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on 14 June 2006
To give you a bit of context so you know where I was coming from before I started reading this book, I used to be a programmer many years ago (over 15), but haven't cut any code for years other than the odd bit of VBA in Excel. I've used mainly BASIC-style languages including Informix, VB, etc. I have read about OO and tried and failed to learn C so have no real experience or understanding of what Java can do. I wanted to learn Java now a) for something to do with my brain (how I miss programming!) and b) to see what all the fuss was about.

I found the book to be very accessible - it has lots of different ways of providing the information - straight text, pictures with text on, jokes (cheesy, but ok), break-out boxes, quizzes, etc. It is probably written for people with short attention spans, but that works ok for me. Sometimes it labours a point a bit too much, but it does mean that everything sticks and I have found this book to be an excellent way for me to learn Java so far. I'm learning new stuff and it is sticking - I can leave it for a few days and still remember everything (both how AND why things are done - something the book is very good at covering). After about a week of reading (doing about an hour a night after work) I have been able to write a basic command line calculator, which uses only about 100 lines of code. I have completed this in far less time than it would have taken me to do it in Informix/VB, etc. The program itself is no big deal in programming terms, but I made sure that the program uses most of the concepts taught in the first half of the book and I didn't have to spend hours flicking around the pages looking for bits and pieces when writing it - any book that can put that amount of knowledge in my head in a week is excellent as far as I am concerned.

I have read another reviewer's comments about this book not being a reference and I agree totally. The book teaches Java and its application of OO concepts in a logical and structured manner and does this very well. It does not cover all aspects of Java, for example it refers the reader to Sun's JDK Documentation to explore the full set of API features. In fact, it doesn't even cover how to compile and execute Java programs (classes), which seems somewhat fundamental to me. I worked out how to do this at the command prompt (DOS) myself, but now use a development tool called JCreator, which is freeware and makes life a lot easier.

I would say that this book will make you into a competent Java programmer if you are new to Java, but have some confidence/experience with programming or computer software in general (e.g. you aren't scared of concepts like a stack and using pushing and popping, or can work out how to install and use the compiler yourself, etc.). I suspect that more reading will be needed to become a skilled one (and to be fair the book does suggest this so it isn't masquerading as something it isn't). As an analogy, I would describe this book as a very knowledgeable tour guide, but one who assumes you know (in a small way at least) something of the subject already. In other words, after reading it you will be able to write Java-based OO programs, but won't be necessarily able to articulate the concepts and arguments underpinning the reasons for using OO in the first place or the full power that Java has to offer. If you are hobbyist Java-noodler like me then that's absolutely fine. If you want to become an excellent Java programmer then this book would be a great first step, but will not take you on the full journey.
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on 2 January 2006
I'm learning Java, moving from 8 years C++ experience. Thus much of this book covers already familiar concepts such as OO and some of the basic syntax. however rather than finding these bits dragging and skipping over them I find myself rocketing through it, hunting for the new nuggests and differences in there and enjoying the learning experience!
The style is so distinctive and effectively alternates presentation and sub-set of the chapter's subject matter on a page by page basis. Thus as the book moves into newer territory its style prevents boredom and the "frequent coffee break syndrome". I find that the non linear and slightly "hopscotch" method of changing presentation styles, fore-shadowing areas to come and going over old ground in different ways is excellent.
Overall the progress through the book is good, though i find each chapter's progress varable. The chapters are effectively the smallest area of work - you really need to complete the chapter at the end of the day (for me anyway); however leaving the exercises till the next day is good revision!
Not sure whether it's java, this book, or both but I have more of a grin programming during learning from this book than ever before! Obviously it brings out the hidden geek in me!
I would say that anyone with some programming experience would find this book excellent. those with very little or none would probably find it hard - however still the best I've seen! What this book is NOT is a reference text - it's aim, basically, is a tutorial and thus precludes it's use as reference.
Have fun!
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on 31 May 2010
I had been learning Java for about a week before buying this book. The first book I tried was Java For Dummies but it contained no exercises and seemed to tell you about Java rather then attempt to teach you it so I decided I needed another book. I thought as this was getting so many great reviews I would try this one.

First in the introduction of this book I was very disappointed to read that that they recommend backing away from this book if you have no programming experience what so ever. Well a bit late to be telling me now! Now I already own a copy!

I felt a little bit cheated because in the description of this book that I read before buying it says this..

"... for people with no Java experience, and even people with no programming experience at all."

I read through the customer reviews and it seems like half the reviews were saying "Not for beginners " and the others are saying "Just for beginners and not for experienced programmers."

Well this review is another one saying NOT for beginners.

If you ARE a beginner you will still learn a lot from this book. But it might make things more difficult and frustrating then they need to be.

For example the section on loops is VERY brief before it asks you to program the song "99 Bottles of Beer" using loops. Let me tell you that without any programming experience there is no way you could do this just by using the tiny bits of information the book has given you so far. It hadn't even told you that if you put the name of a variable into a print statement that it will print out the value of that variable. And their program covered several other new features that should have been introduced so you had a fair chance of figuring it out yourself. Of course looking back now I've been doing Java for four months it seems incredibly obvious but as a complete beginner it had me stumped for a while.

This is one of the books main flaws - asking you to think how you would do something then introduce new concepts that you could not have possibly known. Like in the Battleships example where I turned the page to find that they had used an advanced for loop (before even telling us what a regular for loop is!) and an Integer.parseInt method. I think the best way to teach is to introduce one new thing at a time and show an example using the simplest code possible so the reader gets a better understanding of what is going on rather then introduce us to several new concepts all within the most complicated program we have seen so far which can leave the reader feeling overwhelmed. Most of the time i would need to go to the sun tutorials to get a clear understanding of what Head First Java was trying to say.

One of the most important things about a book that teachers, in my opinion, is the exercises. And this does have some really interesting exercises. Usually at the end of each chapter you're given some code that is all muddled up and you have to fix it. These exercises were really good fun, I sometimes found them easy and sometimes I found them hard. But the problem with them is they don't really help you become a better programmer anymore then an anagram would help you become a better writer. I craved exercises that asked me to write small programs using the concepts I had been taught so far.

A lot of the people who gave this book bad reviews had a problem with all the silly pictures and the humour but i didn't. I thought that was great idea....just not at the expense of fully working code examples. Nothing makes things more clear then just seeing code and being told what each part of it does. Most of the code in this book is just little snippets. And when there is full code it often includes "ready baked code" that has lines and lines that they don't explain at all.

The final straw for me that finally made me just put this book down and never pick it up again was the bits about MIDI. I'm a musician and have experience with working with MIDI so you would think I would be interested in it but with all that I still hadn't been taught it seemed very unnecessary to be learning it now and the fact that they brought it up at about the same time as GUIs frustrated me more. One thing at a time please! It said you could skip the midi stuff but they used the program they wrote as an example in the following chapter about I/O streams so if you didn't follow it you would be lost later on.

It just felt like the book started randomly jumping from one topic to the next not giving you enough information about any of them to be useful. I found myself not sure what to practice each day and that I lacked direction.

What i wanted in a teach yourself Java book was a book that introduces new things in a decent order, explains concepts clearly and has examples demonstrating the new concepts, and gives me enough of a foundation so i can use them to write my own programs. I wanted a generous amount of exercises that tests only what you have been taught so far. And i do believe I have found such a's called "Java How To Program Eighth Edition" by Paul and Harvey Deitel which I wish that i had bought first. It's way overpriced but I highly recommend it and I shall be giving it a 5 star review within the next few days.

I did learn a lot from a combination of this book, the sun tutorials and some great youtube videos by a channel called thenewboston(which i recommend for anyone finding it hard to get started). But if I had only this book I don't think I would have got as far as i did.

To be fair, there were things that it explained very well. I think the chapters on Inheritance and Polymorphism were brilliant. But there were just too many things about this book that frustrated me to give it any more then two stars.
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on 12 November 2015
Bought this book to help with a Java module on the open university. As the course was self contained it only really helped with a few concepts. So should not have bought it for this purpose. Cant fault the approach of the book well laid out and great for beginners but it needs to be treated as a separate entity and used as such. It is good if you want to learn a lot about java but you would need to follow it through to the end. Working through every little bit of it otherwise it wont help very much.

Learning programming is very hard and this book is good but it will only be part of the journey to learning this language.

But its best to stick with the details of the course your on as when it came to the crunch this book did not help me with this particular course at all really.
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on 30 January 2013
I have spent a fair few hours with this book now. I come from a programming background including Java from many years ago. I was challenged to teach java to high school students. My purpose for buying this book was to refresh my knowledge of java so that I could teach it. This book had good reviews and even though it is a little out of date I thought it would suit me. It does suit me. It has excellent examples which you can work through and contains lengthy explanations, some too lengthy in my opinion, on all concepts. The humorous style was hit and miss for me. It got in the way of the explanation on a few occasions. However, I am cranking out code and understanding what I am doing. I am even having fun playing with code. Does that make me a geek? I would not recommend this book for complete newcomers to programming. It is not suitable for my students. Anyone with a basic knowledge of OO concepts and a little time could use this book to get up to speed. I used Netbeans to compile and run my code and I felt it was a very useful companion while familiarising myself with syntax. This book is good at what it does, it is just not for beginners.

The book makes a misleading claim on the cover. It claims to cover Java 5.0. This is not fully true. The book covers enums but not the "Scanner" class, for example.
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on 15 July 2016
Bought this and the Head First Design Pattern books. Both are excellent. I wasn't impressed at first because the lay-out and teaching method is very different to normal text books. Head First use a lot of 'funny' pictures, jokes etc to try and get their message/point to stick in your memory. I must admit, it does seem to work well.

I believe you could download a sample chapter of the digital edition - if you want to check the format for yourself.
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on 8 May 2009
I found this book very frustrating. I like to learn things by being presented with a bite-size chunk of information, then given a chance to put it into practice, then some more information, and repeat. This book adopts the different philosopy of giving you pages and pages of information, and then a fairly lengthy 'example'. From the start their examples contain code which they do not explain; with the early ones they promise to explain it later, by chapter six you are presented with 2 pages of code (at the end of an example which is already 4 pages of code long) and advised not to even bother thinking about it, just to type it in or the example won't compile. And all because the authors are determined that they will have you write a battleships game, because, dammit, battleships is fun and so is this book.

That is my first problem with this book - it is so set on being 'fun' (and funny) that it doesn't bother with boring things like setting good, do-able exercises or explaining things clearly. For instance, to mirror another reviewer on this site - is it really a good idea to illustrate the concept of java classes with the idea of making dogs bark, rather than, like, something you might conceivably actually do with a java class? And while reversing a string might not sound as much fun on the back cover blurb as say, building a battleships game, it could probably be done without the authors throwing in two pages of code that you are not expected to understand.

My second complaint about this book is that it does not seem to know who it is aimed at. It seems to be not so much about teaching how-to-program (with java), but at teaching how to program-with-java for people who already pretty much know how to program.
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on 12 January 2011
This is the first technical book I've ever bought and I was a bit unsure if I'd be able to teach myself Java without the aid of a lecturer, but as soon as I read the first few pages I was sure I'd be able to.

First of all, it's encouraging to see that new ways of teaching have emerged. The writers (and the whole team of course) know how to keep you interested using the latest studies in metacognition (thinking about thinking). It's what makes this book interesting. It's not dry. It's not boring. It's just like reading an interesting story with lots of stupid/nerdy jokes, but with the implementation of Java code always in mind.

As a reader, I came from a C++ background (beginner though) and I have to say that I could finally grasp concepts that I never really understood while studying C++. References, Stacks, Heaps: everything comes beautifully together with the writers' memorable graphs, stupid jokes etc. By reading this book, not only did I learn the Java language, but I also feel that I've learned much as a programmer in general (because every language has references, stacks, heaps etc).

A highly recommended book for anyone who wants to learn Java.

Hint: if you buy this book, you can register it at Oreilly's website and buy the book for the insignificant fee of $6. Quite useful if you have a tablet or an eBook reader etc.
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on 2 April 2012
The title says it. I think i am not the target audience for this book. The authors are aware that many people would not find the book "for them". Other than the obvious, i.e. those looking for refernece book or those with limited experience, they believe this book is unsuitable "if you are afraid to try something different". It is hard to think of anything more condensending, i.e. if the authors fail the fault is yours. Wrong and a big "no no" in any education setting.

The layout, while it includes a lot of images, is confusing and difficult to follow. The examples are engaging for children under 10 but not very useful for someone wanting trying to tackle real programming problems. For example, images for the Exception class show a housewife not turning off the oven, someone else roller boarding and it opens with an image of soemone on a snow board. Engaging for children but surely not so for most adults.

The biggest fault for me though, ir that it is for Java 5.0 and not 6.0 ( or indeed 7.0 , the latest version) . So it is really out of date and could not be recommended for someone beginning study now
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on 19 August 2006
I found this book a very enjoyable read. It takes you through not only what Java can do but WHY it works in the way it does, and knowing WHY something does what it does is a sure fire way to completely understanding and learning it. The code samples given are enough to make the point of what it is trying to explain without engulfing you with extraneous code. A 5 star book especially for coders with a couple of years experience using IDEs that may need a refresher on the foundations (like me!).
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