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Posted May 4, 2010
"Magento 1.3: PHP Developer's Guide" explains many core aspects to ease the massive learning curve that Magento has. It is great book for new and intermediate Magento developers. For new developers, reading this book may overwhelm you if you do not already have some experience with the administration panel, theme customization, and knowledge of OOP (object oriented PHP). For intermediate developers (like me), if you are not atleast somewhat familiar with each subject covered in this book, you should be, it may save from doing something the hard way.
I used this book as a reference manual several times in the few months that I have owned it. I had never used the Core API before and did not know the benefits of using it, but it was super simple and the book does a great job explaining it. Learning the Core API saved me from having to preform 5 hours of manual product updates! Also, I also like how it quickly details how to put together shipping and payment modules with explanations of what everything in the code does. Overall each chapter does an excellent job of explaining a core Magento feature that Magento developers should be familiar with.
In just a few places I think the book is teaching you improperly or lacking something important. For instance: it missed setting up the cron job for Magento. Then at another point it tells you to edit the default themes files, which I hate doing because when you upgrade Magento these files can get overwritten and you lose your work. In some places I felt the book was repetitive, however, in the first chapter it did warn of that it would repeat itself to help some people learn the important concepts. There were not many more things that bothered me about the book.
I read the entire book even though I could already do things like install and upgrade Magento with SSH and FTP. And I am glad I did because it occasionally surprised me with something I did not know. I was hopeful for a deeper explanation of modules and the framework but I realized that subjects like these were better left being explained in a more advanced book. I am not aware of a book yet that goes this far into magento. If James Huskisson would write that book it would be awesome stepping stone from intermediate to advanced Magento development.
Finally, this book was written for Magento 1.3 not 1.4. Theming has changed slightly in 1.4, and they have added widgets. I would not hesitate in buying this Magento book just because a new version of Magento is out because there are very few references to anything with themes in this book. Plus- 1.3 at the time of this writing is still more stable than 1.4.