The Web Programmer's Desk Reference by Lazaro Issi Cohen & Joseph Issi Cohen, ISBN 1593270119
by: Jack Reikel, March 2005
by: No Starch Press (distributed by O'Reilly & Associates at all major bookstores)
XP Home or Professional, Windows 2000, Windows NT4
MSRP: US$59.95, CAN$83.95
Reviewing a book of this type requires a certain approach. Most important of all, and no matter how experienced the reviewer happens to be, actually using the book for its intended purpose while developing and maintaining real live web sites is the most clearly relevant part of the testing and review process. Although syntactical styles abound, Web Programmer's Desk Reference calmly lassos all the conflicting coding efforts out there and reasserts the best methodologies and code practices. In one sitting during late February 2005, I managed to rework a small but busy (and content-heavy) site by reviewing all of the code by reference to the book. After noting errors and inconsistencies and making the required changes, the site now works properly in all the browsers out there. The site also functions faster.
No Starch Press has provided a sample chapter in PDF format for download. Grab it here.
Cons: We don't have a beef with the content—it's absolutely excellent. However, the book should be supplied with a thick, starter bundle of sticky tabs so that you can mark cross-references and pages. Seriously. When you're tracking down a problem in some complex bit of code on a web site, about the only way to keep your head on straight while browsing this huge book is to leave a trail of sticky tabs. The bookbinding is very well done but somewhat inappropriate for a large reference text. The binding method is extremely clean and tight, indicating good quality and excellent page retention. Unfortunately, that same quality prevents the book from laying flat by itself. I'm actually using the book to look up some problems on another corporate web site, but I have to use a large book clamp to keep the thing open without having to hold it flat with one hand while typing code with the other. I vote for reinforced, hole-punched loose-leaf and binder? Anybody got a better suggestion?
Pros: A huge, detailed, clearly organized volume that, as of March 2005 at least, is fully up to date. Extensive cross-referencing. The detail in this book, overwhelming at first, with patience will be welcomed by every developer, web master and web programmer actively maintaining a medium size or large site. In fact, anybody who is maintaining a robust web site of any size will do well to keep a copy of Web Programmer's Desk Reference handy. Printing and paper quality are quite good, ensuring that the book will outlast the coding standards it references. Printing and paper quality also contribute to readability, and that means the book is very easy to read in a wide variety of lighting conditions, an important point when you consider the length of some real-life web programming situations. Excellent work. Highly recommended.
Letters to the Editor are welcome and occasionally abused in public. Send e-mail to: email@example.com