This is a book for anyone developing web applications with Java server-side components. It does assume a minimum level of Java ability, but not that you should know any specific frameworks. If you know basic Servlet and JavaServer Page programming, then you'll be fine for working your way through the frameworks presented in the book.
The second part of the book holds the seven example projects. These are the meat of the book, given that the title promises practical projects and I think that the book pretty much delivers on its promise All seven projects are interesting; six are practical and the last one is just good old fashioned fun. The projects build in terms of size, so the first one is the simplest and the game, coming last is the most complex. The first project is a type-ahead suggestion engine, modeled after Google's Suggest. Next we have an Ajax-based webmail client. Chapter six builds a RSS newsfeed reader (because, as the book says, every Ajax book has to have one). Chapter seven is a photo sharing application, which, while it may not compete with Flickr, is quite usable for its size. Chapter eight is an organizer. Umm, needless to say you'll either love this or ignore it. (What can I say? If I was organized enough to use an organizer, I'd be organized enough not to need it!) Chapter nine brings yet another chat program to the world.
Last, but as the phrase goes, not least, chapter ten is the grand finale of the example projects. As befits the author's fine sense of humor, the final project is a game; Ajax Warrior! This application has graphics designed by a professional graphic artist and looks far above any other example application that I've ever seen.
As soon as I saw that Mr. Zammetti had written a book, I rushed to be the first to volunteer to review it. This will need no explanation to members of the Struts mailing list, but for the rest of you it might help if I explain that he is that wonderful combination of a funny and helpful guy. I knew that anything he wrote was going to be first rate technically and was also going to be written in a light and relaxed style; always a winner in this kind of book.
I liked the fact that Mr. Zammetti covers a number of approaches to writing both the client and server-sides of the applications. For the server-side of a number of the applications, he uses plain JavaServer Pages, yet for others he uses industry-leading frameworks including WebWork and Struts. On the client-side he continues to mix it up, with some applications using "naked" Ajax, others using DWR, AjaxTags from Java Web Parts, DWR, Dojo, JSON and Prototype.
One more thing to like about the book is that the applications actually look very nice and quite professional. Perhaps the folks at 37signals shouldn't be nervous, but Mr. Zammetti has certainly raised the bar for the appearance of example applications for books.
The flip side of the use of multiple frameworks and Ajax libraries is that all of the breadth means reduced depth. Each of the frameworks and libraries is introduced and demonstrated, but then just as it begins to get interesting, it's off to the next one. If you're looking for more depth in each introduced item, then this book may not be for you.
In conclusion, this is a useful and practical book for those wishing to write web applications that combine Ajax front-ends with Java technology on the server-side. Strongly recommended.
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