Foundation XML For Flash Review

Original Publish Date: 12/12/2005

Author(s): Sas Jacobs
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: friends of ED (October 3, 2005)
ISBN: 1590595432
Overall Score: 3.5/5

As I wrote about a month ago, I got the new XML book from Friends of Ed titled Foundation XML for Flash by Sas Jacobs. Now, I’ve been doing a bunch of XML work over the past couple of months and have gotten accustomed to using XML in my projects to do just about any kind of data updating, so I’m pretty well versed in writing loops around XML to retrieve data and to set up my buttons and all that. That being said, on to the book review:

The book definitely had its up accompanied by a couple of downs. Firstly, the thing I loved about the book is that if you have no prior experience with XML, this is the perfect book for you. It walks you through almost everything you need to know about XML and teaches you how to set up some pretty simple XML usage examples to get the grasp of all the possible properties of the XML object in Flash. As you progress through the book, you get into using the XML components, which is something I haven’t even dabbled in personally for the simple fact that I prefer to have total control over my XML and I like to be able to edit/see the code to make sure I understand it (and since I wrote it I surely understand it…). The components definitely have their UPS, however, and its good for doing things like using web services or more advanced data binding.

Another thing I liked about the book was the fact that in the beginner chapters, where most beginners will learn the ropes of XML in Flash, Sas writes code that shows how to use pretty much all of the properties of the XML object, even though it’s not the most efficient way of writing the code. She goes on to explain in the chapter summary how to more effectively write the code, but seeing the usage of some of those properties/methods is definitely helpful in case you’re ever in a situation where you may benefit from them. The files the book uses are not available on a CD included, which is good because you don’t have the hard CD cover sleeve in the back of the book making it impossible to keep it open and they’re easily accessible from the Friends of Ed site (linked above) in the downloads section for the book.

Alternately, the cons of the book: For an XML for Flash book, there is way too much talk about Microsoft Office. I understand that sometimes this may come in very handy when your client gives you an Excel or Word file and you’re going to have to convert it into XML, but personally I don’t think that topic applies to too many people working with XML outside of a huge corporate environment. I know I’ve never been passed off any office documents and had to convert them into XML, but I do understand the need may arise sometime so it’s not entirely bad to put this in, but I don’t think it’s necessary to write four chapters on it as opposed to breezing over it.

The database scripting language used in the book is ASP which I found kind of weird considering XML, like PHP, is a free technology and it would only make sense to use PHP for the database scripting examples. In Sas’ defense, Friends of Ed has a book titled Foundation PHP 5 for Flash (which I also own and it is a very good book), so maybe covering some parts of it in ASP is not such a bad thing, just a personal preference for me to use PHP instead.

As I was forewarned by Pete Aylward, the Product Manager at Friends of Ed, that some screenshots in the book were printed at low quality. As promised, however, the good quality images were put online in case you need to refer to them at the friends of ED site.

Overall, as mentioned earlier, I think the book is great for people looking to dive right into XML who haven’t had any previous knowledge of the technology. There are even mentions of things like XSLT and CSS along with other closely related technologies to make you aware of everything you need to know about XML. Get it, let it sink in, and enjoy the wonderful world that is XML and Flash. I promise you, you’ll never want to do manual updating again.

On a related note, check out my XML image gallery source code to get some more insight into XML and Flash. It is fully commented to help understand what is going on in the file.

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