Category Archives: Reviews

WordPress Plugin Development – Book Review

WordPress Plugin Development

WordPress has gone from strength to strength since it was released in 2003, and much of its success is due to the open source community’s commitment to plugin development. Take a look at the WordPress Plugin Directory, and you’ll see thousands of plugins that extend the WordPress core to do almost anything you can imagine.

Packt Publishing‘s WordPress Plugin Development is written by Vladimir Prelovac, a WordPress expert and developer of WordPress plug-ins such as Smart YouTube and Plugin Central. Part of Packt’s Beginners Guide series, the book focuses more on experimentation and learning by doing, and develops 6 real-world plugins throughout its 270 or so pages.

Chapter Overview

  1. Preparing for WordPress Development
  2. Social Bookmarking
  3. Live Blogroll
  4. The Wall
  5. Snazzy Archives
  6. Insights for WordPress
  7. Post Types
  8. Development Goodies

Aimed at developers who are familiar with PHP, the book wastes little time getting straight into coding. Chapter 1 gives an overview of plugin development, and details the six plugins that are developed throughout the course of the book.

  1. Digg This

    The first plugin simply shows a Digg button in blog posts. It’s a good first plugin, since it shows the reader the fundamental Plugin concepts such as the WordPress API, filters and actions.

  2. Live Blogrool

    This plugin works at making the basic Blogroll a little bit more exciting. I enjoyed this chapter since it talked about integrating jQuery and AJAX into plugins.

  3. The Wall

    The Wall is a plugin that creates a shoutbox on your blog’s sidebar, where users can leave comments and shouts. This chapter introduces widgets and the WordPress database.

  4. Snazzy Archives

    This plugin beautifies blog archives, and hooks into posts and the administration panel.

  5. Insights

    The insights plugin increases blog post writing productivity by offering quick access to common information in the Write Post screen.

  6. Post Types

    This plugin works closely with the WordPress back-end, and extends the platform’s CMS capabilities. Despite WordPress 3.0′s core functionality being extended in this area, it’s still a useful chapter.

As fantastic as WordPress is, a real sense of power can be gained from extending it. I particularly enjoyed this book, since it got straight ‘down to business’ and focused on the core concepts and practices that enable developers to create reliable, useful plugins.

WordPress 2.7 Cookbook – Book Review

WordPress 2.7 Cookbook

Packt Publishing’s WordPress 2.7 Cookbook has been out for while now, but I still thought I’d pick up a copy and give it the once-over. Rather than being a reference guide, Jean-Baptiste Jung‘s book is very much like his very own WpRecipes.com website.

The book is organised into 11 Chapters:

  1. Getting Ready to Cook with WordPress
  2. Finding and Installing Themes
  3. Get the most out of your WordPress Theme
  4. Doing anything with Plugins and Widgets
  5. Displaying Posts
  6. Managing and Enhancing Multi-Author Blogs
  7. Securing your WordPress Blog
  8. SEO Tips and Tricks to Get More Visits
  9. Making Money with WordPress
  10. Enhancing User Experience
  11. Make your Blog stand out

Some of the recipes include integrating twitter on your theme using the Twitter Tools plugin, accessing post data outside the WordPress loop and securing your plugins directory. The recipes are generally between 1 and 4 pages in length, and there is lots of useful information in the book’s 280 or so pages of content, but it’s just the sort of thing that’s freely available on the WpRecipes.com website and other popular sites such as Smashing Magazine.

If you are after a large collection of recipes in a single package, this is the book for you, but if you’re happy reading WordPress blogs about WordPress such as WpRecipes.com website, you may feel a little short-changed.

Digging into WordPress – version 2.0 released

If you haven’t read my review of Digging into WordPress, you may not know that I think it’s currently the best WordPress book available.

One thing I didn’t mention in the review is that when you buy it, you’re entitled to free PDF updates for life. Perhaps I left out this because I thought it would amount to the odd grammar correction and so on. Worthwhile, but not that exciting. How wrong I was, because as co-author Chris Coyier announces on the Digging into WordPress site, version 2.0 has been released and it promises an extra chapter dedicated to WordPress 2.9, as well as one called ‘Bonus Tricks’, which focuses on ‘some cool new tricks for your themes’. Included with the download are six WordPress themes too! I’ve only skimmed through the new pages, but the high quality writing and content is preserved.

If you haven’t already grabbed yourself a copy, you should do yourself a favour and buy it!

jQuery 1.4 Reference Guide – Book Review

jQuery 1.4 Reference Guide

Unless they’ve been living in a cave for the last couple of years, web developers will be familiar with jQuery. Due to its speed, power and ubiquity, it’s become the de facto JavaScript library for anybody wishing to create cross-browser behaviour.

jQuery version 1.4 was released on January 14, 2009, and hot on the heels of that release is the accompanying ‘jQuery 1.4 Reference Guide‘ book from Packt. The book is nudging at 300 pages in length, and covers the API in a similar way to the excellent online documentation. This isn’t the book for readers with no JavaScript experience, but should be easy to pick up with somebody with at least a limited knowledge.

The eleven chapters cover the following:

  1. Anatomy of a jQuery script
  2. Selector Expressions
  3. DOM Traversal Methods
  4. DOM Manipulation Methods
  5. Event Methods
  6. Effect Methods
  7. AJAX Methods
  8. Miscellaneous Methods
  9. jQuery Properties
  10. The Plug-in API
  11. Alphabetical Quick Reference

The first chapter gently introduces the reader to the jQuery framework, as it quickly but clearly dissects an example that dynamically extracts headings from an HTML document and assembles them into a table of contents. My only criticism on this chapter is that it doesn’t mention the recommended practice of using Google’s jQuery CDN, preferring to link to a local, downloaded copy.

Subsequent chapters get into the swing of jQuery methods and techniques, using examples to complement their description. Reference guides are rarely the most exciting books, but this is actually quite easy to read, and the examples are well written and help push the reader through the content.

Chapter 10 focuses on plug-in development, and although short, does cover the essentials in a well-written overview of a simple print plugin.

Despite the quality of the online documentation, this is a worthwhile book for any jQuery developer, owing to its clear and direct content. Although the framework is evolving, the book is likely to be relevant for a long time to come.

WordPress 2.8 Theme Design – Book Review

WordPress 2.8 Theme Design

I seem to be reading quite a few WordPress books of late, and there are certainly a few to choose from. Packt Publishing‘s WordPress 2.8 Theme Design‘s tagline is ‘Create flexible, powerful, and professional themes for your WordPress blogs and websites’.

WordPress themes are of interest to me since they fuse a visual aspect with PHP code, and there’s no doubt that they appeal to many other people too. In this review, I examine how appealing the book is to theme beginners and more advanced users.

Chapter Overview

  1. Getting Started as a WordPress Theme Designer
  2. Theme Design and Approach
  3. Coding it Up
  4. Debugging and Validation
  5. Putting Your Theme into Action
  6. WordPress Template Tag, Function, and CSS Reference
  7. AJAX/Dynamic Content and Interactive Forms
  8. Dynamic Menus and Interactive Elements
  9. Design Tips for Working with WordPress

Book overview

WordPress 2.8 Theme Design

The book’s author Tessa Blakely Silver starts very gently with an introduction to WordPress themes and why downloading a theme that’s already been coded and designed may not always be the best solution. Subsequently, the book develops a theme from scratch and examines core technologies such as WordPress, CSS, XHTML and PHP.

The second chapter starts with a discussion of theme design in general, followed by the beginnings of the theme that’s developed throughout the book. There are further discussions on semantic markup, typography, fonts and layout.

The following chapter focuses on the code aspect of theme design, and suggests a workflow strategy as well as template tags, hooks, and the WordPress loop. Comments are then discussed in some detail, the topic including pagination and threaded comments.

Chapter four examines the process of debugging and validating. A thorough chapter includes references to the W3C validation services, Firefox’s JavaScript/Error console, Firebug and some of the issues that the budding theme developer will face when dealing with IE6.

Chapter five looks at the style.css file, which provides descriptive information about a theme, together with packaging the theme into a ZIP for distribution and running test installations of the theme package.

Chapter six adopts a more reference based approach, with an in depth examination of WordPress template tags, the WordPress template hierarchy, the loop and shortcodes.

The following chapter looks at AJAX and JavaScript, as well as preparing your theme for plugins and widgets.

Chapter eight builds on Chapter 7′s JavaScript discussion by developing a drop-down menu for the theme. There is also a discussion of Flash and how that can be used with WordPress themes.

Chapter nine rounds off the book with a number of design tips that apply not just to WordPress theme design, but web design in general.

The book’s about 250 pages in length, and is generally well written. I did, however, notice a few errors in code samples (mostly misplaced quotes), and a couple of examples in the prose itself. Another minor niggle was that the author talks about semantic markup, and then introduces ‘sidebarLT’ (sidebar left) and ‘sidebarRT’ (sidebar right) IDs into the markup.

Who will get most out of the book?

The back of the book states:

This book can be used by WordPress users or visual designers (with no server-side scripting or programming experience) who are used to working with the common industry-standard tools such as Photoshop and Dreamweaver or other popular graphic, HTML, and text editors.
Regardless of your web development skill set or level, you’ll be walked through the clear, step-by-step instructions. But familiarity with a broad range of web development skills and WordPress know-how will allow you to gain maximum benefit from this book.

It seems as through Packt have tried to convince the potential reader that this is the book for them, regardless of whether they’re fairly inexperienced in some areas, or a a highly skilled developer. I’d say that the book covers a lot of ground, and that it does so at a pace that would be suitable for an inexperienced developer. Much of the content, however, would already be familiar to a skilled web developer, and so I feel that they’d think that the really useful content is a little thinly spread.

Verdict

Overall, it’s encouraging to see more books about WordPress; although the internet is a fantastic resource, books still have a very important role in my opinion. The content of this one is great for beginner-medium level web developers, but more experienced readers will be left wanting more.