Aug 31

Review: HTML5, Up and Running

The bottom line: If you are going to get only one book on HTML5 this would be at the head of the list. Further, if you want to better understand current and historical HTML, this book is a big help with its' clear explanations. The book will help you understand the older standards, compatibility issues, and solutions. Mark writes very clearly and this book is a pleasure to read, which is not true of many tech books.

HTML5, Up and Running Isbn:978-0-596-80602-6 © 2010 Google Press, O'Reilly Media, Inc., 1005 Gravenstein Highway North, Sebastopal, CA. 95472 Author: Mark Pilgrim Cover Price Us $29.99 205 pages

HTML5, Up and Running

I recieved a free copy of this book from O'Reilly/Mark Pilgrim to review as part of the D-Zone review team.

Mark Pilgrim is a developer advocate at Google. His web site is http://diveintomark.org .

I have spent the last several months reading about (as opposed to coding) HTML, CSS Javascript and Jquery, as part of my learning process. While I get many of the concepts presented by these technologies, I found I needed to take some time out to really study the topics. This book is aimed at those with programming and HTML, Javascript and CSS experience.

Although HTML5/CSS3 are very new, one of my interests is in creating mobile web-apps. It has become quite clear that Mobile Web will be a superior development environment going forward for the vast bulk of applications needs. A major advantage of web-apps contrasted with native-appscourse that they are really the write once run on any device solution. Coincidentally, since most Mobile browsers are Web-kit based, there is a fair amount of HTML5 goodness and consistency in that environment.

I was extremely impressed by this book. At first I was a bit puzzled by the long, but very well written coverage of the history of HTML standards. Mark uses this history to cleverly present the evolution of the standards themselves. This explains why in many cases the new standards can be employed today with little problem of reverse compatibility with older browsers.

Some reviewers have been critical of the book for lack of depth or too much history. I disagree and I found the history helpful. History provides the all important context for why things work the way they do. As far as depth, some browsers and or features are simply specs or tags without differential implementation as. This prevents some elements from being discribed in as much depth as some might like but it represents the real world. It is not a fault of the book, but rather the fault of the current state of the specification. Some areas of the HTML5 spec are simply left for implementation decisions, and do not have "standards" declared. The book does a good job of defining the current state, but this will rapidly become out of date as browser updates are released. Naturally, we will need to check the web for the up-to-date info.

The book solidified many concepts for me across HTML, CSS and Javascript even as used in the current and older standards. It does not however cover CSS3 in any way.

Each HTML5 enhancement is presented with extensive instructions for what can be done to support backwards compatibility. The chapters are as follows with my notations of the topics covered.

  • Preface
  • How did we get here? The historical bacground provides great understanding for immediate use and backwards compatibility.
  • Detecting HTML5 Features; best practices for testing browser support and in some cases providing it.
  • What Does It All Mean? An example page of markup enhancement, which maintains backward compatibility.
  • Let’s Call It a Draw(ing Surface) Canvas and What You can do with It
  • Video on the Web: A good overview of the current standards and issues and what to do for the future.
  • You Are Here (And So Is Everybody Else); Geolocation.
  • The Past, Present, and Future of Local Storage: Overview of the past and future of Browser storage
  • Let’s Take This Offline: How to plan for off-line usage of your web-app
  • A Form of Madness: New forms tags and capabilities.
  • “Distributed,” “Extensibility,” And Other Fancy Words: Interesting discussion of microformats.
  • The All-In-One Almost-Alphabetical Guide to Detecting Everything
The bottom line: If you are going to get only one book on HTML5 this would be at the head of the list. Further, if you want to better understand current and historical HTML, this book is a big help with its' clear explanations. The book will help you understand the older standards, compatibility issues, and solutions. Mark writes very clearly and this book is a pleasure to read, which is not true of many tech books.

Mark can also be found on Twitter @diveintomark

Tags: HTML5

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