“Magento 1.4 Development Cookbook” review

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 ~30 USD (~23 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!

I’ve to say that I found the first chapter (getting started) not so useful, if I’m a developer and I’m creating a project based on Magento I think I’ve to be able to download and install the software itself, otherwise it should be better if I call another dev with a little more experience… anyway this is just an introduction so don’t worry and keep reading.

Chapter 2 talks about coding some CMS/design functionalities like changing page titles, customizing Magento’s error page, integrating an image rotator and so on. Things are starting to roar in this chapter which will give you some practical examples, definitively useful but please, we would need some more doc about the XML layout files (how they’re used by the system, how they work and what are all their sections).

Chapter 3 is about adding some functionalities like javascript libraries or integrating a WordPress blog. Actually I think this chapter could be a part of the 2nd one, it’s really good for the JS part but it would have needed a lot more details about the WordPress integration, anyway this could be really huge (just think about calling part of the Magento’s theme to render the header and footer of the blog) so this should be considered an overview of a complex task you’ll need to study and experiment on your own.

In the 4th chapter you’ll start looking at store customizations (modify the subscription procedure or creating a featured product shown in home page) and you’ll start to use the great Magento Connect, which is something you absolutely need to know but we can find something not too useful like changing the admin theme plus something that is more admin oriented like creating price rules (which actually is not a developer task IMHO).

Chapter 5 will guide you learning some functional concepts of Magento that you have to know in order to know what you’re doing when developing, like tablerates, adding products to cart with custom querystrings. I din’t like the “add a youtube video to a product” ’cause it’s an admin task or otherwise if should be done differently (adding a custom field to the product data structure and so on).

Chapter from 6 to 12 are for experts and that’s what I like, surely this is the most useful part of the book and that’s why I’m not going to talk about it deeply, things like preventing CSRF attacks, understanding SEO, setting a MySQL master-slave environment, creating a module using the module creator extension and extending it to create a custom shipping method, optimize Magento’s performance and debugging while developign are really great chapters! I din’t like chapter 10 (creating a social widget) too much but it’s a good theory to read anyway.

My personal vote for this book is 7.5/10, it is really good and it deserves to be in your library (especially if you’re not full time dedicated to Magento development), it has practical examples, you’ll get your hands dirty and this is what a developer has to do but this will not be the only book you’ll need about Magento, also because Magento itself is a huge project that’s hard to document in a single book.
I didn’t vote it a 10/10 because I think that some contents could be grouped in different ways (eg: moving things from a chapter to another), because a few things are not too developer-oriented and because it could be longer.

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