Head First iPhone Development by Dan Pilone and Tracey Pilone is billed as a “Brain-Freindly Guide” and it delivers. It covers the use of Xcode and Interface Builder to create iPhone and iPod Touch applications.
Prolific tech publisher O’Reilly’s Head First iPhone Development is part of their “Head First” series of publications. If you are not familiar with the series, it builds on the premise that different teaching methods have varying levels of success depending on the individual. In other words, some people can learn best by just reading, while others are more successful at learning by “doing”. The series seeks to exercise the reader’s mind and encourage improved retention through the use of humor, pictures, crosswords, jumbles, and other puzzles. The idea here is that the reader will learn the material one way or another and that repetition will encourage the full internalization of the material.
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As programming books go, the presentation of the material is a breath of fresh air. Or more aptly described, a breath of white space. The material in the book flows approximately 500 pages, but it is metered out little by little. I don’t recall any pages having a full page of traditional text. The content has liberal room to lounge amidst the pictures and puzzles. It feels less like a text book and more like an entertaining activity. The brevity of text on each page pushes the reader onwards to turn each page and discover each new nugget of iPhone SDK wonder.
The book introduces simple iPhone applications and then builds upon them throughout the book with increasingly complex amounts of Cocoa Touch and UIKit. By doing so, it intentionally prods the reader to ask his or her own questions about expanding the features of the applications. Just as the reader feels a question pop up in his or her head, it is usually answered in the very next section.
All the while, the authors gentlely introduce classic paradigms of Cocoa development including patterns such as Model View Controller (MVC) in the context of iPhone-specific programming.
Although the book is targeted for beginners, it is not a bad start for experienced Cocoa desktop developers who are looking to get into iPhone programming. There are perhaps a few shortcuts and liberties taken with coding style from time to time, and perhaps some “best practices” are left behind along the way. Yet overall, it is a very good primer on iPhone application development including the use of Xcode and Interface Builder.
As with many iPhone development books, the reader is at a disadvantage if they have little or no familiarity with Objective-C programming syntax and/or Apple’s Cocoa frameworks. For that reason, absolute beginners may feel a bit like they are thrown into the deep end right away with the first few chapters and associated code. There is a lot of object-oriented and Cocoa terminology thrown at the reader. However, readers who stick with it, attempt each puzzle, and work the examples in Xcode will begin to feel the world of Cocoa Touch and UIKit gel into their mind, in a “Brain-Friendly” way!
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