Monday, October 2, 2006

Wicket getting serious, Pro Wicket - Book Review

One of the interesting new web frameworks that saw the light recently is Wicket. Wicket is quite radical in that it relies solely on Java programming and does away with configuration and JSP/PHP/Rhtml type html generation. Although not unique in this approach (e.g. Barracuda, Tapestry) many web-developers will have a hard time getting up to full speed quickly. Luckily this has changed with the publication of the first Wicket book: Pro Wicket by Karthik Gurumurhty.

The book 'Pro Wicket' guides you through the development of a simple and sometimes not so simple web application. Page by page the application is extended and shows more and more Wicket features. Sometimes a 'mistake' is made. That mistake is then later 'corrected'. Unfortunately this makes the book less suitable as a reference book as you always have to flip through the chapter to see if you have the complete example.

The contents of the book varies nicely. The basics and way of thinking in Wicket are explained with lots of examples. Also the internationalization features are thoroughly explained (although I find it disturbing that the example mixes up languages and countries). There are well set up explanations and examples on how to integrate popular technologies like Spring and Hibernate. The AJAX examples cover the basics (which are quite good in Wicket) but a lot is left to be discovered. Testing is even less well covered, but at least here some good pointers are given to the manuals. A nice touch is to take a brief preview of Wicket 2.0.

The book is completely written in speaking language. The following sentence is typical: "As you might have guessed by now, this method returns false by default.". For some people, like me, this is a turn down, but most are probably okay. What is worse is that on every page you'll find pronouns (like 'it' and 'that') for which it is quite unclear what is referenced.

The Achilles' heel of the book is in the end of chapter 2 where there is a totally incomprehensible explanation on how to use repeating page elements in Wicket. I find it a shame that such an important subject is tucked away at the end of a chapter on a different subject (validation), and that the reader is suddenly confronted with a page full of abstract terms and such a small example.

I had a hard time reviewing this book. At many points I thought that the book was not finished enough to be published. Of course this was okay as I was reading the beta, but when the final book came out I noticed that only the code examples had been thoroughly updated. I am afraid that either the publisher pushed this one too hard, or the author just was out of time.

Despite some of the remarks above I am going to recommend this book anyway. First of all because it is the only Wicket book on the market, secondly because it does teach you Wicket. And that is a Good Thing.

Thanks to Apress for providing the book for this review.

Update 2006-10-05: Added link to Karthik Gurumurhty's blog, removed spelling mistake, deleted all comments related to the spelling mistake.

1 comment:

  1. @anonymous
    lol, yeah - I had a big grin on my face there too... :)
    It's a dutch thing though: all the dutch I have met so far "learned" me how to do something.

    Anyways, good review and I totally agree on most of the points. I also very much agree with your conclusion: the book is far from finished, it is by far not perfect but it's all there is! If you want to get your hands on Wicket and don't want to be banned from the mailing list because you post - like - two thousand questions a second, get this book! :)