HTML5: Up and Running Paperback – Aug 24 2010
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Dive into the Future of Web Development
About the Author
Mark Pilgrim works as a developer advocate for Google, specializing inopen source and open standards. You may remember him from such classics as Greasemonkey Hacks (O'Reilly), Dive Into Python (Apress), and Dive Into Python 3 (APress). He lives in North Carolina with his wife, two boys, and a big slobbery dog.
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This is good, because the history of HTML has not been a smooth, step-by-step process. Different releases of different browsers have adopted different features of different specs at different times. I can personally recall rejoicing, back in the 90s, when both IE and Netscape finally implemented support for HTML tables. So it's no wonder that the second chapter dives into methods for detecting whether or not a user's browser supports certain HTML5 features.
If the first chapter was boring, the second is discouraging. First he shows how to check if Canvas is even supported. But once that's determined, you have to check if all the features of Canvas are supported. Moving on to the Video tag, even when that is supported, video format support varies across browsers. Basically, in these early days of HTML 5 support, it's like touring the United States early in the 20th century. Flush toilets and electric lights took longer to come to some areas than others.
After the third chapter started breaking down some of the new tags and how they affect the DOM, my eyes were good and glazed. This book is more discussion than documentation. If it was a car repair manual, instead of merely showing you the steps for changing the oil on your Honda, it would give you the history of the internal combustion engine, then detail different kinds of lubrication systems.
In short, there's a lot of valuable information in this book. Mark Pilgrim is no slouch on technical know-how or understanding of his topic. I just find the manner of presentation to be organized in such a way that I don't feel I have quick access to the information I want or that the available path to acquiring that knowledge is optimal. It's short on lab, long on lecture, and isn't something I'd make part of my permanent library.
That being said: why do people buy a book on HTML5? Some would like to have a good in-depth reference on the ins and outs of the new language. Well now - that's not this book. Others might be new to web development and think learning HTML5 would be a good starting point. While they are right that HTML (5 or 4) is the place to start, this book surely isn't.
There's some depth when it comes to background, but much less when it comes to HTML5 itself or how to use it. True, the <canvas> tag and geolocation are covered pretty much in detail, but the author made some hard to defend choices in spending his paper estate.
HTML5 gives us no more than a handful of new tags, still some of those (<mark> and <section>, for example) are simply mentioned once and that's that. No examples, no advise on where to use them, nothing on browser support. Yet the book takes five pages at the start to tell the story of how the img-tag came into being some 15 years ago. Again, mildly amusing, but probably not the reason you are thinking of buying this book.
Another example: there are 10 pages with a primer on audio and video codecs, plus another 19 (!) detailed pages (with lots of screen shots) on how to use a number of specific and probably soon outdated software tools to encode video for the web. All fine for those who are completely new to video encoding and believe a book on HTML5 should be the starting point for that. But when it comes to the actual <video> tag (under the aptly named heading "At Last, the Markup"), this consists of a meager 3 pages that include a statement like this:
"The <video> element has methods like play() and pause()".
Huh? "Methods like"? So which other methods are there? And how and where would I use them? Are these standardized across browsers? Where can I find more about them? Any example, maybe?
If you think these are the kind of questions a book on HTML5 should answer, you are out of luck. The above sentence is all the information on this particular topic you are going to get. Not a word about implementing these methods, or on how to style the browsers' native video controllers that come with HTML5 support. There are a good number of external references for information on things like Unicode, codecs and video containers, and some useful scripts, but not a word on how we can get the information on how to control and style the <video> tag. Maybe the logical conclusion would be: in another book on HTML5, perhaps?
I liked it.
Fortunately, you don't have to do it all by yourself: just get Introducing HTML5, written by Bruce Lawson (Opera) and Remy Sharp (Left Logic).
Exactly as its name implies, Introducing HTML5 is an introduction to all the new semantics and application-oriented technologies that make up the HTML5 spec. You don't have to be a web development expert to read this, but you'll come out closer to one when you've finished. All you need is a good grasp of web standards-based techniques, e.g. semantic markup; separation of structure, presentation and behavior; and accessibility. Bruce and Remy will teach you everything you need to know to bring your skill set to the next level.
Starting out light, Introducing HTML5 first teaches you the most important new HTML5 elements and their semantic purposes, which is especially helpful if, like me, you kept an eye on these since the early stages of HTML5, but got confused as their meanings were changed or redefined.
Throughout the book, Bruce and Remy do a great job at not just introducing the new technologies, but informing you exactly of what does and doesn't work in which browsers. Even the latest releases of browsers have some glaring bugs here and there, but where fixes are available, they are presented, and where not, workarounds explained. As a result, Introducing HTML5 is a tremendously practical book, going well beyond a surface-level introduction and straight-up teaching you how to wield these new technologies today.
One thing I am personally very happy about is how the book teaches you how to implement things in an accessible way (via ARIA or otherwise), making sure that visitors to your sites aren't left out. HTML5 is exciting, but our excitement shouldn't come at the cost of accessibility--and following Bruce and Remy's advice, it won't.
The compact but dense information in Introducing HTML5 means that in just an afternoon or two, you'll find yourself brimming with new knowledge, excitement and ideas for making your websites or web applications richer, more exciting and more powerful. All in all, a highly recommended read.
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