Book Review: The Cross Browser Handbook

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Last night I finished reading The Cross Browser Handbook by Daniel Herken and I thought I'd share some thoughts on it. The book is available in PDF form only and costs 29 dollars. He also offers a more expensive version that includes the code templates and workshops.

At a high level, the book discusses:

  • Rendering engines, DOCTYPE, and compatibility modes
  • HTML
  • CSS
  • JavaScript
  • Cross-browser testing

I found the beginning of the book to be extremely interesting. I had somewhat of a haphazard understanding of rendering engines and DOCTYPE before, but I think Herken did a great job of explaining the details and demonstrating the differences. He also gives what could be one of the best examples of why stuff like this matters. (I won't ruin it, but if you run an online business than you will find his real life experience in this area quite shocking.)

The meat of the book, the three sections on HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, are not full explanations of these technologies. As the book is only 120 pages long that wouldn't be enough to cover one of these topics.

Rather, Herken gives a very brief explanation of features (for example, box-shadow, geolocation, etc), a description of where browsers are in terms of support for that feature, and finally, a list of possible workarounds. This by itself is not new. For example, I can find support information at, but the combination of a quick explanation, support, and workaround, I thought was very well done. You can quickly get an idea of what this particular thing does and how well it's going to work in your supported browsers. My only concern here is updates. Before purchasing this book I'd ask the author if updates will be free. (I'd imagine yes, but I'd check...)

The final section on testing was quite informative. Of the seven tools he described I had heard of a grand total of one of them before. Another section that was particularly informative was the coverage of JavaScript compatibility issues with IE. In some cases I was shocked at how bad IE did things.

All in all, I think the book is worth your money. I did see a few more typos than normal (I don't think I've read a book yet without a typo or two) which may be due to English not being his native language, but it wasn't anything too bad.

There was one thing he said that I thought was misguided:

Only if you absolutely have to write your own JavaScript code you should do so!

But as my readers know, this topic is something I've been sharing recently on this blog and I know I'm in the minority. At the end of the day, I'll use jQuery, but I truly feel like we need to start writing more vanilla JavaScript if we ever hope to improve our skills.

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About Raymond Camden

Raymond is a senior developer evangelist for Adobe. He focuses on document services, JavaScript, and enterprise cat demos. If you like this article, please consider visiting my Amazon Wishlist or donating via PayPal to show your support. You can even buy me a coffee!

Lafayette, LA

Archived Comments

Comment 1 by Jake Munson posted on 12/5/2012 at 1:22 AM

"At the end of the day, I'll use jQuery, but I truly feel like we need to start writing more vanilla JavaScript if we ever hope to improve our skills."

+1 to that. I have said this a lot but I usually get negative reactions from people. I still don't understand why so many web developers hate JavaScript.

Comment 2 by Pete posted on 12/5/2012 at 1:06 PM

I agree as well, Javscript has loads of features built into it that I used to use jQuery for - like JSON parsing.

It's not just the JS either, I've barely made any effort to learn about CSS animation and transforms because of all the Javascript libraries that do CSS for us.

Cross browser support is probably the main reason I stick with a lot of libraries - but with vanilla CSS and JS getting much more capable, I'm building a bigger tool set of my own libraries.

Ok, cross browser support and laziness... jQuery does make live so easy.

The book sounds good though Ray, I'll check it out, I've never really got the Doctype.

Comment 3 by Simon MacDonald posted on 12/7/2012 at 8:08 PM

I agree with you on the jQuery thing. Folks need to learn some more plain vanilla JavaScript especially for mobile browsers where a toolkit like jQuery is less important as there are not as many differences for it to smooth over.

This looks like a very interesting book but at $29 for an eBook I think I'll put it on my come back to it list. Especially since I have 70 books on my to read stack.