As I wrote a few days ago, I was asked to review the Magento 1.4 Development Cookbook by Packt so I took the right time to read it deeply and with great attention to point out every pro and con of this mid-length book (249 pages).
First of all the book is available at a price of ~40 USD (~31 EUR) if you want the paper book, or ~32 USD (~25 EUR) for the digital copy (in PDF format), the price is right (maybe just a little high) for a highly technical book like this. You’ll also receive a comprehensive archive of all the code that’s used in the book, really useful for a quick cut&paste to try out things!
Now, I’ve to say that Magento 1.6 is near to be released and still we’ve no book about 1.5, and also if 1.4 documentation is still valid I think that it would be the time to update all the books on the new releases.
Chapter 1: I think it’s completely useless unless for the section about the differences between 1.3 and 1.4, in this moment every designer about to design and/or code a Magento themes already know what can be done and surely has seen enough themes in the wild so I think that we don’t need an introduction or a showcase.
Chapter 2: this is one of my preferred chapters, ok it’s not so difficult but it explains all the basic concept and it’s really needed for the first timers. I think this chapter should have been the first one but anyway it’s great.
Chapter 3: probably it could be merged with the 2nd ’cause it keeps talking about the basic things you need to know when you’re about to start working on a Magento themes, useful but anyway I think none needs a “where do I get inspiration for a favicon” section. The “display products on the homepage” section is instead really useful and raises the level of this chapter.
Chapter 4: first real steps into customizing a default Magento theme to fit your design, with some more basic hits (like enabling template path hints and block names hints) and some detailed info about CMS pages (which actually area managed pretty bad in Magento).
Chapter 5: creating a theme from scratch, pretty advanced things are going on here :) and that’s the kind of things I like the most.
Chapter 6: starts with a useless section about integrating font-face into a Magento theme, actually I don’t understand why this kind of info should be in a Magento book, it should have been in a HTML/CSS one… but finishes with some pretty handy documentation about “navigation” and the “product view” template.
Chapter 8: talks about mail templates, pretty basic stuff in the beginning, getting interesting later with variables in emails and a good section about how to integrate external newsletter systems and another one on upgrade-proof email templates.
Chapter 9: integrating social stuff, absolutely basic notions about copying facebook’s html widgets and paste it in your templates…
Chapter 10: print styles, once again I think that this topic should be covered in a HTML/CSS guide.
Conclusions: if you never wrote a Magento theme buy this book, it will help you in a lot of ways. The second time you’ll have to do the same work again… you won’t need it.