March 17, 2009

Book Review: The iPhone Developer's Cookbook

I purchased Erica Sadun's "The iPhone Developer's Cookbook" at the same time as Mark and LaMarche's "Beginning iPhone Development" (reviewed here). One would expect a lot of common ground and duplicated information in these two books, but that is not the case. Sadun takes a different tack with "Cookbook". "Cookbook" is just that: a book of "recipes" on how to get specific tasks done on the iPhone. "Beginning iPhone Development" introduces topics, explains them in great detail, and provides an example project that demonstrates the topic. But "Cookbook" takes this approach: "You want to do X? Here is some code that does X." Sadun's presentation is terse and to the point, with little explanation of how or why. Given the nature of this book, this approach is not at all bad. Sometimes I don't care about the nitty gritty details; I just need to know how to do X. In this context, "Cookbook" is perfect, and it has served well as a reference. The recipes presented are useful, some are advanced, and there doesn't appear to be much overlap with the content provided by "Beginning". However, don't expect to take the example projects and build them into full-fledged, polished applications without a lot of work. The projects provided build upon the initial hello world project. They are simply there to demonstrate the code, not to serve as a springboard for applications. The code snippets that accomplish X are important, not the projects. One thing I noticed between the two books is "Cookbook" appeared to use an older version of the SDK (pre 2.0?). "Cookbook" also occasionally steps into "unofficial" SDK territory, using undocumented APIs. While these are pointed out, I think a book needs to decide whether it wants to document usage of the official Apple SDK or whether it wants to cater to those jailbroken iPhone developers. All in all, I felt that "Cookbook" complemented "Begining" well with additional advanced topics in a no-nonsense approach. However, "Cookbook" is a relatively short book, considering the magnitude of the topic, and I felt the material could have been beefed up. This may have been a result of getting the book out fast. Certainly, its timeliness was a great help to me at the time, but "Cookbook" will have trouble competing with more polished, up to date, and comprehensive books as time goes on. Hopefully Sadun will provide revised editions. With the OS 3.0 coming out soon, all the old books may be obsolete, or at least incomplete.

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