Ajax : The Complete Reference – Truth and Advertising

by | March 17th, 2008

Yes it is out! My new book Ajax: The Complete Reference (AjaxTCR) is available for purchase at Amazon and elsewhere. That clearly counts as the advertising, so now to the truth.

The truth is most certainly this isn’t a complete reference. I’d need about 10,000 pages to pull that off plus major people power to make it happen before it became hopelessly out of date. However, what it is a pretty impressive effort none the less, so let me explain what the book actually is and why in my opinion why that is important.

The big point is that this is a book actually on Ajax. If you take the time to read the content of books on Ajax you seem to find all manner of discussions within. Lots of the books are padded with heavy discussion about debugging in JavaScript, standards based Web design, and all manner of useful but not exactly to the point matter. Being someone who likes rich discussion I am ok with that, but what I am not ok with is very little actual discussion about the Ajax power being used in a click-to-edit pattern or hand waving about XMLHttpRequest (XHR) objects which is clearly not tested. The padding comes after the core technology not before!

My current favorite in this category of books not about Ajax but titled as such, is the massive O’Reilly tome Ajax: The Definitive Guide. First turn on positive vibes. I know it is going to out sell me 10 to 1 and you’ll learn lots of good stuff in here. However now for the negative- much of what you learn isn’t unique or even related much to Ajax like what kind of programming frameworks in general exist, how frames work in HTML, tables, form validation, and all sorts of useful stuff. Granted their is a JavaScript spin to much of this but it really lacks in the hardcore Ajax. After reading books like these you’ll know more but you won’t know much about Ajax unless your definition of Ajax is just building a modern Web site/application.

In contrast my book is about Ajax, in the sense of nasty hard remote communications focused JavaScript to plumb your Web application to build dynamic user interfaces. AjaxTCR talks about nasty problems in browsers for XHR support. The book explains data formats of all sorts to the gory detail you may someday need. It really hits readers over the head with network so you don’t excuse away retries, sequence and connection limits, errors, and so on as some passing issue. I know it already has already scared students in the security discussion but also explained what to do. The UI discussion is focused tightly on that which Ajax does differently and why the patterns that are associated with it exist. Finally this and hundreds of pages more is put in the context of modern accessible Web development. Yes that’s a lot to promise but after two years of teaching it nearly every quarter at UCSD and UCSD Extension – it does hit all those marks. There’s plenty to fix and with new browsers update, but that’s for next edition. Considering I got Firefox 3 by using Alphas in the initial write and it isn’t out yet it is very fresh material.

So if you do the research I can say this is one of maybe 6 books that currently ships that spends most of its page count talking about the Ajax buzzword in its title. Already a few people that have spent the time reading already discovered this I hope you take a look for yourself.

I’ll start posting very often for the next few weeks with posts discussing each chapter and what is interesting so stay tuned.


p.s. Check out the evolving support site at ajaxref.com if you want to get more of a flavor for the book and run some examples but I will reference each as I post excerpts and commentary.


Thomas Powell is a long-time web industry veteran, as well as the founder and CEO of PINT.

  • Heather C.

    The Ajax Ref website looks to be clear and immediately useful, like HTML Ref and Javascript Ref. But because the link is in the p.s. of this blog entry I almost didn’t notice it. So, let me suggest putting it in a place where it will get the attention it deserves, next time.

  • If you are like me, then you won’t be able to put it down and read the whole thing in one go.