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Building iPhone Apps with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript: Making App Store Apps Without Objective-C or Cocoa [Paperback]

Jonathan Stark
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Jan. 29 2010 0596805780 978-0596805784 1

What people are saying about Building iPhone Apps w/ HTML, CSS, and JavaScript

"The future of mobile development is clearly web technologies like CSS, HTML and JavaScript. Jonathan Stark shows you how to leverage your existing web development skills to build native iPhone applications using these technologies."

--John Allsopp, author and founder of Web Directions

"Jonathan's book is the most comprehensive documentation available for developing web applications for mobile Safari. Not just great tech coverage, this book is an easy read of purely fascinating mobile tidbits in a fun colloquial style. Must have for all PhoneGap developers."

-- Brian LeRoux, Nitobi Software

It's a fact: if you know HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, you already have the tools you need to develop your own iPhone apps. With this book, you'll learn how to use these open source web technologies to design and build apps for the iPhone and iPod Touch on the platform of your choice-without using Objective-C or Cocoa.

Device-agnostic mobile apps are the wave of the future, and this book shows you how to create one product for several platforms. You'll find guidelines for converting your product into a native iPhone app using the free PhoneGap framework. And you'll learn why releasing your product as a web app first helps you find, fix, and test bugs much faster than if you went straight to the App Store with a product built with Apple's tools.

  • Build iPhone apps with tools you already know how to use
  • Learn how to make an existing website look and behave like an iPhone app
  • Add native-looking animations to your web app using jQTouch
  • Take advantage of client-side data storage with apps that run even when the iPhone is offline
  • Hook into advanced iPhone features -- including the accelerometer, geolocation, and vibration -- with JavaScript
  • Submit your applications to the App Store with Xcode

This book received valuable community input through O'Reilly's Open Feedback Publishing System (OFPS). Learn more at

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Product Details

Product Description

About the Author

Jonathan Stark is a mobile and web application consultant who the Wall Street Journal has called an expert on publishing desktop data to the web. He has written two books on web application programming, is a tech editor for both php|architect and Advisor magazines, and has been quoted in the media on internet and mobile lifestyle trends. Jonathan began his programming career more than 20 years ago on a Tandy TRS-80 and still thinks Zork was a sweet game.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
3.7 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Save some time getting to the App Store March 10 2010
By McLin
I rate tech books based on how much time they save me googling around for authoratative information.

Based on that, for $20 this one's a great deal. I got my first PhoneGap app on the app store about 2 weeks after ordering it. And with the advantage that I could turn around and also get it on Android Market! Mobile web FTW!

Keep in mind, though, I'm already a pro web developer. If you don't already know CSS and JavaScript, you might want to read up on those first.
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4.0 out of 5 stars great for beginners Sept. 12 2010
I purchased several books to get started with html 5 for smartphones. This is by far the best for beginners. Although I am a programmer and I can fill in the blanks, most other books I read are skipping over a great deal of detail, requiring additional time to research before really getting started. This book hit the spot for me and once I read it and practiced a few examples I was ready to branch out on my own. My only issue with this book is its length: you can read it a few hours from cover to cover. It could be greatly expanded.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Convinced me not to build for iPhone Aug. 3 2010
By Craig
I bought this book because I wanted to build mobile apps without having to
1. buy a Mac
2. navigate the AppStore politics.

While the book does teach how to create an iPhone-ish website I couldn't help feeling that the whole notion was contrived and hacky. I read the book in one night, decided that it didn't cover what I was trying to achieve, and returned it to the store for an Android book instead.

If you're trying to build a website that's optimized for the iPhone, this book is for you.
If you're trying to build a mobile app then look elsewhere.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars  39 reviews
78 of 85 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Start March 11 2010
By Gary K. Evans - Published on
I am a developer, but I know nothing about the iPhone or iPhone app development, so this book sounded perfect for me. It's a very quick read: I read the whole book (< 160 pages) on a 3 hour flight to Boston. The prose is clear with very little fluff, but did I learn much about iPhone apps with HTML, CSS and Javascript? This raises the big question that was not clear to me when I started reading: who is this book for? It is clear that this book is not for someone who has no prior knowledge of HTML or CSS, or JavaScript. The tutelage on HTML and CSS is razor-thin. If you do not understand these languages, your head will swim very quickly. I have worked with both languages for a couple years, and yet I felt pretty unsatisfied with the skeletal explanations of some of the examples. The Javascript coverage was even more spartan. I am not a Javascript person; I know just enough to tweak simple code I have found on the Internet. I have no clue to some of the book's example code and what it means. Overall, I found this book was not written to be a tutorial at all. It is a bare introduction to the iPhone environment for a developer who has considerable experience in these languages. And to Stark's credit, he does does state in the Preface that this book is for people with "basic experience reading and writing HTML, CSS, and JavaScript (jQuery in particular)". I was not aware of this assumption, so be aware that you may have some rough going. On the up-side, however, there is some very interesting material in this book. I did learn something about the iPhone development environment, and the iPhone style of presentation. Now I know to look into Cocoa, jQuery and JQTouch. I also have to credit Stark for exactly limiting his presentation to provide a development option to Objective-C and submitting to the Apple Store. His last two chapters really interested me. Using PhoneGap to convert an iPhone web app to a native app was pretty thorough. Doing this conversion makes two distribution options available to the developer. And once your application is coverted, Stark's last chapter on "Submitting Your App to iTunes" really tied together some loose ends for me. Overall, I found this little book pretty helpful. It may not merit a second reading, but I have to offer it this praise: it has given me a foundation to start learning more detail, including writing in Objective-C.
32 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gets around some of the ugliness of dealing with Objective-C Jan. 31 2010
By calvinnme - Published on
As an IPhone app developer you've probably found that Objective-C is difficult to learn, rather counter-intuitive in syntax, and not very useful outside of the Mac programming world. Also, trying to get an app into the App store is like dealing with airport security - byzantine rules unevenly enforced and guaranteed long waits. Updates also take long time periods, and if your updates are in response to bugs you can quickly get a bad rep as a developer. This book shows you how to use commonly and long-used web technologies to build your application as a web app, have it tested on the web where you can quickly make changes in response to bugs, and then when you are ready, the book shows you how to use PhoneGap to convert your web app to a native iPhone app.

This book assumes that you have basic experience reading and writing HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, SQL, and jQuery. The author has a very brief overview of these technologies in the book, but it isn't enough if you lack experience, and it is duplication of what you already know if you have experience. The book largely avoids the iPhone SDK but you will need access to a Mac for the material in Chapter 7 on PhoneGap. This is the chapter where the author shows you how to convert a web app into a native app that can be submitted to the App Store.

The book is short, but it is adequate and clearly written for the task at hand. I'd recommend it to anyone who is tired of dealing with Objective-C and is looking for an easier way to write and test IPhone apps.
29 of 36 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Limited information and already out of date. July 3 2010
By Jeremy Deats - Published on
The book starts with a general overview of HTML and CSS and then explains how to use CSS, HTML and JQuery to target some of WebKit's proprietary calls to make Web Apps mimic native iPhone app look and feel. It also covers using HTML5 local storage. The last chapter explains how to use a new third-party (open source) PhoneGap SDK to convert your iPhone app to a native application.

So why two stars? Well, there are a few problems with the book. For starters, the pre-face and getting starting portion is not going to prepare anyone. If you don't have a foundation in HTML, JavaScript, CSS, etc.. You're going to struggle with the content and the information in the first chapter is not going to be enough to help you. With the chapters that follow we get more step by step examples, far too much hand holding and NO SOURCE TO DOWNLOAD (this is unforgivable). Advanced developers will gladly pay for a book just to get their hands on the source and will learn quickly by reading the source code as opposed to reading the authors step-by-step instructions on how to write the source code. For all except beginner books, it's common with tech books that the source code is really what the reader is after and the book becomes a reference (as needed) for understanding the source code. This basic concept of tech book authorship seems to be missing here. This book is formatted as a beginners book but covers more advanced topic, this is a significant flaw in the approach.

Aside from my dislike of the authors approach, there are two other areas where I think this book should have been filled out a bit more. We get no information on using graphics. I know there are hundreds of books out there that cover graphics and animation with CSS/JavaScript, this author had an opportunity to give a chapter or two on this subject in the context of iPhone web app development; this is a huge opportunity missed. If you're looking to create a game app using the HTML/JScript stack to target iPhone this book will do you no good. With iOS4, Safari now supports a lot more of HTML5 which frankly changes a lot. It's not that the techniques covered in this book are all out of date, but there is a lot more that can be done now to make Web Apps mimic native iPhone apps. I realize tech books go out of date quickly, it's important you know this one has already been rendered obsolete in this way.

Finally, the last chapter covers PhoneGap. PhoneGap is an open source SDK that allows web developers to deploy their apps as native apps on many target mobile devices. In context of iPhone native app development, PhoneGap can only be used by developers with MacOS, XCode and the official iPhone dev SDK. It's useless to Windows and Linux developers for the purpose of creating native iPhone apps. Also, PhoneGap supports some really neat features like accelerometer events which this author does not even mention. This is another example of where if this book were just a bit thicker, it could have covered a lot more.

This is the first book I've purchased from O'Reily where I felt the book was a gimmick, written as an attempt to capitalize quickly on a hot subject matter. I can't think of any target audience that would really benefit here. I am very, very disappointed in O'Reily for allowing this one to get out the door. It's not that the author is incompetent, it's that he's not thorough on the subject and his book is not formatted for the advanced technical professional for which is was written.

The author does mention[...]. For the advanced developer (most people reading this book).
Download this library (currently in beta) and it will provide detailed examples of creating web apps the mimic iPhone look and feel. This free toolkit will quickly give you everything you need to know to do what this books aims to teach you and you will pay nothing for it.

14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Saved me hundreds of dollars, tens of hours March 21 2010
By Seth C. Hayward - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I have always used my iPod Touch religiously since the moment I got one. I've always wanted to build apps for it - but these were my obstacles:
(1) I don't have Mac OS
(2) I can't afford to invest hundreds of dollars into something I'm not sure is the right choice yet (Mac OS, Apple Developer program, books, etc)
(3) I build in VB.NET/ASP.NET, I use Visual Studio .NET. I curse them daily, but I like them.
(4) Have you heard what developers are saying about the App Store? It doesn't sound very friendly. I built apps on Facebook before, it doesn't feel that great to have a huge company telling you what you can and can't do. It's their right, of course, but an obstacle for me.

This book really surprised me - because it basically has the answers to the above obstacles. Namely, a web-based application approach. There are negatives, sure (I would say animation being the biggest one) - but the absolute beauty of this approach is that those negatives will eventually become less important over time. A big part of this approach is a reliance on open source jQuery plugins. Stark introduces these open source authors and projects succinctly and with full respect.

Before you go down the Objective-C route, give this book a shot. It made me seriously rethink a bunch of assumptions that I had made about an iPhone application. That alone was well worth price. Plus - look at what this book covers in the first few chapters, then compare that to the Objective-C/Cocoa books. This is a faster approach if you already have a web application in place.

On a side note, this books (with some tweaking) could make a good high school textbook. Teenagers today have a good grasp of HTML and CSS (see: Tumblr), and can be introduced to more advanced topics like jQuery and data storage if they see a benefit to actually learning it.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Waste of money Oct. 17 2011
By The Edge - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I am a full time developer who knows HTML and Javascript. This book has a lot of code missing and a lot of the code simply does not work. I had another book from WROX a few years earlier and it is better than this junk. Do not waste your money.
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