Sunday, May 15, 2005

New Java In A Nutshell Book

I've now got a new roach killer sitting on my bookshelf: O'Reilly's "Java In A Netshell, 5th Edition." And if you're a Floridian, you know how important having a good roach killer is. I've had a Java Nutshell book sitting on my bookshelf since 1.1. I never had one for 1.0 because Java was small enough to understand. I could use Javadoc exclusively to find everthing I cared to know.

The latest version weighs in at 1224 pages and covers the core part of the language. Compare this with the 4th edition, which stopped at a svelt 969 pages. The new version also returns to the use of marking each package section in the book, making it a lot easier to navigate to the package (and class) you're trying to look up. The 4th edition dropped the marking and annoyed quite a few programmers, some who recommended not bothering to purchase the book just on that one flaw.

The book is organized as follows:

Part 1. Introducing Java
  1. Introduction
  2. Java Syntax from the Ground Up
  3. Object Oriented Programming in Java
  4. Java 5.0 Language Features
  5. The Java Platform
  6. Java Security
  7. Programming and Documentation Conventions
  8. Java Development Tools

Part II. API Reference
  2. java.lang and Subpackages
  3. java.math
  5. java.nio and Subpackages
  6. and Subpackages
  7. java.text
  8. java.util and Subpackages
  9. java.crypto and Subpackages
  10. and
  11. and Subpackages
  12. java.xml and Subpackages
  13. org.w3c.dom
  14. org.xml.sax and Subpackages


The biggest change is chapter 4, "Java 5.0 Language Features." That 44 page section covers generics, enumerated types, and annotations. Other features new to Java 5 such as autoboxing, the for/in loop, varible length argument lists, covariant return, and the import static directive are covered in chapter 2, "Java Syntax from the Ground Up." The reader would do well to read both chapters and to pay attention to the examples.

Compared to the forth edition, it looks like JavaBeans have been dropped from the fifth edition. The fourth edition's chapter 6 and the java.beans package documentation (chapter 9) are gone. Another package dropped in the fifth edition is org.ietf.jgss (chapter 22 in the forth edition). One additional package dropped from the fifth edition was package documentation. The author covers these changes in a paragraph in the preface, and goes on to say:
JavaBeans standards have not caught on in core Java APIs and now appear to be relevant only for Swing and related graphical APIs. As such, they are no longer relevant in this book. The package has been deprecated since Java 1.2 and I've taken this opportunity to remove it. And the org.ietf.jgss package is of interest to only a very narrow subset of readers.
Still Relevant

In spite of its heft the Java Nutshell book still remains relevant. It's a lot easier to sit back and just read the material in a book. It requires no battery power or computer to just pull down the book and look something up. And the material has been slowly corrected over time. My only complaint is that a completely searchable electronic version isn't available to sit next to my development tools while I work. But with autocomplete in Eclipse and Netbeans even that need is no longer as vital as it would be if I were, say, working in just a text editor.

My only concern is where the dropped material will wind up. Coverage of the AWT and Swing were dropped in the forth edition and wound up in its own book. The only problem with that is the Swing nutshell book appeared on bookshelves a long time after it was needed. I'm hoping that the JavaBean material will wind up in the Swing book, and that the Swing book shows up fairly quickly.

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