Thursday, October 14, 2010

HTML5: Up and Running

Author: Mark Pilgrim
Format: Paperback, 240 pages
Publisher: O'Reilly Media; 1 edition (August 25, 2010)
ISBN-10: 0596806027
ISBN-13: 978-0596806026

I became impatient with the history lesson in Chapter 1 and wanted to test drive HTML 5. What's different? What's new? Guess I'll have to work to find out. As the blurb I found at Amazon said of HTML5, It’s not one big thing. It's not a matter of learning a new markup language from scratch, which is both a good and bad thing. In fact, again to quote the author's blurb, “Upgrading” to HTML5 can be as simple as changing your doctype...In HTML5, there is only one doctype: !DOCTYPE html. That's encouraging, but just how easy is it to learn HTML5 and how easily can you learn it from Pilgrim's book? I went in search of the answers.

The first place I went was the book's Preface to see where I could find a link to the source code. I was pointed to the author's site Dive Into HTML5, which is the original book on which the book I'm reviewing is based, but it didn't have a clear cut link to anything called "source code". Maybe this is where It’s not one big thing comes back to bite me.

Chapter 2: Detecting HTML5 Features introduced me to Modernizr (yes, I spelled it right), which is a nifty JavaScript library that detects the HTML5 and CSS3 features your browser will support. It also creates a self-titled global JavaScript object containing the properties for each such feature. However, if your browser doesn't support certain HTML5 features, Modernizr won't fix it. But what about learning HTML5? We kind of got away from that.

Oh wait! Chapter 3: What Does It All Mean? helps. I found the link to a set of code examples which got me started. Then, as I progressed through the book and through the author's site, which runs in parallel and often in duplicate, I realized how the book was organized. This is no small feat, but maybe it was my expectations that made the task difficult. I was expecting a front-to-back guide to getting started with HTML5 and what I discovered was a collection of loose pieces in a box.

Learning HTML5 from Pilgrim's book is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. When you first open the box, all you can see are a collection of jumbled pieces that, taken at a glance, don't make a lot of sense. If you had never encountered a jigsaw puzzle before, you might look, become confused as to what these pieces mean lying in such disarray, close the lid, and walk away looking for something more comprehensible.

One missing pieces of the puzzle, so to speak, is a knowledge for HTML4. Imagine the raw code of an HTML4 web page. Now imagine that you are presented with a list of tags and other markup elements you're not familiar with. What are you supposed to do with them? How do they work? What do they replace (if anything)? Using Chapter 3 on his web site for an example, I tried to navigate around until I could find something I could sink my teeth into.

Got a lesson on DOCTYPE, history lessons on the root and head elements, lots of other stuff to scan past, a section called A Long Digression Into How Browser Handle Unknown Elements, more stuff...more stuff...then it began to register. I started to hit spots on the pages that said stuff like, this is how we used to do things (add example of old code) and this is how you do it in HTML5 (add example of new code). The information is there, it's just not organized and called out the way I wanted it.

I went back to the book, compared it to the same pages on the author's site and "got" the organization. It may be a matter of how I think vs. how the author thinks, but from that point on, it was easier to tease what I wanted to know out of the book's pages.

I think HTML5 is fabulous but I'm not sure that HTML5: Up and Running is the best book to use as an introduction. It most definitely is not the best book to use for an introduction if you aren't familiar with HTML in general. I'd recommend navigating the author's website before buying the book. If you "get" the website, you'll "get" the book. They're pretty much the same thing.


Using GIMP: Kindle Edition

It bothered me that all of my other books were available through Amazon except this one. Amazon is a nice place to point folks when they want to get a quick idea of my professionally published works. Finally, Amazon released the Kindle Edition of Using GIMP (July 2010). Now all the Amazon page lacks are a few reviews (sigh).