Google Maps API Cookbook – Book Review

A few weeks ago, I was asked by the PackT publisher to review one of their recent books: “Google Maps JavaScript API Cookbook”. Here is what I think of it:

The book

“Google Maps JavaScript API Cookbook” is relatively a short book, it’s full of, like the name of the book suggests, recipes to work with the Google Maps API.
Both authors, Alper Dincer and Balkan Uraz share a MS degree in Geographical Sciences and have over 10 years of experience working on Geographic Information Systems. So it’s safe to say they know their GIS. That being said, this is a programming cookbook, so the quality of the recipes is not assured.
I’ll go over the good and the bad bellow.

TL;DR

If you don’t feel like reading the whole post: This book is great, if you’re just starting, it’ll show you the full extend of possibilities, going from easy examples to the more complex features of the API. If you’re already a veteran, and you have already used the API, this book will probably show you one or two things you didn’t know you could do.
Just watch out for the JavaScript used on the examples, that can definitely can be improved.

The bad

Let’s first start with the bad, or the not-so-good to be honest.
Like I said before, the book’s authors are experts when it comes to Geographical Systems, and have worked in several Geo related projects over the last 10 years, but it shows that they are not experienced programmers.
The recipes do their work, don’t get me wrong, but their code is not the best, they just don’t follow regular best practices.

The entire book could’ve been thought out to end up developing a small framework to work with Google Maps API. Instead, the recepies’ code are only related to that recepie’s task instead. Leaving the reader with a bunch of individual examples and a lot of repeated code.

The other programming related issue I had with this book, was that the authors kept talking about creating classes. If you’ve used JavaScript for a while, you’d know that that’s not entirely right, actually, it’s pretty misleading to the less versed developer. I know this isn’t a JavaScript-heavy book or anything like that, but they could’ve at least bothered to get the names right.

The good

Yeap, that’s right, that’s about all that really “bothered” me from the book. To be honest, this book is a really useful reference manual.
It’s quite easy to read, each example is easily understood and very well explained. You’ll probably find yourself coming back to it, just to quickly check how something was done.

Call me skeptic, but I had my doubts about the cookbook format of it. I was afraid that the lack of technical depth about the Google Maps API would hurt and hinder my learning. On the contrary, this gave me a super quick, yet complete, overview of what I could possibly accomplish with this powerful API.

I had already done some easy and mid-level stuff with the API but by the end of the book, I had learned how to fully customize the map, load external data and use the services provided by the API.

Would I recommend it?

Yes I would, if you’re just starting, get the book and learn all you can eventually accomplish with it. If you’ve already worked with the API, get it anyways, you’ll end up learning a few tricks on the way.

 

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