Book Review: MODx Web Development from Packt Publishing
I want to be honest with you, I've kind of been putting off writing my review of MODx Web Development from Packt Publishing. I actually finished the book about a week ago and just felt like I had to give it some distance so I didn't totally bash this book. It's not really fair to the author to just outright say that this book isn't good because they put some thought into it and worked hard. But if I would have written this post a week ago, that's all you would have heard.
Here is the quick list of pros and cons and further on is my impression of the book.
- The book starts out as a reference guide and ends up as a 'how to make a blog' tutorial.
- It doesn't go very in depth on more advanced topics. Here is a list of things it doesn't cover at all or very well:
- Templating Strategies
- Snippet, Plugin, and Module Coding Strategies
- Using the MODx apis
- It NEVER mentions the full set of document variables, or system variables that are available. Not even in an appendix (of which there are none).
- Advanced users of MODx are going to be let down by this book. I didn't learn anything new about MODx from it.
Cons Overall: I felt that the book was edited poorly, didn't include enough advanced information, and was incomplete.
- It covers a wide variety of topics. The author touches on almost every aspect of MODx including the most common snippets and plugins.
- The book gives links to community resources such as the forum and wiki.
Pros Overall: I think if you are new to MODx, then the book would help you to learn it.
Ok, so now I really get to steamroll over this thing. The overall statements above, pretty much sum up my feeling about the book. I think it was poorly edited, isn't for advanced users, and was sadly incomplete, but if you don't know very much about MODx then you could pick up quite a bit from the book.
While reading the book it felt like the author outlined the sections by topic beforehand, started each chapter with the intention of writing about that topic and then got tired of it and went into whatever suited him. This was most apparent in the chapter on Templating where the author starts out with how to make and modify templates, then glosses over document and template variables, and then uses the rest of the chapter to do a mini "How to make a blog" tutorial. The rest of the book follows this haphazard organization.
The author also has the annoying tendency to write "but I'll talk about [x] in more detail in chapter [x]". Most of the time I would skip ahead to read the more details, and found that the more details needed more details.
Not For The Advanced
Like I said, I didn't learn anything new from this book and I've been using MODx for about 2-and-a-half years. I really wanted to see some different strategies for templating, some advanced ways to write snippets, how to use some of the plugin hooks that I've never used, and interesting way's to use modules, but that's all left as an exercise for the reader. I was really excited when the author said he was going to explain the Meta Keywords and Meta Description system that MODx has built in, because I've never understood why people would use it. But when I anxiously skipped ahead to chapter 12 where the author said he'd explain it, I was disappointed as I read his half-assed 2 paragraphs that explained how most developers don't use the system. "[The meta tags and keywords system] is rarely used, since the process for specifying keywords for individual documents is rather cumbersome". Oh, and the picture that was supposed to show the Keywords and Description system was wrong.
It's Not All There
I was shocked when I couldn't find a complete list of document variables or system variables in the entire book. To me this is a big defect in a book that is supposed to cover the basics. It doesn't get any more basic than what the system can provide to developers. I expected that the book would come with an appendix that covered all of these boring but very important variables and the MODx api functions.
It's For The Newbies
I really hate it when authors make the claim that their book is for beginners to advanced users. This author does, "Both beginners and experienced web developers will benefit from this comprehensive guide to MODx". And it definitely falls short on the advanced side. If I ever wrote a book about MODx, I would write that the book is for people at my skill level and if you know less you're going to have to pony up and learn some stuff, and if you know more than me, then you can write the next one...or bash it in a blog post.