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Java Beginner's Book :
Learn to Program with Java

Learn to Program with Java
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Learn to Program with Java
by John Smiley

Paperback: 700 pages
Dimensions (in inches): 1.41 x 10.84 x 7.08
Publisher: Osborne McGraw-Hill
ISBN: 0072131896; 1st edition (November 2, 2001) Whether you are brand new to programming in general or coming to Java from another language, John Smiley's Learn to Program with Java offers a truly approachable tutorial designed with the beginner in mind. Covering Java syntax and essential programming concepts, this text can be used at home to simulate a semester's worth of Java study.

Like Smiley's previous titles, the salient feature of this text is the author's scenario-based presentation style. Instead of addressing the reader directly, Smiley simulates the experience of about 18 first-semester programming students facing Java for the first time. As the students develop a grade calculation project in Java (and improve it with object-oriented features later on), basic questions are raised and answered with the reader "overhearing" the author's consistently clear and patient explanation of key programming concepts.

While this approach is certainly not for those in a hurry, it can do the trick for the programming newbie. With an extensive Q&A for each step, Smiley covers most every conceivable obstacle and confusion. (The questions presented here are drawn from his extensive real-world teaching experience.)

After covering the basics of today's iterative software development cycle (a reminder to plan before you write any code), the book implements a grade-averaging program used for several departments at a hypothetical college. Smiley rehearses the discussions of the potential users of this application, as well as the students who then build it. The simple program is a good one as it allows the author to introduce basic Java syntax, as well as fundamental programming concepts (like variables and loops), without getting too bogged down in complexity.

Once the basic program has been built, Smiley introduces using objects to solve the same problem. His guide to basic object-oriented design, as well as how to code basic objects in Java, is once again clear and sensible. If the "big picture" behind using objects has eluded you, the practical presentation offered here may well help things click. By the end of the book, the final version of the program gets enhanced with support for arrays, plus a basic graphical user interface built with simple Swing components.

Most introductory programming texts try to cover everything at once, a temptation that's especially great with the rich (and complex) Java platform. The streamlined set of lessons here help make this title a good choice for Java newbies who want a patient and really approachable beginner's tutorial. --Richard Dragan

Topics covered: Introductory Java-based programming tutorial, the basics of the software design process, the System Development Life Cycle (SDLC): from analysis and design to development, implementation and maintenance; a first Java program, variables and constants, basic data types and operators, flow control and loops, custom methods, using objects (constructors, class variables and finalizers) access specifiers and instance variables, getters and setters, inheritance fundamentals, using arrays, error handling with exceptions, basic user interface design with Swing controls, event handling with listeners, adapters and events; and a case study for a grade-calculation program.

Book Description: More than 100,000 programmers owe their careers to Professor John Smiley. In this unique guide, the guru himself will teach you, in a classroom setting, how to program in Java. Learn from more than 100 questions and answers as well as real-world programming projects.

From the Back Cover: The easiest technical book you'll ever read. Open it up and see for yourself!

Join Professor Smiley's Java class as he teaches essential skills in programming, coding, and more. Using a student-instructor conversational format, this book starts at the very beginning with crucial programming fundamentals. You'll quickly learn how to identify customer needs so that you can create an application that achieves programming objectives--just like experienced programmers. By identifying clear client goals, you'll learn important programming basics--like how computers view input and execute output based on the information they are given--then use those skills to develop real-world applications. Participate in this one-of-a-kind classroom experience and see why Professor Smiley is renowned for making learning fun and easy.

Learn programming fundamentals like Selection structures, loops, and arrays Cover object-oriented programming techniques like inheritance, method overloading, and interfaces Use swing to develop a graphical user interface and event-driven programs Build object-oriented Java programs from scratch Develop a real-world project Get a solid foundation of Java knowledge with chapter-by-chapter reinforcement of information and more than 200 example programs.

About the Author: John Smiley, MCP, MCSD, MCT, is president of Smiley and Associates, a computer consulting firm. He is also the author of eight books, and a computer science professor at Penn State University in Abington, Holy Family College, and Philadelphia University.

Customer Reviews
Skeptic gives this book 5 stars, December 5, 2001
Reviewer: Jon Taliaferro from Streetman, TX

I'll be the first to tell you that buying this book was a hard choice for me---I'm a skeptic, and whenever I see high praise for a book (especially when the author is a teacher) I figure it's just a bunch of his students posting reviews hoping to get an 'A' in his course. Also, unlike the other reviewers, I wasn't turned on by the thought of reading about a college programming class. If I wanted to sit through a college classroom with a bunch of people asking questions, I'd probably take a college course---but I hate the idea, and I really thought I'd hate this book. I was wrong.

I've been trying to learn Java on my own for the last two years, and I've bought and returned probably about a dozen. What made me buy the book is the fact that the reviewers said the book contained a working project developed during the course of the book.

That's what I needed desperately. Most books on programming have lots of examples--but they don't lead to anything. This book takes a single idea---a program to calculate student grades--and works with it until you have a completed Java program. By the end of the book, I actually knew how to write my own Java program.

I should say that despite what I thought, the cutesy classroom dialog didn't bother me all that much---it's an interesting way to write a book.

The author also has some additional material on Java posted on his website (including a chapter on Applet creation which interestingly isn't written using the cutesy classroom style--I'm not sure which one I like better).

As I say, I'm a skeptic at heart, and I'm giving this book five stars. Why? It's the first Java book I haven't returned. I'll probably keep it--or give it to one of my friends who needs to learn Java.

If you are looking to learn Java, this is the book for you, November 15, 2001
Reviewer: Donna Bowman from Pennsylvania

I'm not a professional programmer---just someone who enjoys writing programs as a hobby. I signed up for John Smiley's Java Study Group, which is a based learning environment. The Study Group used this book as the course textbook, and I found it to be a wonderful vehicle to learn Java---which I think is a more difficult language to learn than Visual Basic.

First off, I should tell you that I'm a big fan of John Smiley and his books. I have all four of his Visual Basic programming books, and I used them to learn how to write my first computer program. I've also participated in many of his on-line courses, and subscribe to his Visual Basic mailing list. When John Smiley writes a book, he builds a community around it, with a support structure consisting of a web page and mailing list. If you need help, you can also email him--and he'll actually write back to you, although not necessarily the same day or with a direct answer (he is a teacher after all!)

Here's my evaluation of Learn to Program with Java:


1. It's written so that anyone can understand it, in other words, you don't have to be a nerd to understand it. My husband is a computer programmer, and if I want to be spoken to in 'geek-speak', I would have let him teach me Java. I needed a book that patiently explained, in detail, the fundamentals of Java programming, not only the how-to-do but the 'why's' behind the language. This book did exactly that.

2. In each chapter he presents a demonstration program to illustrate the points he is trying to make.

3. Each chapter has a series of exercises for the reader to complete, with detailed instructions to guide you in completing it. By my count, there are about 100 of these exercises which contribute greatly to your learning experience.

4. During the course of the book, a real-world working Java program is developed. Each chapter has a series of exercises in which the reader is given instructions to complete the project, so that by the end of the book, you'll have developed your very own Java program. Many books concentrate on developing lots of small programs---with the result being that at the end of the book all you really know how to do is write small programs. At the end of this book, you'll feel capable of tackling your own real-world program.

5. There are lots of screen shots (hundreds) to help make learning Java easier.

6. I found the book very well organized and laid out. it starts out dealing with fundamental programming concepts like variables, If statements, and loops, and then progresses to the more difficult topics of Objects, the essence of Java programming. By the way, his coverage and explanation of Objects is the best I've ever seen--and my husband the Java programmer agrees :)

7. The book is written in the context of an actual classroom using fictional students. I feel this approach is one the books greatest assets, although I recognize that some readers may not feel the same way (see below under 'What you may not like'). 'Students' ask questions, and the author answers them. Just like a real classroom, some students ask 'good' questions and other students ask 'dumb' questions. I must admit that many of the 'dumb' questions are those I would have had myself (but been too timid to ask) if I had learned Java at an actual school. I actually found myself growing to 'like' some of these 'students'---and anxiously waiting for one of them to ask their next question.

8. The style of the book makes it OK to be technically challenged. I can't recall a single phrase such as 'of course', 'obviously' or 'it goes without saying' like I find in so many other computer books. If the author has an ego, he isn't using his books to stroke it.

9. The author has an uncanny way of answering questions in the text just about the time they pop into your head. Not surprisingly, he does this by having one of his fictional students ask the question. This is an amazingly effective learning technique.


1. The style of the book which I like so much, a conversational style built around a fictional classroom, can bother some people, especially those people looking to get right to the 'meat' of the subject. This style probably inflates the page count of the book by a few pages, and there is a bunch of 'he said', 'Rhonda asked' type comments scattered throughout. However, I found the style amazingly effective---imagine Mr. Rogers teaching your High School Physics or Calculus class.

2. The book doesn't jump right into Java--instead, there's an initial chapter on the Systems Development Life Cycle and how to develop a Requirements Statement to work from. Some readers might find this a 'turn off', but personally, I found it very useful, and use the methodology in the programs I write.

3. The book is definitely introductory. It doesn't cover advanced Java topics, but the topics it does deal with it covers better than any other book I've seen. Let's put it this way--after you're done with this book, you should feel comfortable in writing your own Java program.

If you need to move onto advanced Java concepts, you'll have no problem reading some of those other books.

4. The book doesn't cover Applet creation, something I really wanted to learn, but the author has posted a chapter on Applet creation on his website at:

In summary, I highly recommend this book to anyone wishing to learn Java

Finally!!!!, May 30, 2002
Reviewer: Rudy from Coralville, Iowa United States

Here's my situation and how this book made java come together for me! Took 2 java college classes. Got a 'C' in one and a 'D'in the other! I was sooo frustrated and pretty much [ticked] off at myself because i couldn't "get" java. So i re-took the first Java class (with a different instructor) with helped tons, then halfway through the course I picked up this book, read it within a week, then BAM!! It all started to gel together FINALLY, not to mention i got an 'A' in the course and wipped out the 'C'!

In my college course it took 2 months before I understood what a freakin object was!! The books we used in class where too advanced, and were written in a technology style that wasnt working for me.

Here's a list of Java books i have bought:

1. Java tutorial by sun
2. Beginning Java 2 by wrox
3. How to program Java by Deitel
4. Murachs Beginning Java 2

Now let me say this about these books. THEY ARE ALL GOOD BOOKS!

Java tutorial by sun i didnt really care for, but the other 3 are great books! BUT, with that being said, I feel they are still written in a way that doesn't quite focus on the total beginner. But John Smileys book DOES! And after reading this book, you will be able to dig out your other Java books you have bought and gotten confused with and FLY through them!! Thats what I'm doing right now! Flying through Ditel and the wrox book!

Some people don't like the style that this book uses, the lively classroom Q&A format, they say it's too easy, I even heard one person tell me that it insulted his intelligence!! Then I find out later he had a Masters in Computer Science. Well, if one has a Masters degree in a high-tech engineering type field then YES, you can learn from technical books that are written in a technical way! But I'm an average joe! I'm not a Bill Gates techie! Then again, you don't have to be to just be a programmer! Anyone, that wants to learn computer programming and change careers into IT, can get there by starting with Johns books. Then after that, you can tackle the advanced books and succeed because of the foundation Mr.Smileys books give you!

In closing, if your a beginner, and sometimes feel intimidated by programming and wondering "if you can really do this!?!", then BUY THIS BOOK! I will even go as far to say this "If you don't learn Java from this book, then computer programming prolly isn't for you! I'm not trying to intimidate anyone with that statement, rather what I'm saying is, YOU WILL LEARN JAVA WITH THIS BOOK!

Need more sample codes, May 4, 2002
Reviewer: A reader from Japan

An opinion form Japn. I know LOGO, Scheme, QBasic, Turbo Pascal, VB, Delphi, C. And I needed to learn Java this time. I know "What is variable?" thing very well. So I don't need to read such a boring thing like "Why you need to use array". This book is full of these kind of very beginner level explanation.

I learnt those things from "QBasic by example" already.I need more lots of small sample codes in each capters.The first chapter "Where Do I begin?" is really boring. The 2nd chapter "Getting Comfortable with Java" is slightly boring. 3rd chapter "Data" is merely exciting. But need more samples. 4th chapter "Selection Structures" is boring,because I know C and I am already comfortable for that selection things. 5th "Loops" chapter is same is just FOR and WHILE loop. 6th "Creating Your Own Methods" is a little interesting. But you will notice that method is just a sub-routin. When you reach to the 7th "Creating Objects from Instantiable Classes" ,you really get to Java world. Preceeding 1-6 chapter is just a boot camp.

This meathod chapter is very important. The next 8th "Controlling Access to the Data in Your Object" is boring, it is just PUBLIC or PRIVATE things. 9th "Inheritance and Interfaces" is slightly difficult.I can not understand this chapter yet. But inheritance seems to be just useful style of copy and paste. interface is just complex inheritance. So you don't need to understand inheritance and interfaces right now. you can make programs without them. Just use copy and paste.10th "Arrays" is same for Basic or Pascal or C. Just a boring pages. 11th."Error Handling". Very boring. Just write a code that doesn't contain any errors at the begining. So you don't need to learn error handling. 12th "Developing a Graphical User Interfaces" Very exciting. You can create window programing by just write some codes like liberty basic. But I bet you'll soon get bored to write code for window programing like "btn1.setBounds(30,10,80,40);".You can choose more smart GUI Java editer like JBuilder, Forte for Java, or VisualAge. 13th. "Event Handling in Java". similer to JavaScript event handling. looks interesting, but I myself have not read out this chapter yet.

Conclusion:This book contains lots of chats between teather and students. Almost 80% of this book is just chatting. like "What the heck variable is ,teather???" "The variable is like a box which contain data in computer memory...." ok, Ok,,,OKAY.I know QBASIC and Pascal and C and,,,,I know what is variable is very well. Really. boring these time consuming chats. But interesting that people in the U.S.A learn thing like this. In Japan, students are not allowed to speak in class at all. Only teather are permitted to speak in class. This lucking communication led Japan to fallen state. I'd like to go to U.S.A and try U.S.A style of education if possible in some days...

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