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Bestselling Author David McFarland Gives Clear, Concise, and Entertaining Answers to JavaScript Questions

By Mary Rotman
July 28, 2008 | Comments: 1

With the recent release of JavaScript: The Missing Manual, I asked bestselling author David McFarland a few questions about his new book.

What made you write the book?
There are a lot of JavaScript books, but they fall mainly into two camps: books that discuss advanced JavaScript concepts from a programmer's perspective and beginning JavaScript books that cover fundamentals of the JavaScript programming language, but which leave readers with just basic skills. In other words the books are just too hard, or don't provide enough information to build the kinds of professional JavaScript-enhanced Web pages that are becoming so common on the Web. I wanted to write a book that provided fundamental concepts in JavaScript programming, but would also jump-start a Web designer's skills by providing tools that make JavaScript programming easier and more fun.

Why is your book especially important now?
JavaScript used to be a language that "real" programmers looked down on, and which many people thought was just good for creating annoying pop-up adds, or making stars follow your cursor around the screen. But then big sites like Google Maps and GMail got a hold of JavaScript and used it to create user interfaces that rival desktop computer programs. JavaScript has never been as popular as it is now; nor has it ever been as widely used to make compelling Web interfaces. For Web designers, JavaScript opens up a lot of new design possibilities that can help them make Web sites that are easier to use and which provide exciting interactive experiences. This also means that JavaScript is now becoming another one of the "must-know" tools of the Web design trade, so it's important for designers to learn how JavaScript can be used to improve the look and functionality of their sites.

What is the single most important thing readers will be able to do after buying your book?
Add cool interactive features to their Web sites! I wrote the book so that readers could learn JavaScript programming and start to create their own interesting user interfaces; but, I also provide enough step-by-step instruction so that even if a reader doesn't really "get" JavaScript, he'll be able to add things like interactive slide shows, complicated form validation, animated navigation bars, tabbed interfaces, pop-up tooltips, Google Maps and other professional looking JavaScript-driven Web page features.

Who is your intended audience?
Web designers who want to create interactive Web interfaces but don't have an interest in dedicating 5 years and reading dozens of JavaScript books to get there. I'm also hoping that people who have tried to learn JavaScript in the past, but found it too difficult, will find my book helpful, interesting, and easy-to-understand.

Is there anything that you feel is especially important that the readers would want to know about you or the book?
People probably will wonder how my little book can both teach them the basics AND let them add complicated interactive activity to their sites. While the first section of the book teaches the basic grammar and vocabulary of the JavaScript programming language, later parts of the book rely on a popular JavaScript library named jQuery that simplifies many common programming tasks such as selecting elements on a page, using AJAX to communicate with a Web server and writing code that works well with the most popular Web browsers. Simply put, a JavaScript library is a collection of JavaScript code that makes programming JavaScript MUCH easier--if you were to learn how to program all the things that jQuery makes so easy, you'd be spending years reading, programming, and testing your programs in a wide range of browsers from Internet Explorer 6 to Safari 3. jQuery is among the most popular JavaScript libraries: it's free, relatively small in size, is updated regularly by a talented pool of programmers and is used by sites such as the BBC, Amazon, Warner Bros. Records, Bank of America, Dell, Google, and Twitter. My book still teaches the fundamental JavaScript concepts but, thanks to jQuery, frees you from much of the complicated and convoluted code required to create interesting programs that work well. In other words, readers get to skip comments like "ok, type these 100 lines of code, oh yeah and to get it to work in IE 6, type these other 100 lines of code; and add this bit to make it work in Safari..."

How important is the subject matter of your book? What do you think is on the horizon for your readers?
JavaScript is an important topic for Web designers. It's finding its way into mobile devices and desktop programs, and is finely being considered a powerful programming language. This means that we'll be seeing a LOT more JavaScript in the future, and a lot more interesting Web sites.

For more information about JavaScript: The Missing Manual visit the catalog page or read the press release.

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Am currently reading David's CSS book and just got his Javascript book. Does he have any plans to write a PHP/MySQl programming book? That would complete the triad of programming for the web wouldn't it?


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