REVIEW - Just Java 5th ed


Just Java 5th ed


Peter van der Linden




Prentice Hall ()


1094pp + CD


Pete Goodliffe


December 2003



There are plenty of books that will teach you Java. What makes this one worth taking off the shelf (besides the nice hologram on the spine)? It's the fifth update of a very popular introductory text that has been 'thoroughly revised' for Java 1.4 and is a part of the Sun-sanctioned 'Java Series'.

The book is vast. At 1098 pages you could use it to prop up your dining table. This huge amount of paper covers far more than the core language. Topics include key library features, server-side Java (servlets and JSP), client side Java (Applets), the UI framework (Swing), database connectivity (JDBC) and more. Let's just say it's comprehensive.

OK, but is it any good? It takes a long time to read from cover to cover, although most readers will probably focus on the language introduction and core library sections, only dipping in to the specific topics if they need them.

The author's style is light and readable, although the layout is decidedly clumsy. The book contains plenty of Java evangelism and the author enjoys Microsoft bashing. I was confused by the random margin graphics appearing throughout and I've still not entirely worked out what they're for. (The dog is cute. Well I presume it's a

The book lacks a preface, so I'm missing some important information; who is it aimed at? In order to provide a fair review you need to know. The back cover says 'for programmers of all levels', but no book can realistically be written to appeal to every kind of programmer on the planet.

  • l I don't think this is suitable for totally novice programmers. There are no basic descriptions of the art of programming.
  • l The book is strongest for 'intermediates' - there is an adequate OO primer, but I'd definitely not recommend this book alone for getting into OO programming. There is an adequate Java language tutorial, although I think there are better ways of presenting this information.
  • l For the advanced programmer, there are other books that provide a better-paced route into the language.

Linden provides an overview of many more advanced Java topics, but doesn't go into enough depth to allow you to use any of them confidently in production code. Just Java 2 does cover the latest Java language developments. It also explains some of the curious design decisions and historical baggage of the language.

Each chapter has a 'light relief' section, some random 'coffee break' reading that seldom has anything to do with the chapter content. It's amusing, but of little real value. Some of the author's personal opinions in these sections might have been best removed.

The book comes with a CD that includes quite a lot of genuinely valuable content, but doesn't contain any version of the JDK. This is just plain nuts; the book is written for JDK 1.4 and readers with slow dial-up Internet connections do not want a URL reference and a two-hour download when they've paid for an expensive book.

In summary, not a terrible Java book by any means, but at the price I'd hesitate to recommend it over some others.

Book cover image courtesy of Open Library.

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