You can't judge a book by its back cover. At least, that's true in the case of More Servlets and JavaServer Pages.
I was surprised to see coverage of the JavaServer Pages (JSP) Standard Tag Library (JSTL) when I glanced at the back of this book. This is a new JSP specification still in progress as a Java Specification Request (JSR). I examined the source code examples from the JSTL chapter and noticed they were already out of date. I was not impressed. I would have put it back on the shelf if I were buying rather than reviewing it. But that would have been my loss; More Servlets and JavaServer Pages is wonderful. I started to read it certain that I was not going to like it, but the depth of content, style of writing, and gems of information soon won me over.
The book is divided into five sections. Part I consists of three chapters that quickly introduce JSP and servlets. Normally, I would have skipped over this material, but I read it for this review. The section is excellent, and I recommend it to anyone wanting to learn about JSP and servlets. In some places, I thought the author's suggestions were not proper, but upon reflection, I decided he offered the best approach for novices.
The author, Marty Hall, crams more into those three chapters than many introductory books. Add to this a freely downloadable Acrobat PDF file of his previous book, and you have a perfect way to become acclimated with servlets and JavaServer Pages. Hall also discusses real-world servers, providing Tomcat, JRun, and ServletExec configuration examples at every turn.
Part II discusses Web applications. Both experienced and novice developers should read this section. I learned a lot, despite having thought myself competent in this area. Part III examines the security schemes available in the Java Web server specifications. There are a lot of options in this area of Java, and Hall covers them in great detail.
Part IV details new functionalities in the Servlet 2.3 specifications, primarily servlet filters and life-cycle events. Part V provides information on the new parts of the JSP 1.2 specification and the previously mentioned, forthcoming JSTL. The chapter on the JSTL admits that it's based on an early release of the specification and subject to change. When he wrote this section, Hall was probably not expecting quite as much change as has occurred. Although the fourth section and the first half of the fifth provide strong descriptions of core new functionalities, the JSTL half of the fifth section is likely to confuse readers unless they just skim over it. The author Web site provides more information about the book, but it currently fails to provide an update to the last chapter.
The book suddenly stops a little abruptly, and I would have enjoyed reading a nice small section on what to expect next in the world of JSP and servlets, or maybe an afterword from the author.
The book does provide an appendix summarizing Tomcat, JRun and ServletExec. Indeed, the book's continuous coverage of these three servlet containers is excellent.
Add it to your shelf
So, given the various negative and positive statements I've made here, do I like this book? Yes. Marty Hall is a great author. He included a lot of superb content, and I was let down only by the ending. The book should be on the shelf of everyone wanting to learn JSP and servlets and anyone currently using them.
Rather than ask who should buy More Servlets and JavaServer Pages, I'll tell you who shouldn't: those looking for a JSTL description and those looking for a reference. But everyone who has an interest in sharpening their knowledge of Java Web serving should order a copy today.