The Missing Manual of JavaScript & jQuery

Did you know that JavaScript lets you supercharge your HTML with animation, interactivity, and visual effects—but many web designers find the language hard to learn? This jargon-free guide covers JavaScript basics and shows you how to save time and effort with the jQuery library of prewritten JavaScript code.
You’ll soon be building web pages that feel and act like desktop programs, without having to do much programming.

The important stuff you need to know:

  •     Make your pages interactive. Create JavaScript events that react to visitor actions.
  •     Use animations and effects. Build drop-down navigation menus, pop-ups, automated slideshows, and more.
  •     Improve your user interface. Learn how the pros make websites fun and easy to use.
  •     Collect data with web forms. Create easy-to-use forms that ensure more accurate visitor responses.
  •     Add a dash of Ajax. Enable your web pages to communicate with a web server without a page reload.
  •     Practice with living examples. Get step-by-step tutorials for web projects you can build yourself.
In this JavaScript & jQuery: The Missing Manual,  the author takes a concept-tutorial ( cookbook ) approach where he first introduces you to the concepts of selectors, events, animation, etc. and then walks through 1 or more tutorials that show you how to leverage those concepts to add common features to your website. The tutorials are useful, like FAQ's, drop-down menus, Google Maps, Flickr Feeds, photo galleries, form validation, etc. If you follow along with the book and write the CSS and jQuery, you will indeed get a very good understanding of the functionality found in most websites today.

In addition to writing most of your own jQuery, the author also introduces you to a few jQuery Plugins that provide similar functionality. This way you understand the concepts, know how to develop the solution yourself, but also get the efficiency of using available, feature-rich plugins.

As a piece of advice for complete beginners new to both jQuery and programming, an excellent starting point is the book Javascript: A Beginner's Guide 4th Edition by John Pollock. Pollock's book eases the beginner into both the essentials of programming (such as variables, strings, arrays, functions, loops, and conditionals) and JavaScript.

As a word of caution to complete beginners, you will want to have read (in the following order) 1. HTML5, 2. CSS3, 3. JavaScript, 4. jQuery, (optionally although optimally, 5. PHP and 6. MySQL) and 7. AJAX if you wish to gain insight into one potential path for Web programming/Web design.

With that said, McFarland takes the beginner by the hand, equipping him or her with some basics of JavaScript, including variables, arrays, conditionals, and loops, but only enough to remind the reader of the basics. Most appealing to me was his lucid description of local/global variables and nested conditionals.

After 100 pages, McFarland dives into jQuery, utilizing a number of exciting techniques that can be incorporated into any Web page, extending into discussions on images, navigation, Web forms, content sliders, and tool tips.

Some highlights in these chapters include scripts for making 1. roll-over menus (p. 213) and sub-menus (p. 250), 2. image/content sliders (like the ones on most university websites with an image and text that slides after a time period to expose a new image and accompanying text)(p. 312), 3. form field focus (p. 269), 4. form validation features (p. 264), 5. disabled/re-enabled submit buttons (p. 271), 6. form country change fields (p. 267), 7. Form options show/hide features (p. 271), 8. advanced form validation (p. 284/p. 294), and many other features too varied and detailed to summarize in one sitting. Typically, the book covers a number of slight variations/modifications of a feature, such as variants of image galleries, content sliders, and the like.