Java in a Nutshell, Fourth Edition

Java in a Nutshell, Fourth Edition

$39.95 $26.37

  • Release Date: March, 2002
  • Collectible Price: $39.95
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Author: David Flanagan

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Customer Rating: 3.2 of 5 (25 total reviews)

  • 3 starsBe Careful What You Wish For...

    Nothing makes the importance of understanding exactly what you are looking for as obvious as the travail of picking the right technical book from the usual host on a particular subject. And no subject seems to underscore this more than that of the Java language. I can limp along adequately in Java, after several corporate efforts to get it drilled into my skull, but I'm past the age where perfect recall is anything else but wishful thinking. And Java, which is more an architecture than it is a language, puts high demand on knowledge retention abilities.

    Thus, I recently found myself searching for a language/object/method reference that is useful when reading and writing code, but does not require two briefcases to carry around. In those circumstances anything that says 'nutshell' is going to get my attention. Since I wasn't looking for long, flowing dissertations on syntax or object use, this book seemed exactly what I wanted. And it is, for the most part. There are about 300 pages of tiny print on Java, its syntax, environment, and tools. Then comes 600 pages of reference on objects and methods, organized (somewhat) by package. In general, if you can find it, and you already have a clue of why you should look for it, the book does just what I wanted.

    The flaw, however, is in the finding. Indexing and organization is best described as adequate. But browsing is a literal impossibility. Under no circumstances should you buy this book if you are looking for a learning tool. It is at its best when you need to be reminded about something, not when you are looking for a way to actually do something.

    I didn't expect to find anything on J2EE in the book, and sure enough, there isn't. But I found the lack of information on the AWT and Swing irritating. I admit that it says right on the back cover (in tiny print) that I need 'Java Foundation Classes in a Nutshell' if those are also of interest. Of course they are if you are writing an application that needs more than a command line interface. Left up to me I would have sacrificed some of the more obscure information for 50 or so pages on the AWT. Or even put up with a book with 100 extra pages. As it is I still need ten pounds of paperbacks to feel like I have sufficient reference material.

    Still, the book of professionally done, brooks no nonsense, and does precisely what it says it does. Which is a small miracle in today's technology business. I certain bear a certain amount of responsibility for not getting something that is precisely what I wanted, but I use this every day, and generally, I get exactly what I need.

  • 5 starsSimply the BEST

    This book is aimed at those who either already know Java or want to learn it in an efficient manner.

    Some learn best from a book where the author jokes around and has all the info spread out, and slowly brings you up to speed, covering a topic, and then going back to cover it later in greater detail. The reference section would be integrated into the text in the appropriate places. If that's what you are looking for, this book is NOT for you.

    For those with a previous programming background wanting a no-nonsense way to quickly learn how to program in Java, this book is EXCELLENT. There are no wasted words. The author gets down to the point and writes clearly. Each topic is covered in detail as it is presented. It is very possible to learn Java with this book and Java Examples in a Nutshell (I did it and I had no object oriented programming background, just assembly, C, and Basic). You'll also want Java Foundation Classes in a Nutshell (for AWT and Swing classes and methods).

    There is a great index at the back. By its thickness and detail it is obvious that a lot of time was spent here. There is a separate index from the regular text index for listing the packages, classes, and methods. If you don't know what class a method belongs to, you can quickly find it here. I find the index section to be one of the best features of the book and quite useable.

    The second half of the book is the class reference. This information can be found online, but the benefits of having it in book form are many: I can write in the margins, I'm not constantly flipping back and forth between windows, I don't have to worry about the format changing, an frankly, the information is presented in a much more understandable way than the way Java decided to put it on their website.

    About the reference: You wont find anything about AWT or Swing, they are in Java Foundation Classes in a Nutshell. Some reviewers have claimed there are no printed tabs in the 4th edition. This is false. There are gray/black tabs printed along the edges. My only gripe here is lack of printing on the book edge of what the tabs are, but I wrote that on the edge with a pen. At the beginning of each package a class hierarchy is presented. This is invaluable, especially for the java.io package (if you ever got lost with all the Reader and InputStream combinations this is a godsend.) In addition, the major classes will have a nice graphical chart so you can trace them back to Object. Each object has a full method list, with version numbers for those methods appearing after Java 1.0. It should be emphasized that this method list is presented in a very easy to read and visually clean format. Properties will have the default value printed. A summary of how to use most of the methods is presented before the method list. Usually this gives enough info to understand on its own, but some methods are not summarized. These summaries should be expanded in future editions to cover each method, and in greater detail. At the end of each object additional information is given about what other objects use the object, or return it. Also, there is no reason the class hierarchies can't be put at the top of every class.

    One thing missing from the reference section is example code for each class. However, I can't think of a way this can be added without turning the book into an encyclopedia set. It's already very thick as it is.

    I am very happy with this book. I recommend it to everyone I know as THE Java book to own. Don't take a Java class without it. I was the envy of my class, writing programs with ease. Others rewrote standard classes from scratch because they didn't know where to find them.

    5 out of 5.

  • 4 starsBest guide for the working programmer

    This isn't a textbook. It's a handbook, and gives good, clear descriptions of every corner of the Java language. Java isn't a big feature-sodden language, but has a few obscure corners. If you just can't remember the syntax for up-reference from an inner class, you'll find it fast and explained well.

    The API guide is fairly complete, but terse. Well, it has to be - the API keep growing. No one book could hold a complete description of everything. Sad to say, earlier editions had more complete API descriptions. The second, for example, had a very good introduction to reflection. As the Java API grew, however, the old descriptions had to shrink to make way for the new, and the reflection discussion was squeezed out. Still, it gives a good quick look at the API. This isn't as complete as the Javadoc API information, but is hugely more browseable. Use this to direct your query into the right area, then use Sun's Javadoc to get the details.

    If you have room for only one Java book, make it this one.