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"Special Edition Using Java," published by Que, should win the prize as the biggest Java reference book on the market. It is huge, containing a wealth of information on Java and complementing topics like JavaScript and multimedia. It is based on Java Version 1.0 for MS Windows platforms Windows 95 and NT, Solaris 1.x and Macintosh. In addition, the book comes with a CD containing Sun's User Group library of applets, Sun's Java Development Kit (JDK), and a number of chapters from books on JavaScript, HTML, and CGI (Common Gateway Interface), plus the entire text of Que's C++ by example. The CD alone is worth $50.

"Special Edition Using Java" is intended for all readers who want to learn more about Java, especially software developers. The broad range of topics is invaluable for novice, intermediate, and advanced readers. The main writer, Alexander Newman, executive director of Sun User Group, is supported by several other authors, each an expert in his special field. Newman adds his insights and anecdotes about the making of Java and gives an outlook on future developments.

The book is divided into six parts:

  • Part 1 provides information on how to obtain and install Java. Most of the text covers Sun's JDK but other compilers and integrated development environments are introduced.
  • Part 2 describes the elements of the Java language in detail.
  • Part 3 explains how to write a Java applet. This part contains a brief introduction to JavaScript. More detailed material can be found in the JavaScript book on the CD.
  • Part 4 talks about using applets in Web pages. The chapter includes graphics and building a graphical user interface with Java.
  • Part 5 handles advanced Java topics like threads and networking. It also focuses on developing standalone Java applications.
  • Part 6 contains samples for using Java in business and discusses the possible future of Java. There are two sub-chapters on Java in conjunction with VRML and relational databases (JDBC).

In the appendix section there is a list of Java resources, including the Java SIG (national special interest group) and local Java user groups. As the Web is a rapidly changing environment, this part is already a little outdated. The most current information and pointers to Java-related material are found at the web site of JavaSoft itself (http://www.javasoft.com) or in the Gamelan directory (http://www.gamelan.com). The next appendix contains a reference for the Java API. It only lists classes, fields and methods without commenting on them or giving any enhancing graphical description. I prefer to consult Sun's original documentation, available on the Web at the JavaSoft site. A Java language grammar, installation instructions for the JDK, a Java glossary, and the description of the included book CD conclude the appendices.

"Special Edition Using Java" is written in a reference style. The chapters on the Java language are dense with technical facts and source code providing comprehensive and valuable information on the subject. You can dive into one special topic, exploring and understanding it in detail. When appropriate, online references are frequently given. One small disadvantage is the missing book bibliography. I think mentioning a few good books on a particular topic (object-orientation, for example) would have enhanced the value of the text, particularly when a subject is covered only briefly.

This book is not meant as a Java tutorial for a novice. A thorough and well-explained introduction into object-oriented software development is missing, although object-oriented design concepts are talked about several times in the book. In my opinion, this book is for intermediate and advanced readers already familiar with a programming language. The book contains a lot of material on advanced topics meant for more experienced Java users, such as security issues, mixing Java with native code, networking, JDBC (Java Database Connectivity), and Virtual Reality.

You may also want to visit Macmillan Publishing's QUE Web page at: http://www.mcp.com/que for a complete online-copy of this book including an integrated search engine for your convenience. The on-line version is not as well edited as the real book, though; for example, sometimes elements like figures are missing and the source code is mostly in underlined font. However, the on-line copy gives you a quick overview of the book's contents and you could easily make up your mind if buying the book is worthwhile. There is also a forum available on CompuServe (QUEBOOKS). You may send feedback and support queries to the publisher via Internet ([email protected]) or CompuServe (76245,476).

"Special Edition Using Java" contains a large amount of material about and around Java. If you want to brush up your knowledge on a particular subject, this might be the right book for you. It is especially valuable as a reference work for experienced software developers interested in Java. Moreover, the included CD, with its extra information on surrounding topics, gives you added value for your money.

About the Author
Claudia Piemont is a German freelance computer science journalist and writer with a degree in computer science. She has a broad knowledge of software engineering, object-oriented technology, and Internet/Intranet issues based on practical experience in her work as software developer and consultant.

 

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