Book Review: HTML5: Up and Running

Quickly learn how to leverage the new HTML5 web standard

This 10-chapter, 200-plus-page book written by well-known author Mark Pilgrim (best known for his book Dive Into Python) HTML5: Up and Running offers an excellent synopsis of what HTML5 delivers and the historical pathways that lead HyperText Markup Language up to this point in time. Indeed, I found this nostalgic background to be nearly as captivating as the new features designed to extend HTML into the future of rich Internet web applications.

An important tool mentioned several times throughout the book—known as Modernizr—shows that the author recognizes the reality of the current web. Although developers may dream of the ability to switch millions of users to an HTML5-compliant web browser, the reality is that HTML5-active web pages will ramp up slowly. This means developers will need to continue to support a cornucopia of browser types and limitations. However, assuming that Modernizr indicates the browser is fully compliant with whatever HTML5-level tag is to be employed, the sample code snippets abundantly planted throughout the book show off the exciting level of rich user interactivity and advanced functions like geolocating and video playback (and the helpful video workflow that accounts for the popular MP4, Ogg and WebM formats) that HTML5 supports. More importantly, the author shows how HTML5 features like drawing surfaces, local storage far greater than meager cookie files, and various HTML form enhancements that rival Flash or Silverlight functionality.

Learning HTML5 harkens back to the day of picking up on the original HTML tags: Type or copy/paste a source snippet, render it in the browser, tinker with the attributes, and see what happens. The value that the author adds to this exploration are the timesaving tips he has discovered in his own testing of the various web browsers. For instance, Safari on the iPad currently "has a bug that prevents it from noticing anything but the first video source listed. Sadly, this means you will need to list your MP4 file first, followed by the free video formats. Sigh." That tip alone saved me potentially hours of frustration. The book also teaches readers about a useful MIT-licensed JavaScript library called geo.js that abstracts the quirky differences between various geolocation APIs implemented across Google Gears and several mobile platforms.

The entire book and its working examples are on display at diveintohtml5.org. As such, developers with an always-on Internet connection may balk at purchasing the print or electronic book edition. This bold move by the author should be rewarded by those readers who sample the online edition and find it applicable to their work. The amount of effort that Mark has put into not only writing the book but also formatting it for a very active and web-friendly reading experience should be compensated. The quality of writing, the timeliness of the information, and the relevance of the topic are worthy of the reader's time and financial support.

Rating: 4/5 stars
Website: http://oreilly.com/catalog/9780596806033/
Price: $29.99


Mike Riley ([email protected]) is an advanced computing professional specializing in emerging technologies and new development trends. He is also a contributing editor for DevProConnections. Follow Mike on Twitter @mriley.

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