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Ajax in Action / Edition 1

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Overview

Val's Blog
"A tremendously useful field guide specifically written for developers down in the trenches...waiting for the killer solution..."

Web users are getting tired of the traditional web experience. They get frustrated losing their scroll position; they get annoyed waiting for refresh; they struggle to reorient themselves on every new page. And the list goes on. With asynchronous JavaScript and XML, known as "Ajax," you can give them a better experience. Once users have experienced an Ajax interface, they hate to go back. Ajax is new way of thinking that can result in a flowing and intuitive interaction with the user.

Ajax in Action helps you implement that thinking—it explains how to distribute the application between the client and the server (hint: use a "nested MVC" design) while retaining the integrity of the system. You will learn how to ensure your app is flexible and maintainable, and how good, structured design can help avoid problems like browser incompatibilities. Along the way it helps you unlearn many old coding habits. Above all, it opens your mind to the many advantages gained by placing much of the processing in the browser. If you are a web developer who has prior experience with web technologies, this book is for you.

Purchase of the print book comes with an offer of a free PDF, ePub, and Kindle eBook from Manning. Also available is all code from the book.

Ajax exploded onto the scene in the Spring of 2005 when a Web site defined the term. Then, Google released Google Maps and GMail, powerful examples of what Ajax can do. This book explains the big picture and how to unlearn many old coding habits. It explains the design patterns and best practices to create a live interface for the user, not get in his way.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
It's practically the holy grail: applications that run in web browsers, use standard web technologies, yet have the richness, responsiveness, and usability of today’s best desktop applications. But this quest has a destination: Ajax. If you've used Gmail, or Google Maps, or Flickr, you’ve seen Ajax at work. If you read Ajax in Action, you can put it to work, too.

Ajax requires you to think about web development in very different ways. Forget the page-based metaphor; start thinking about design patterns, refactoring, and managing client codebases. Dave Crane and Eric Pascarello cover all that, and much more, including architecture, security, and performance. Their sample applications prove you can use Ajax for both large and small projects -- and add value to existing web applications in surprising ways. Bill Camarda, from the November 2005 Read Only

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781932394610
  • Publisher: Manning Publications Company
  • Publication date: 11/15/2005
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 680
  • Product dimensions: 7.40 (w) x 9.22 (h) x 1.32 (d)

Meet the Author

Dave Crane is an Ajax authority and lead author of the best-selling Ajax in Action. He is currently senior developer for UK-based Historic Futures Ltd., developing the next generation of socially responsible supply-chain systems using Ajax to link rural cooperatives and multinational corporations.

Eric Pascarello graduated from Penn State University in 2002 with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering. Since then, Eric has been employed in the industry developing applications, primarily in VB.NET. The applications Eric develops focus on helpdesk support, management reporting, document management, and data recovery. In his spare time, Eric volunteers at www.JavaRanch.com, a friendly online community dedicated to helping people learn Java and Web technologies. Eric also enjoys wasting people's free time by developing JavaScript games that incorporate Artificial Intelligence.

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Table of Contents

PART 1 RETHINKING THE WEB APPLICATION .............. 1
1 A new design for the Web 3
2 First steps with Ajax 31
3 Introducing order to Ajax 69
PART 2 CORE TECHNIQUES ............................. 117
4 The page as an application 119
5 The role of the server 159
PART 3 PROFESSIONAL AJAX ........................... 209
6 The user experience 211
7 Security and Ajax 246
8 Performance 279
PART 4 AJAX BY EXAMPLE ............................. 325
9 Dynamic double combo 327
10 Type-ahead suggest 361
11 The enhanced Ajax web portal 423
12 Live search using XSLT 466
13 Building stand-alone applications with Ajax 503
PART 1 RETHINKING THE WEB APPLICATION .............. 1
1 A new design for the Web 3
2 First steps with Ajax 31
3 Introducing order to Ajax 69
PART 2 CORE TECHNIQUES ............................. 117
4 The page as an application 119
5 The role of the server 159
PART 3 PROFESSIONAL AJAX ........................... 209
6 The user experience 211
7 Security and Ajax 246
8 Performance 279
PART 4 AJAX BY EXAMPLE ............................. 325
9 Dynamic double combo 327
10 Type-ahead suggest 361
11 The enhanced Ajax web portal 423
12 Live search using XSLT 466
13 Building stand-alone applications with Ajax 503
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Preface

Sometimes your destiny will follow you around for years before you notice it. Amidst the medley of fascinating new technologies that I was playing mean working with in the early 1990s was a stunted little scripting language called JavaScript. I soon realized that, despite its name, it didn’t really have anything to do with my beloved Java, but it persistently dogged my every step.

By the late 90s, I had decided to cut my hair and get a proper job, and found myself working with the early adopters of digital set-top box technology. The user interface for this substantial piece of software was written entirely in JavaScript and I found myself the technical lead of a small team of developers writing window-management code, schedulers, and all kinds of clever stuff in this language. How curious, I thought. It’ll never catch on.

With time I moved on to more demanding work, developing the enterprise messaging backbone and various user interface components for an intelligent, talking House of the Future. I was hired for my Java skills, but I was soon writing fancy JavaScript user interfaces again. It was astonishing to find that some people were now taking this scripting language seriously enough to write frameworks for it. I quickly picked up the early versions of Mike Foster’s x library (which you’ll find put into occasional action in this book). One afternoon, while working on an email and text message bulletin board, I had the weird, exciting idea of checking for new messages in a hidden frame and adding them to the user interface without refreshing the screen. After a few hours of frenzied hacking, I had it working, and I’d even figured out how to render the new messages in color to make them noticeable to the user. What a laugh, I thought, and turned back to some serious code. Meantime, unbeknownst to me, Eric Costello, Erik Hatcher, Brent Ashley, and others were thinking along similar lines, and Microsoft was cooking up the XMLHttpRequest for its Outlook Web Access.

Destiny was sniffing at my heels. My next job landed me in a heavy-duty development role, building software for big Tier 1 banks. We use a mixture of Java and JavaScript and employ tricks with hidden frames and other things. My team currently looks after more than 1.5 million bytes of such code that’s static JavaScript, in addition to code we generate from JSPs. No, I’m not counting any image resources in there either. We use it to develop applications for hundreds of operators managing millions of dollars’ worth of accounts. Your bank account may well be managed by this software.

Somewhere along the way, JavaScript had grown up without my quite realizing it. In February 2005, Jesse James Garrett provided the missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle. He gave a short, snappy name to the cross-browser-asynchronous-rich-client-dynamic-HTML-client-server technology that had been sneaking up on us all for the last few years: Ajax.

And the rest, as they say, is history. Ajax is generating a lot of interest now, and a lot of good code is getting written by the people behind Prototype, Rico, Dojo, qooxdoo, Sarissa, and numerous other frameworks, too plentiful to count. Actually, we do try to count them, in appendix C. We think we’ve rounded up most of the suspects. And I’ve never had so much fun playing I mean working with computers.

We have not arrived yet. The field is still evolving. I was amazed to see just how much when I did the final edits in September on the first chapter that I wrote back in May! There’s still a lot of thinking to be done on this subject, and the next year or two will be exciting. I’ve been very lucky to have Eric and Darren on the book piece of the journey with me so far.

We hope you will join us and enjoy the ride. Dave Crane

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 23, 2009

    Great Book

    This was a fairly comprehensive book that contains a lot of good information.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2006

    CLEANING UP WITH AJAX!

    Are you a professional enterprise developer? If you are, you're in luck! Authors Dave Crane, Eric Pascarello and Darren James, have done an outstanding job of writing a book that explains how to distribute the application between the client and the server, while retaining the integrity of the system. Crane, Pascarello and James, begin by discussing the fundamental differences between Ajax and the classic web application, how to think about usability, and other conceptual items. Then, they emphasize where the technology is used differently, or behaves differently, as a result of being part of Ajax. The authors continue by introducing the third main theme for this book, managing the Ajax codebase. Next, they look at ways of keeping your code clean on the client itself, applying the old web work-horse, Model-View-Controller, in a new way. Then, the authors look at different ways of communicating between the client and the server and how various types of frameworks can be adapted to work with Ajax. The authors continue by addressing the user experience, and take an in-depth look at ways of keeping the user informed while asynchronous tasks are executing. Next, they look at the issue of security in Ajax from a number of angles. Then, the authors discuss that other showstopper: performance. They also look at a simple way to give the user a richer experience by enhancing HTML forms with Ajax. The authors continue by showing you how to implement a type-head and fetching data from the server in response to user keystrokes. Next, they explore the wider possibilities of Ajax user interfaces. They also show you how to develop an Ajax-based search system and demonstrate the power of client-side XSLT as a way of turning raw XML data into formatted, styled content. Finally, they present an Ajax client without a back-end implementation. You'll learn in this most excellent book, how to ensure your application is flexible and maintainable. So, if you are a web developer who has prior experience with web technologies, this book is for you!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 17, 2005

    Outstanding platform-generic look at real AJAXC development

    Let me first preface this review by saying this is the first technical book that I've read cover to cover TWICE prior to posting a review. I had to make sure the stuff stuck, because the material covered in Manning's very excellent 'Ajax in Action' is really deep. But bringing the next evolution of user experience, giving your web applications a rich client feel, isn't completely easy. This won't scare you away from using Ajax in your existing applications, but make you aware of exactly what to expect. The book first starts out by presenting a healthy discussion of the key components of remote scripting - CSS, the DOM, JavaScript's XmlHttpRequest object and client callbacks - and how they interact within the scope of your project. Before diving into full-on Ajax development, authors Dave Crane and Eric Pascarello discuss the need for object-oriented JavaScript programing, which will be foreign and awkward to most developers, even those coming from procedural backgrounds like Java and C++. The authors familiarize you with the various ways of composing the unconventional constructs available (JSON-RPC, prototypes) for optimizing remote scripting. Best practices are encouraged throughout the chapters and enforced in all code snippets. The use of patterns like Observer, Command and MVC and refactoring and module-based programming (mainly .NET assemblies and Java servlets) permeate the entire work. The actual meat of the book doesn't get started until Chapter 9, which the authors clearly state, dealing with the aforementioned discussion of raw JavaScript programming that'll be completely new to most people. But for those not wanting to engage in the massive task of writing syntax by hand, the major libraries available are thankfully referenced. The book also isn't a 'copyist's' title, one that can provide working code right out of the gate. Also, the audience for this work should be fairly sopisticated and experienced with modern-day web programming, as the book assumes a certain level of competency and doesn't waste time with rudimentary concepts or examples. Crane and Pascarello take a platform-agnostic look at incorporating Ajax-style programming into web applications, citing examples in PHP, Java and .NET, and accordingly the examples are all partial and abstracted, to be implemented in whatever platform the developer/reader is familiar with. This is also one of the few books that I've ever recommended people read the appendices in addition to the chapters. Most titles have supplementary info that doesn't match the flow of the chapters, or exclusionary stuff you can skip, but this book is really a tome of good reading. Appendix B is an outstanding discussion on JavaScript OOP, providing an introduction to and examples in JSON. Ajax programming is a lot more complex than it lets on, but not as daunting as you might think. This book is critical in your understanding of how to make the next big thing in web development to work for you. A must-have.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 17, 2008

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    Posted October 16, 2008

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