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JavaScript: The Definitive Guide Fourth Edition Edition

64 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0596000486
ISBN-10: 0596000480
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Editorial Reviews Review

Since the earliest days of Internet scripting, Web developers have considered JavaScript: The Definitive Guide an essential resource. David Flanagan's approach, which combines tutorials and examples with easy-to-use syntax guides and object references, suits the typical programmer's requirements nicely. The brand-new fourth edition of Flanagan's "Rhino Book" includes coverage of JavaScript 1.5, JScript 5.5, ECMAScript 3, and the Document Object Model (DOM) Level 2 standard from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). Interestingly, the author has shifted away from specifying--as he did in earlier editions--what browsers support each bit of the language. Rather than say Netscape 3.0 supports the Image object while Internet Explorer 3.0 does not, he specifies that JavaScript 1.1 and JScript 3.0 support Image. More usefully, he specifies the contents of independent standards like ECMAScript, which encourages scripters to write applications for these standards and browser vendors to support them. As Flanagan says, JavaScript and its related subjects are very complex in their pure forms. It's impossible to keep track of the differences among half a dozen vendors' generally similar implementations. Nonetheless, a lot of examples make reference to specific browsers' capabilities.

Though he does not cover server-side APIs, Flanagan has chosen to separate coverage of core JavaScript (all the keywords, general syntax, and utility objects like Array) from coverage of client-side JavaScript (which includes objects, like History and Event, that have to do with Web browsers and users' interactions with them. This approach makes this book useful to people using JavaScript for applications other than Web pages. By the way, the other classic JavaScript text--Danny Goodman's JavaScript Bible--isn't as current as this book, but it's still a fantastic (and perhaps somewhat more novice-friendly) guide to the JavaScript language and its capabilities. --David Wall

Topics covered: The JavaScript language (version 1.0 through version 1.5) and its relatives, JScript and ECMAScript, as well as the W3C DOM standards they're often used to manipulate. Tutorial sections show how to program in JavaScript, while reference sections summarize syntax and options while providing copious code examples.


"JavaScript is not a cookbook, although plenty of example code is include; nor is it an introduction for beginners, although every aspect of JavaScript is covered from the ground up. It is - what it sets out to be - definitive reference guide for the JavaScript programmer." - Richard Drummond, LinuxFormat, June 2002

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Product Details

  • Series: Definitive Guides
  • Paperback: 900 pages
  • Publisher: O'Reilly Media; Fourth Edition edition (December 15, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0596000480
  • ISBN-13: 978-0596000486
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 1.7 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #402,327 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David Flanagan is a computer programmer who has spent much of the last 20 years writing books about programming languages. He now works at Mozilla. David lives with his wife and children in the Pacific Northwest, between the cities of Seattle and Vancouver.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By wiredweird HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on September 10, 2004
Format: Paperback
If you're already an experienced programmer, it can be frustrating trying to find a good book on JavaScript (aka JScript, aka ECMAScript, aka ECMA-262). A lot of books out there are aimed at HTML developers, maybe even graphic designers. Many such users have little or no real programming experience, and maybe no real interest. Books for that audience are user-friendly, filled with useful examples, and low on scary-sounding technical terms. In other words, almost useless.

Flanagan has good credentials as a technical writer, and as a highly technical writer. He really knows what software engineers look for - trust me, it's not what a graphic designer looks for.

This starts with a clear, methodical description of the language. Flanagan goes through all the language basics, pointing out where JavaScript differs form languages like Java, C#, or C++. The differences are numerous. For example, JavaScript has typed data, but not typed variables. It's object oriented, but doesn't have classes. It's an interpreted language, not compiled, and that opens up generative programming possibilities that reflection APIs can't approach.

After the language itself, Flanagan presents it in the client-side HTML context, where it appears most often. That's about 20% of the book. It goes over all the common HTML features, and shows how JavaScript can add dynamics or configurability to most HTML features. The last part of this section discusses XML and the DOM model. It does not yet discuss the E4X standard, ECMAScript for XML, the new ECMA-357 standard. As of this writing, the standard has only been out for three months, though. I'm sure Flanagan will catch up to it soon.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Scott Shattuck on January 8, 2002
Format: Paperback
Having recently shipped an open source JavaScript application framework comprising 125,000 lines of JavaScript (TIBET) I can say it would have been impossible without Version 3 of this book -- and impossible with only Version 4 of this book.
Where Version 3 focused on documenting the *reality* of the browsers, covering the various bugs and inconsistencies in detail, Version 4 abandons that approach in favor of documenting the *dream* embodied in the standards. While that's "a good thing", what's really needed, and what was provided by Version 3, is a volume that also covers how the browers vary from the standards. That's what made V3 the best JavaScript book on the market. Much of that content has been removed from V4 however.
V4 is a solid effort. Don't get me wrong. You should have a copy. The coverage is for the most part accurate and accessible. The new content on Mozilla and the DOM/CSS standards is solid. But the missing material means you can't toss all your other JS books and just settle down with JSTDG V4 :(.
With V3 you rarely needed to go anywhere else. With V4 I find myself looking back at V3 to check accuracy or going to the net to search for bug reports. The book just isn't as functional in the real world of web development. So buy V4, but don't get rid of that well-used copy of V3 just yet ;).
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33 of 37 people found the following review helpful By J. R. Collins on February 21, 2006
Format: Paperback
I have had this book for years. I really like this book a lot.

It teaches you the language. It is a good reference for the syntax of Javascript 1.5. It also does a decent job of teaching DHTML. Some foreknowledge of HTML is going to be helpful. That can easily be gained from other books, reading the spec, or going through some of the HTML tutorials on the web. This book tells you how to access the structure of an HTML document - and change it.

Amazingly, it really did not start to become obsolete for almost half a decade. For a computer book on a heavily used computer language, that is great.

In late 2005, Mozilla released Firefox 1.5 which included a new version of Javascript: Javascript 1.6. Unlike some updates, this one was a doozy.

Javascript 1.6 introduced a feature called E4X - Ecmascript for Java. This powerful feature actually upgrades the language, making XML fragments a first class data type.

What this means is two things:

First, you can put XML fragments in your program. Just as quoted strings are interpreted as string literals, these fragments are treated as XML literals. No quoting or anything is required: the parser just sees them and knows what they are.

Second, you can evaluate XPath-like expressions to find things in an XML fragment value. Those things would be attribute values, text content, and elements that are in it.

Today, XML is much more important to organizations and much more useful to programmers than it was in 2001. It is a given that easier, more powerful ways for programmers to work with XML are going to grab programmers' interest.

Another thing has changed since 2001. AJAX programming has become white-hot.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By James W. Anderson on February 26, 2002
Format: Paperback
I own the third edition of this book, and bought it when I was starting to write a web-based decision support system for a very large beverage company. I can safely say that this book, and the HTML Definitive Guide (also by O'Reilly) were critical to the success of the system.
I have seldom had a question about JavaScript for which I could not find the answer in this book. I referred to it so frequently during the development of our system that it is now the most dog-eared book in my collection. I'm going to order the fourth edition simply because this baby is ready for retirement.
If you are learning client-side JavaScript, by all means purchase this book. The first half of the book is a guided introduction to the language and does a wonderful job of explaining the syntax of the language, the underlying object model, and virtually every pertinent feature of the language. The real value, though, is in the reference, which documents every object, method, property and event of standard JavaScript.
Non-conformists who wish to exploit features unique to Internet Explorer will find some reference material here, but the book does try to focus on the "standard" features of the language, which I think is a good thing.
You just can't go wrong with this book.
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