Overviews for HTML5 & Java SE 8

Two new entries in the Developer Books review archive. MacDonald’s HTML5 intro is well-suited for people who already know HTML 4, and Horstmann’s Java SE 8 overview should remain useful even after Core Java has been updated. I recommend both books.

HTML5: The Missing Manual — Matthew MacDonald, O’Reilly 2013 (2nd ed.)

This is not a complete HTML5 reference, which would be difficult anyway for a “living standard” comprising many disparate technologies. Instead, MacDonald assumes his readers already know HTML 4 and focuses on new features introduced since then, whether in HTML5/CSS3 or as JavaScript libraries. His coverage usually takes the form of overviews with extensive tutorials and usage tips, plus numerous links to related articles and tools. Such overview books often are too brief and vague to be useful, but refreshingly that’s not the case here. MacDonald’s writing is certainly concise, but also densely packed with relevant and often surprising information.

I did notice two strange omissions that readers should be aware of. First, MacDonald briefly mentions RDFa but not its extremely widespread OpenGraph derivative. Second, MacDonald advises using normal ems instead of CSS3 “root ems” on grounds of IE7/8 compatibility. Jonathan Snook’s trick of combining px with rem would seem preferable. That aside, I can recommend HTML5: The Missing Manual, at least until Musciano & Kennedy deliver their promised HTML5 guide.

Java SE 8 for the Really Impatient — Cay S. Horstmann, Addison-Wesley 2014

As the name implies, this rather slim book gives a compact overview of new features in Java SE 8, as well as some of the more obscure changes in Java SE 7. Horstmann is as thorough and readable here as in the Core Java tomes he co-authors. He describes not just marquee features like lambdas that have been widely covered elsewhere, but also small important additions such as methods for unsigned arithmetic that I had been quite unaware of. The wisdom of compressing JavaFX into 30 pages is debatable, but Horstmann did take the opportunity to mention root em sizing.

What’s more, he finally admits that the Java browser plugin is a security risk whose time has passed. If anything he swings too far in the opposite direction, recommending HTML5 for targeting “a general audience” because “Java is no longer a viable platform for widespread distribution of client applications over the Internet.” True for mobile users but private JRE deployment still works fine for desktop users. Be that as it may, every Java programmer upgrading to SE 8 should benefit from this very useful book.

2015-03-10: Horstmann has now published the more extensive Core Java for the Impatient, also covering Java SE 8. Since that book is for the most part a superset of For the Really Impatient, I would recommend getting the new book instead.

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