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... Core Java Book Review
Last modified: 6 November 1996.

Article complete: approx 510 words.

Core Java Book Review

I warmed to Core Java straight away when I saw that its left braces roughly follow my preferred indentation style. This even overrode my dislike of listing member variables at the end of a class. The authors also know that real programmers type faster than they mouse, though they make verbs out of nouns like the best USAns.

Setting aside my foibles, Core Java takes you, the already experienced programmer, steadily through the basics of the language, its complexities and the JDK API. Its examples run in Windows 95, and has copious notes for C++ and VB programmers highlighted by icons in the margin. It starts with stand alone console applications and applications using AWT, then goes on to describe applets and eventually multi-threading and networking. It even writes a useful applet that retrieves data from a server and sends results to a CGI server application, itself written in Java.

As someone who knew Java already, I think it gets the language sections right; I did pick up a couple of language tips. There is at least one minor feature of the language which is missed: synchronised blocks. There is not a concise language summary, which I found useful in another book Instant Java. The necessary object oriented terminology is described, and the section on input and output shows one way of overcoming the potential problems of object persistence.

However I most appreciated its comparatively full coverage of the JDK API packages, and I learnt a lot here. I will have to redo my usage of the GridBagLayout class now I understand what on earth all its constraints parameters mean. Core Java covers some standard tricks, such as using double buffering to remove flicker from your painting. I discovered that Unicode Text Format (UTF) is a way of writing UNICODE characters as 1, 2 or 3 bytes, usually saving storage space in the process.

Despite being published in 1996, Core Java is slightly dated, in that it only refers to JDK 1.0 and uses Netscape 2.0. So some of the nuances of "version 3.0" browsers are missed. An appendix covers the JDK javadoc program, used to produce class documentation directly from your source files.

The supplied CD-ROM not only has the JDK1.0 but also Symantec's Café Lite. I have been using the copy of this from Instant Java for some time, and have found it a basic but effective Java development tool. The authors also supply a specially configured version of WinEdit which they preferred at the time. The CD also has Mac and Solaris versions of the JDK. It also comes with its own corejava package of utility functions which you may find useful elsewhere.

The book has a web page at which you should check out, not least for its extensive list of errata, a few of which are useful. From their notes here, it looks as though the private protected modifier will be removed from the language.

Core Java covers most things a budding Java programmer needs to know, so I highly recommend it.


Highly Recommended

Book Details

Core Java, by Gary Cornell and Cay S Horstmann, SunSoft Press, Prentice Hall, ISBN 0-13-565755-5, £32.95. 622 pages plus CD-ROM


© 1996 Chris Cant, PHD Computer Consultants Ltd

Chris Cant runs PHD Computer Consultants Ltd at where various Java applets are on show.

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