Aaron Sumner

A Little Book on CoffeeScript: A book report

It’s not a secret that I think JavaScript is ugly. Maybe it’s because I’ve been developing almost solely in Ruby for the past several years. If you’re in the same boat (or if you’re a Python developer who feels the same way I do about JavaScript) you’ve likely heard of of CoffeeScript, an alternative language that compiles neatly into JavaScript. Alex MacCaw’s A Little Book on CoffeeScript is a solid introduction to the little language.

A Little Book on CoffeeScript is indeed little (checking in at six chapters in about 60 pages in PDF form), but offers a thorough introduction to the language and how it can make your life with JavaScript simpler. The book dives right into syntax, then on through classes, idiomatic usage, a little big picture stuff (creating and deploying apps written in CoffeeScript), and closes with a look at what CoffeeScript fixes (and doesn’t fix) in JavaScript. I’ve viewed a few screencasts on CoffeeScript and even written a little in the language, but I still learned some new things from this book. In particular, the chapters on idioms and “the good parts” will be of use to anyone making the switch, so you won’t try to apply JavaScript’s ugliness to what is actually a pretty little language. These chapters alone should make the book worth buying for many developers.

With that said, this book is not for someone with no JavaScript experience, and definitely not for someone with zero programming experience. It’s not a tutorial; it’s more like a guided tour of CoffeeScript’s feature set. There are plenty of examples, and I recommend using the interactive console on the CoffeeScript website to experiment with these examples as you read through the book. If nothing else, you’ll get an appreciation of just how much typing CoffeeScript is saving you.

While perhaps not a definitive reference on the topic, A Little Book on CoffeeScript is a solid overview of what makes CoffeeScript so promising. It’s got just enough in terms of examples for developers with a little experience, and delivers lots of practical advice for succeeding with the language. All that in a book you can read in an hour or so.

Note: I wrote this review for O’Reilly’s Blogger Review Program. It’s a pretty nice deal: Get a free e-book to read, share a review in your blog, get another free book to read. Sign up for yourself to take advantage of this deal, and watch for more book reports in my blog.

. Questions or comments? Let me know what you think.