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MySQL: Building User Interfaces 266

Craig Maloney writes "If you are a Windows programmer looking to create or move your stand-alone database applications away from Microsoft-specific tools such as Visual Basic, Visual C++, Access or SQL Server, MySQL: Building User Interfaces is written just for you." Read on for the rest of Craig's review.
MySQL: Building User Interfaces
author Matthew Stucky
pages 632
publisher New Riders
rating 4/10
reviewer Craig Maloney
ISBN 073571049X
summary MySQL and GTK+ are used to create cross-platform applications, with copious code listings.

What's in the book?

The first chapter guides the reader through the basics of MySQL and how it compares to Access 2000 and SQL Server 97. Next, a code listing demonstrates the basics of connecting to MySQL via C using the MySQL C API. the book gives an all-too-brief whirlwind tour to the basics of MySQL. The next four chapters are a tutorial on how to use GTK+ and GLADE, focusing on how these toolkits are similar and different from their Visual Basic counterparts. GTK+ was chosen in this book because of its cross-platform compatibility with both Windows and Linux / UNIX operating environments. The second part of the book takes what was learned about MySQL and GTK+ with GLADE and uses it to create a stand-alone application (a real-world order-entry application).

What's Good?

Throughout MySQL: Building User Interfaces, Stuckey describes exactly what he is doing and why he is doing it that way. The introduction to GTK+ in the first part of the book describes just about every GTK+ widget available (menus, buttons, sliders, status bars, etc.), and creates a monster busy-box application (not to be confused with the busy-box application by Bruce Perens) demonstrating those widgets by themselves. Later in the book Stuckey uses Glade to put applications together, but not using Glade early on gives the reader a chance to see what is happening under Glade's abstraction. During the building of the order-entry application, Stuckey explains the design decisions behind the widgets. Each window of the application is introduced first with a diagram describing where the widgets will be followed by the code for each widget. The design looks like a Visual Basic application designed by a a programmer, with an eye toward the functional rather than the aesthetics of user interface design, but as an introduction to GTK+ programming it works well.

What's Bad?

If there was ever a book that required a CD-ROM to accompany it, this book gets my nomination. Authors have to walk a fine line between presenting code snippets that don't make sense by themselves, or risk boring readers with page after page of code that might confuse readers who aren't yet ready to view full code listings. MySQL: Building User Interfaces chose to include the full code listing for everything. This is both a blessing and a curse: readers have the code right in front of them and don't have to worry about being in front of a computer while reading the book, but the flow of the book is interrupted every time something is introduced.

The descriptions also suffer, because those code listings are expected to explain in more detail what is going on. In the GTK+ introduction, widgets are introduced with short paragraph introductions. The real-world application, which should be the focus of the book, reads like an assembly line: A screen is introduced, the widgets are placed, and the code is listed. Worse, files which make little sense without a computer (such as files generated by glade) are presented along with the code listings. This makes reading this book a chore. Thankfully, there is an FTP site with the code ready to use, but future versions of this book would be best served to include it on disc.

Perhaps a balance can be struck in a future edition where important code concepts are highlighted without sacrificing seeing the code in a meaningful context.

So, what's in it for me?

Windows programmers who need a hand in getting their applications to Linux or UNIX may find this book helpful (but overwhelming) as they learn. This book stands out as a bridge for Windows programmers to make their transition to Linux and UNIX smoother, but the emphasis and amount of code listings in this book may make Windows programmers choose a different route.

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MySQL: Building User Interfaces

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