Ajax in Action
Dave Crane and Eric Pascarello with Darren James
  • September 2005
  • ISBN 9781932394610
  • 680 pages
  • printed in black & white

Best Computer and Internet Book of 2006.

Customers' Favorites, Amazon.com

Web users are getting tired of the traditional web experience. They get frustrated losing their scroll position; they get annoyed waiting for refresh; they struggle to reorient themselves on every new page. And the list goes on. With asynchronous JavaScript and XML, known as "Ajax," you can give them a better experience. Once users have experienced an Ajax interface, they hate to go back. Ajax is a new way of thinking that can result in a flowing and intuitive interaction with the user.

Ajax in Action helps you implement that thinking— it explains how to distribute the application between the client and the server (hint: use a "nested MVC" design) while retaining the integrity of the system. You will learn how to ensure your app is flexible and maintainable, and how good, structured design can help avoid problems like browser incompatibilities. Along the way it helps you unlearn many old coding habits. Above all, it opens your mind to the many advantages gained by placing much of the processing in the browser.

About the Technology

"What is Ajax?"
Manning proudly presents the original screencast "What is Ajax?" which defines Ajax and shows you an entertaining, working example of Ajax in action. By gradually adding features, the screencast makes you think about the richness of your users' experience and shows you how it is done. It is 18 minutes long (27MB download).

Table of Contents detailed table of contents



about this book

Part 1 Rethinking the web application

1. A new design for the Web

1.1. Why Ajax rich clients?

1.1.1. Comparing the user experiences

1.1.2. Network latency

1.1.3. Asynchronous interactions

1.1.4. Sovereign and transient usage patterns

1.1.5. Unlearning the Web

1.2. The four defining principles of Ajax

1.2.1. The browser hosts an application, not content

1.2.2. The server delivers data, not content

1.2.3. User interaction with the application can be fluid and continuous

1.2.4. This is real coding and requires discipline

1.3. Ajax rich clients in the real world

1.3.1. Surveying the field

1.3.2. Google Maps

1.4. Alternatives to Ajax

1.4.1. Macromedia Flash-based solutions

1.5. Summary

1.6. Resources 30

2. First steps with Ajax

2.1. The key elements of Ajax

2.2. Orchestrating the user experience with JavaScript

2.3. Defining look and feel using CSS

2.3.1. CSS selectors

2.3.2. CSS style properties

2.3.3. A simple CSS example

2.4. Organizing the view using the DOM

2.4.1. Working with the DOM using JavaScript

2.4.2. Finding a DOM node

2.4.3. Creating a DOM node

2.4.4. Adding styles to your document

2.4.5. A shortcut: Using the innerHTML property

2.5. Loading data asynchronously using XML technologies

2.5.1. IFrames

2.5.2. XmlDocument and XMLHttpRequest objects

2.5.3. Sending a request to the server

2.5.4. Using callback functions to monitor the request

2.5.5. The full lifecycle

2.6. What sets Ajax apart

2.7. Summary

2.8. Resources

3. Introducing order to Ajax

3.1. Order out of chaos

3.1.1. Patterns: Creating a common vocabulary

3.1.2. Refactoring and Ajax

3.1.3. Keeping a sense of proportion

3.1.4. Refactoring in action

3.2. Some small refactoring case studies

3.2.1. Cross-browser inconsistencies: Façade and Adapter patterns

3.2.2. Managing event handlers: Observer pattern

3.2.3. Reusing user action handlers: Command pattern

3.2.4. Keeping only one reference to a resource: Singleton pattern

3.3. Model-View-Controller

3.4. Web server MVC

3.4.1. The Ajax web server tier without patterns

3.4.2. Refactoring the domain model

3.4.3. Separating content from presentation

3.5. Third-party libraries and frameworks

3.5.1. Cross-browser libraries

3.5.2. Widgets and widget suites

3.5.3. Application frameworks

3.6. Summary

3.7. Resources

Part 2 Core techniques

4. The page as an application

4.1. A different kind of MVC

4.1.1. Repeating the pattern at different scales

4.1.2. Applying MVC in the browser

4.2. The View in an Ajax application

4.2.1. Keeping the logic out of the View

4.2.2. Keeping the View out of the logic

4.3. The Controller in an Ajax application

4.3.1. Classic JavaScript event handlers

4.3.2. The W3C event model

4.3.3. Implementing a flexible event model in JavaScript

4.4. Models in an Ajax application

4.4.1. Using JavaScript to model the business domain

4.4.2. Interacting with the server

4.5. Generating the View from the Model

4.5.1. Reflecting on a JavaScript object

4.5.2. Dealing with arrays and objects

4.5.3. Adding a Controller

4.6. Summary

4.7. Resources

5. The role of the server

5.1. Working with the server side

5.2. Coding the server side

5.2.2. N-tier architectures

5.2.3. Maintaining client-side and server-side domain models

5.3. The big picture: common server-side designs

5.3.1. Naive web server coding without a framework

5.3.2. Working with Model2 workflow frameworks

5.3.3. Working with component-based frameworks

5.3.4. Working with service-oriented architectures

5.4. The details: exchanging data

5.4.1. Client-only interactions

5.4.2. Introducing the planet browser example

5.4.3. Thinking like a web page: content-centric interactions

5.4.4. Thinking like a plug-in: script-centric interactions

5.4.5. Thinking like an application: data-centric interactions

5.5. Writing to the server

5.5.1. Using HTML forms

5.5.2. Using the XMLHttpRequest object

5.5.3. Managing user updates effectively

5.6. Summary

5.7. Resources

Part 3 Professional Ajax

6. The user experience

6.1. Getting it right: building a quality application

6.1.1. Responsiveness

6.1.2. Robustness

6.1.3. Consistency

6.1.4. Simplicity

6.1.5. Making it work

6.2. Keeping the user informed

6.2.1. Handling responses to our own requests

6.2.2. Handling updates from other users

6.3. Designing a notification system for Ajax

6.3.1. Modeling notifications

6.3.2. Defining user interface requirements

6.4. Implementing a notification framework

6.4.1. Rendering status bar icons

6.4.2. Rendering detailed notifications

6.4.3. Putting the pieces together

6.5. Using the framework with network requests

6.6. Indicating freshness of data

6.6.1. Defining a simple highlighting style

6.6.2. Highlighting with the Scriptaculous Effects library

6.7. Summary

6.8. Resources

7. Security and Ajax

7.1. JavaScript and browser security

7.1.1. Introducing the "server of origin" policy

7.1.2. Considerations for Ajax

7.1.3. Problems with subdomains

7.1.4. Cross-browser security

7.2. Communicating with remote services

7.2.1. Proxying remote services

7.2.2. Working with web services

7.3. Protecting confidential data

7.3.1. The man in the middle

7.3.2. Using secure HTTP

7.3.3. Encrypting data over plain HTTP using JavaScript

7.4. Policing access to Ajax data streams

7.4.1. Designing a secure web tier

7.4.2. Restricting access to web data

7.5. Summary

7.6. Resources

8. Performance

8.1. What is performance?

8.2. JavaScript execution speed

8.2.1. Timing your application the hard way

8.2.2. Using the Venkman profiler

8.2.3. Optimizing execution speed for Ajax

8.3. JavaScript memory footprint

8.3.1. Avoiding memory leaks

8.3.2. Special considerations for Ajax

8.4. Designing for performance

8.4.1. Measuring memory footprint

8.4.2. A simple example

8.4.3. Results: how to reduce memory footprint 150-fold

8.5. Summary

8.6. Resources

Part 4 Ajax by example

9. Dynamic double combo

9.1. A double-combo script

9.1.1. Limitations of a client-side solution

9.1.2. Limitations of a server-side solution

9.1.3. Ajax-based solution

9.2. The client-side architecture

9.2.1. Designing the form

9.2.2. Designing the client/server interactions

9.3. Implementing the server: VB .NET

9.3.1. Defining the XML response format

9.3.2. Writing the server-side code

9.4. Presenting the results

9.4.1. Navigating the XML document

9.4.2. Applying Cascading Style Sheets

9.5. Advanced issues

9.5.1. Allowing multiple-select queries

9.5.2. Moving from a double combo to a triple combo

9.6. Refactoring

9.6.1. New and improved net.ContentLoader

9.6.2. Creating a double-combo component

9.7. Summary

10. Type-ahead suggest

10.1. Examining type-ahead frameworks

10.1.1. Type-ahead suggest frameworks

10.1.2. Google Suggest

10.1.3. The Ajax in Action type-ahead

10.2. The server-side framework: C#

10.2.1. The server and the database

10.2.2. Testing the server-side code

10.3. The client-side framework

10.3.1. The HTML

10.3.2. The JavaScript

10.3.3. Accessing the server

10.4. Adding functionality: multiple elements with different queries

10.5. Refactoring

10.5.1. Day 1: developing the TextSuggest component game plan

10.5.2. Day 2: TextSuggest creation—clean and configurable

10.5.3. Day 3: Ajax enabled

10.5.4. Day 4: handling events

10.5.5. Day 5: the suggestions pop-up UI

10.5.6. Refactor debriefing

10.6. Summary

11. The enhanced Ajax web portal

11.1. The evolving portal

11.1.1. The classic portal

11.1.2. The rich user interface portal

11.2. The Ajax portal architecture using Java

11.3. The Ajax login

11.3.1. The user table

11.3.2. The server-side login code: Java

11.3.3. The client-side login framework

11.4. Implementing DHTML windows

11.4.1. The portal windows database

11.4.2. The portal window’s server-side code

11.4.3. Adding the JS external library

11.5. Adding Ajax autosave functionality

11.5.1. Adapting the library

11.5.2. Autosaving the information to the database

11.6. Refactoring

11.6.1. Defining the constructor

11.6.2. Adapting the AjaxWindows.js library

11.6.3. Specifying the portal commands

11.6.4. Performing the Ajax processing

11.6.5. Refactoring debrief

11.7. Summary

12. Live search using XSLT

12.1. Understanding the search techniques

12.1.2. The flaws of the frame and pop-up methods

12.1.3. Examining a live search with Ajax and XSLT

12.1.4. Sending the results back to the client

12.2. The client-side code

12.2.1. Setting up the client

12.2.2. Initiating the process

12.3. The server-side code: PHP

12.3.1. Building the XML document

12.3.2. Building the XSLT document

12.4. Combining the XSLT and XML documents

12.4.1. Working with Microsoft Internet Explorer

12.4.2. Working with Mozilla

12.5.1. Applying a Cascading Style Sheet

12.5.3. Deciding to use XSLT

12.5.4. Overcoming the Ajax bookmark pitfall

12.6. Refactoring

12.6.1. An XSLTHelper

12.6.2. A live search component

12.6.3. Refactoring debriefing

12.7. Summary

13. Building stand-alone applications with Ajax

13.1. Reading information from the outside world

13.1.1. Discovering XML feeds

13.1.2. Examining the RSS structure

13.2. Creating the rich user interface

13.2.1. The process

13.2.2. The table-less HTML framework

13.2.3. Compliant CSS formatting

13.3. Loading the RSS feeds

13.3.1. Global scope

13.3.2. Ajax preloading functionality

13.4. Adding a rich transition effect

13.4.1. Cross-browser opacity rules

13.4.2. Implementing the fading transition

13.4.3. Integrating JavaScript timers

13.5. Additional functionality

13.5.1. Inserting additional feeds

13.5.2. Integrating the skipping and pausing functionality

13.6. Avoiding the project’s restrictions

13.6.1. Overcoming Mozilla’s security restriction

13.6.2. Changing the application scope

13.7. Refactoring

13.7.1. RSS reader Model

13.7.2. RSS reader view

13.7.3. RSS reader Controller

13.7.4. Refactoring debrief

13.8. Summary

Appendix A: The Ajax craftsperson’s toolkit

Appendix B: JavaScript for object-oriented programmers

Appendix C: Ajax frameworks and libraries


What's inside

  • Ajax principles
  • Why Ajax design patterns matter
  • How to avoid Ajax pitfalls
  • Examples of Ajax in action: type-ahead suggest, live searching using XSL, and many more.
  • Examples using Ajax frameworks: Prototype, Scriptaculous, x and Rico
  • Ajax usability, security, and performance

About the reader

If you are a web developer who has prior experience with web technologies, this book is for you.

About the authors

Dave Crane has pushed the boundaries of DHTML, and latterly Ajax, on digital TV set-top boxes, in home automation and banking and financial systems. He lives in Gloucestershire, UK. Eric Pascarello is an ASP.NET developer and a moderator of the HTML and JavaScript forum at JavaRanch. He lives in Laurel, MD. Darren James is the architect of the opensource Rico project. He lives in Sunnyvale, CA.

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