Ajax has been a hot topic for quite a while now, and there seems to be a new book with the eponymous Greek warrior in its title pretty much every week. Coming in at just 207 pages, Jeremy Keith’s new book, Bulletproof Ajax, is the latest to join the fray. With only 200 odd pages how does he plan to cover such a complex subject you may be asking? Well, here’s the secret – Ajax is really quite simple when you get down to it.

Jeremy’s previous book, DOM Scripting, stands as a fantastic introduction to JavaScript in general and DOM Scripting in particular and Bulletproof Ajax follows on from that title to some degree. Although you get a short introduction to the JavaScript language it’s just enough to understand the examples (I’d recommend you have at least a passing knowledge of JavaScript before reading this book). Also if you are coming to Ajax as a server side programmer then this book is probably not what you’re looking for, but worth reading at a later date. Given the client-server nature of Ajax there are server-side code examples (in PHP) but these are generally brief and serve only to support the examples rather than look at real world usage. Again, it would be useful to have at least a passing familiarity with a server side language and to be able to know if you already have a web server handy to experiment with.

The book features plenty of sample projects – for instance a simple address book is built up, showing off how to use XML, JSON and HTML as data sources and introducing the central XMLHTTPRequest object. There’s lots of focus, as you would expect, on making these examples bulletproof, in this case making sure they work even if JavaScript is unavailable using a method called Hijax.

To go from simple inline event handlers through to completely unobtrusive, object-based code and discussions of closures in JavaScript would be pretty good going for a book twice the size. It’s testament to the clear, no-nonsense and eminently readable writing style that this never bogs down the examples. Some people are bound to complain about the use of the proprietary innerHTML property and the minimal coverage of XML and JSON in the larger examples. This seems to be a facet of the scope of the book and a pragmatic approach to the problem rather than an unintentional oversight. If you’re looking for an A-Z of building an enterprise Ajax application then you’re probably looking for another book (but you should read this one first anyway!).

An entire chapter is dedicated to Accessibility and Ajax, a hugely important subject and one I’ve not seen mentioned anywhere else to date. Although the chapter lacks equivocal conclusions (mainly because no one seems to have formed any yet) it raises all the important issues for discussion and debate and provides a solid set of references for further reading. Throughout the book everything is anchored on the importance of user experience, rather than simply using technology for technology’s sake; this makes Bulletproof Ajax stand out from the crowd of more technology-focused tomes on the subject.

As a standards savvy developer if you want to get up to speed quickly with the hows and whys of modern Ajax but don’t have the time to wade through an awful lot of blog posts then Bulletproof Ajax is worthwhile reading. If you already know what you’re up to then it’s a perfect book to recommend to your unenlightened colleagues. A perfectly digestible read for one of those long train journeys!

Book Name: Bulletproof Ajax
Publisher: New Riders
Author: Jeremy Keith
URL: http://bulletproofajax.com
Price: $34.99 USD Buy Bulletproof Ajax at Amazon and save 34% off the cover price!
Rating out of 5: 3.5