Book Review of the Month

JSTL: Practical Guide for JSP Programmers
Sue Spielman
JSTL provides a set of common tag libraries for JSP programmers. This book explains the JSTL and it does it extremely well. In about 200 pages, the book covers what the JSTL is, what to use it for, how to use it, and gives plenty of examples.

The start of the book covers the basics of tag libraries and explains why we need JSTL. Next, the basics of JSTL and the expression language are covered. The one small flaw in the book is that the expression language could have been covered in a bit more detail. The rest of the book covers each of the tags (actions) broken up into the separate libraries. The core, XML, internationalization and formatting, and SQL actions are each given their own chapters. The author doesn't just cover the tags but also provides enough background information to insure that you can understand how the tags are used. For example, in the XML chapter, the author starts by explaining the different technologies around XML and then shows how the XML actions can be used to simplify the task of using XML in your JSPs. The SQL chapter explains why you would never want to use the SQL actions before she discusses the actions themselves. The book ends with a "quick reference" section.

Sue Spielman has a very easy writing style that makes reading her books a pleasure. Her book is short and complete, a very difficult combination to pull off.

(Thomas Paul - Sheriff, October 2003)
This might be one of the most effective IT book I have ever read. It's short but comprehensive. All four libraries are covered and covered quite well.

The first few chapters provide an introduction to JSTL, including the reasons and a few brief examples. The chapter on the EL seemed to be the weakest chapter, but it was detailed enough to get a solid start with using it.

Each library has a pretty good sized chapter with coverage of all of the tags and their most common attributes. The code samples covered what you are most likely to do with the tags, although I would have like to see some uncommon uses as well.

The only negative was the sample code that I downloaded from the site. Although the book states that it was tested with Tomcat 4.1.20 and Tomcat 5.0. In both cases, I had problems with Tomcat validating the web.xml file. A few simple changes and the code was up and running, though.

Overall, this book provides a quick source of information for learning JSTL.

(Matthew Phillips - Bartender, September 2003)
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Other books reviewed in September :

In Search of Stupidity: Over 20 Years of High-Tech Marketing Disasters by Merrill Chapman
XML for Data Architects Designing for Reuse and Integration by James Bean
Mastering Resin by Richard Hightower, Joseph D. Gradecki
Amazon Hacks by Paul Bausch
The Weblog Handbook by Rebecca Blood
Content Critical by Gerry McGovern, Rob Norton
We've Got Blog by Rebecca Blood
Turtles, Termites and Traffic Jams by Mitchel Resnick