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Java Pocket Guide

Robert Liguori and Patricia Liguori
Published by O'Reilly Media
ISBN: 978-0-596-51419-8
178 pages
£ 8.99
Published: 5th March 2008
reviewed by Paul Waring
   in the September 2008 issue (pdf), (html)

Having spent the last two months trying to make other peoples' Java code talk to each other, with Tomcat thrown into the mix for good measure, any guide which claims not only to cover the essentials of Java but also fit into my pocket — albeit rather a large one — has definitely got my attention. With references for all the basic types, quick descriptions of abstract and static methods and other fundamental concepts, this is the sort of book which you dive into for a specific answer — almost like a scaled down version of the popular Java Cookbook - rather than reading it from cover to cover.

Where I can see this guide being particularly useful though is when you need your mind jogging as to how to perform a task which seems simple and routine but which requires creating half a dozen different objects. A perfect example of this is writing to or reading from a file on disk — I can never remember which of the 20+ input and output classes I should be using, and what order I have to create objects in just to open a file stream. A quick scan of the relevant pages in the guide reveals the answer, which is far less hassle than working through all the relevant online documentation.

The only minor issue I found with this text was that the margins are quite small, which means reading the text near to the binding is sometimes a little tricky. I'm also not sure that I agree with the inclusion of a section on naming conventions, as these are largely a matter of personal preference and house style — though Sun does define a set of standards for code in the core Java distributions. These are small issues though, which can be worked around by breaking the spine (likely to happen through heavy use anyway) and skipping the coding standards section.

Overall, this book is a useful text to have to hand for anyone doing a significant amount of Java programming, and one which already has a space on my desk rather than the bookshelf.

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