Feldt, Kenneth C. Programming Firefox. Sebastopol, CA: O'Reilly, 2007. xvi, 494 pp. ISBN 0-596-10243-7. $59.99
There are several ways of customizing the Web browsing experience. The Mozilla Firefox browser is composed of open-source libraries that welcome modification. The development community surrounding Firefox has developed hundreds of browser add-ons, small programs of helpful features to aid your Web experience. One add-on, Greasemonkey, allows Web surfers to modify the look and feel or functionality of any Web page. Extending the idea of customization, you could build your own Yahoo Widget that could, for example, regularly seek and present Web information on your desktop. Or, you could roll up your sleeves, and build your own Web browser-type application (it would be Internet Explorer, however) simply by dragging a Web browser control on to a Windows Form using VS.Net and adding any editing, database, etc. functionality that you like.
This book falls exactly at this nexus of the cost-benefit of possible customization, degree of difficulty and potential pay-off.
The pedagogical strategy is of building a single application across several chapters of content; for example, the introductory chapters build a browser application that permits users to select portions of a Web page and make notes. The incrementalism is useful except very quickly the source code spans five or six pages. At this point the publisher should have used a dramatic font contrast to help the reader find the code under discussion. Feldt's exposition is a model of clarity, even though he has to stop himself to give small tutorials on event processing, element addressing in the DOM, server issues and so on. The book also features chapters on XUL with SVG (Scalar Vector Graphics) and XForms.
Feldt's work is impressive, and he is not to be faulted even though I still find myself still thirsting for the compelling XUL application and fearful of the complexity of it all.
Terrence A. Brooks