Dynamic HTML may be the one Web development book you need

Although many Web development books claim to be comprehensive, O'Reilly's DHTML reference lives up to this claim and then some. See why it may be your primary Web dev go-to book.

I google for solutions to most of my Web development questions, but having a trusty book or two never hurts. Of course, finding a single book that adequately covers advanced HTML, JavaScript, the Document Object Model (DOM), and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) presents a real challenge. However, the second edition of Danny Goodman’s Dynamic HTML: The Definitive Reference, 2nd Edition tops the list of contenders.

Dynamic HTML: The Definitive Reference,
2nd Edition

By Danny Goodman
O'Reilly & Associates
September 2002
1,500 pages
ISBN: 0-596-00316-1
List price: $59.95

Goodman divides the book into four parts. The first part discusses industry standards, cross-platform concerns, cascading style sheets, and scripting events. Throughout this section, Goodman offers some useful real-world example applications. You can download the complete code listings and tinker with them. I found Chapter 4 handy, which covers CSS2 and how to use style sheets in your scripts. Goodman also details customizing your own API library, so that you can better leverage making changes via functions rather than assigning property values. If you are constantly looking for techniques to make your pages more dynamic, Chapter 5 is definitely for you. Goodman offers a generous helping of code to help you sort out client-side graphs and embedding XML data.

Part two is the core reference section, where you’ll find the detailed DOM reference. If you are fuzzy on choosing the right object, attribute, or property (and their respective browser support), you’ll want take full advantage of this section—particularly bulky Chapter 9, which is the DOM reference.

Part three offers a cross-reference for the second section. So if you remember an HTML or XHTML attribute you used six months ago but can’t remember the name of the element that supports it, this section will prove useful. For example, if you want to know which elements support the background attribute, you could check this section and find out that body, layer, runtimeStyle, style,table, and a few others support it. At first blush, this section was somewhat confusing, but the more I tap the book; the more I rely on this section.

Part four offers an assortment of appendices for quick reference, including color names and RGB values, as well as HTML character entities. It also includes some IE-only commands, which might prove useful if Microsoft's browser is your in-house standard. Finally, Goodman lists HTML/XHTML DTD support.

What you shouldn't expect
Although the first 200 or pages do offer some tutorials, the vast portion of this book does not fall into the “how-to” genre. So if you need to start at square one, you may want to make this the second book you buy, not the first. And at well over 1,000 pages, this book is definitely not a cover-to-cover read.

Goodman may disagree, but I suggest having a solid understanding of HTML and CSS, as well as some of the basics of JavaScript, to get the most out of this wonderful resource. For a great tutorial and JavaScript-centric alternative, you may want to try Goodman’s JavaScript Bible.

Worth every penny
To combat my bad habit of buying too many computer books, I try to be selective about where I spend my hard-earned pennies. But with this definitive reference, you get your money’s worth, without a question. In fact, it may be the only Web development reference book you need.

Editor's Picks