and stable. So Dreamweaver remains one of the most popular and widely used packages for designing and managing high-quality websites.

One thing you still don’t get with the Dreamweaver software package, however, is a printed manual. So it remains a perfect candidate for O’Reilly Media’s popular “The Missing Manual” series.

This book’s author, David Sawyer McFarland, knows pretty much everything about Dreamweaver. He has been using it since 1998. And, with this new edition, he keeps alive his string of writing every Dreamweaver book in “The Missing Manual” series. (His previous edition, covering Dreamweaver CS5.5, is reviewed here.)

McFarland’s book shows you how to use Dreamweaver CS6 and how to create a basic website. From there, you learn how to improve, expand, add features, and enhance the usefulness and sophistication of your website. You also learn how to use the built-in tools to manage what you have created. 

Here is what’s new in Dreamweaver CS6:

  • Basic support for HTML5, including HTML5 tags and code-hinting.
  • Support for CSS3, including code-hinting and adding numerous CSS3 properties to the CSS Styles panel. Dreamweaver CS6 also has a new CSS3 web fonts manager that expands font choices. And its new CSS transitions panel “lets you easily add animations to mouse rollovers, so you can turn a navigation bar into an animated visual delight.”
  • More web design support for mobile browsers, including a new “‘fluid grid layout’ tool that lets you build designs that re-flow content to match different devices….”
  • More support for jQuery Mobile and PhoneGap—“two programming technologies that let you build mobile phone applications using just HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.”

Dreamweaver CS6: The Missing Manual is organized as follows:

  • Introduction
  • Part One: Building a Web Page
  • Chapter 1: Dreamweaver CS6 Guided Tour
  • Chapter 2: Adding and Formatting Text
  • Chapter 3: Introducing Cascading Style Sheets
  • Chapter 4: Links
  • Chapter 5: Images
  • Chapter 6: Tables
  • Chapter 7: HTML: Under the Hood
  • Part Two: Building a Better Web Page
  • Chapter 8: Advanced CSS
  • Chapter 9: Page Layout
  • Chapter 10: Troubleshooting CSS
  • Chapter 11: Designing Websites for Mobile Devices
  • Part Three: Bringing Your Pages to Life
  • Chapter 12: Forms
  • Chapter 13: Adding Interactivity with JavaScript
  • Chapter 14: Add Flash and Other Multimedia
  • Part Four: Managing a Website
  • Chapter 15: Introducing Site Management
  • Chapter 16: Testing Your Site
  • Chapter 17: Moving Your Site to the Internet
  • Part Five: Dreamweaver CS6 Power
  • Chapter 18: Snippets and Libraries
  • Chapter 19: Templates
  • Chapter 20: Find and Replace
  • Chapter 21: Customizing Dreamweaver
  • Chapter 22: Working with Server-Side Programming
  • Appendix A: Getting Help
  • Appendix B: Dreamweaver CS6, Menu by Menu
  • Index (46 pages)

As usual, a CD is not included with this book. But “every single Web address, practice file, and piece of downloadable software mention in this book is available at www.missingmanual.com (click the Missing CD icon.)”

Whether you are an absolute newcomer or an old hand at using Dreamweaver, you can benefit by having and using this hefty how-to book.

Si Dunn

The CSS3 Anthology: Take Your Sites to New Heights – #bookreview #in #webdesign

The CSS3 Anthology: Take Your Sites to New Heights, 4th Edition
Rachel Andrew
(SitePoint,
paperback, list price $39.95; Kindle edition, list price $29.95)

“The basic purpose of CSS [Cascading Style Sheets],” Rachel Andrew notes, “is to allow the [web] designer to define style declarations — formatting details such as fonts, element sizes, and colors — and then apply those styles to selected portions of HTML pages using selectors: references to an element or group of elements to which the style is applied.”

The fourth edition of this popular how-to book for Cascading Style Sheets is aimed at providing how-to examples, shortcuts and tips for busy web designers and web developers already working with CSS.

However, web-savvy beginners and those who build and maintain their own websites also can benefit from this well-written book. Along with a short introduction to CSS basics, it offers many short code examples and related screenshots. And virtually every chapter is structured around answering the question “How do I…?” as each new topic is introduced.

Indeed, the 420-page book is a compilation of answers to questions, specific how-tos and examples readily adaptable to real-world web pages.

The CSS3 Anthology is organized into nine chapters:

  • Making a Quick Start with CSS
  • Text Styling and Other Basics
  • Images and Other Design Elements
  • Navigation
  • Tabular Data
  • Forms and User Interfaces
  • Cross-browser Techniques
  • CSS Positioning Basics
  • CSS for Layout

If you need a tutorial or refresher in HTML and CSS basics before grabbing this book, the author recommends Build Your Own Website the Right Way Using HTML & CSS, 3rd Edition, available in paperback and ebook formats.

— Si Dunn

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