Beginning Programming for Dummies 4th edn

Adrian Williams adrian at clubtype.co.uk
Sat Dec 9 13:48:16 EST 2006


Dan,
I completely understand your circumstances and you already did a
great job and its easy for others to be critical. Please don't beat
yourself up about it. This rant is directed at any would-be training
books authors out there. As a Type Designer its just so annoying to
me that in general when Programming books are layed out showing
Courier, Authors/Book designers don't put themselves in the position
of the reader. For a seasoned programmer who reads code easily
it may not present any challenge at all finding (the right) snippets
of code when scanning the pages. For beginners, its the opposite.
The ability to scan pages quickly referring to relevant code makes
the business of learning far more fluid. There needs to be an
additional emphasis on Courier text.

Beginners and old hands would benefit if code they seek is more
clearly emphasised. All words are important, but in programming,
surely, it is the code itself that should take pride of place. Some
books use a grey background patch for passages of code.
This is not ideal either. Code in paragraph text needs to be
emphasised in exactly the same manner as large passages to
avoid confusion. Just a more contrasting set of fonts is really
all thats needed. Like Times Roman and Verdana Bold for maximum
contrast! If it must be a monospaced font, then I don't see anything
on the market that fits the bill at the moment. I would gladly create
and supply (gratis) a Courier-like font of 'Black' weight to anyone
undertaking such a venture, so long as it's a Revolution trainer.

I hope you do get chance to revisit the 'Speed..' book.
Many page layout apps. InDesign and Quark XPress included
have automatic Index makers. Yes, they catch-all instances,
but judicial editing solves this. Perhaps an IndexOnly-eBook?

Adrian

On 9 Dec 2006, at 18:01, Dan Shafer wrote:

> Thanks to both of you for your comments on my book. I'm aware of the
> problems a lack of index can cause. All I can say by way of (admittedly
> somewhat weak) defense is that: (a) doing a proper index is a huge 
> amount of
> work and requires skills I lack and couldn't afford to hire; and (b) I
> (perhaps mistakenlly) followed the time-honored tradition of using a
> monospaced font for code. I agree that there are some places -- though 
> not a
> huge number, as far as I know -- where that font doesn't treat spacing 
> very
> well.
>
> Also, I originally authored the book as an eBook where an index is 
> much less
> useful (though not entirely useless) since indexing terms always 
> results in
> the indexer puttng some things under terms the reader finds puzzling or
> opaque. When it became a print publication, I agree I should have 
> figured
> out how to do that on some level at least.
>
> If I had it to do over again, I'd certainly try to find a volunteer to 
> do an
> index and I'd do even more reformatting than the Courier font problem.
>
> Unfortunately, reality being what it is, I won't probably get a chance 
> to do
> it over again.
>
> But I really appreciate the kind words and the criticisms.
>
> On 12/9/06, Adrian Williams <adrian at clubtype.co.uk> wrote:
>>
>> Peter,
>> As a new user of Revolution I agree with your analysis of Dummies.
>> Small things can make a huge difference to beginners!
>>
>> For me 'Software At The Speed Of Thought' lacks an Index at the back
>> which would make zeroing in on snippets *much* easier to locate.
>> To counter this lack, I found myself having to use a highlighter pen 
>> on
>> virtually every word of Courier (of current interest) set in the text.
>>
>> That's another thing. Typographically, the Times/Courier combination 
>> is
>> not a good one. Important single words of Courier are hard to detect.
>> One has to read the whole paragraph to encounter the Courier 
>> emphasized
>> word.
>> It does not have enough emphasis to make it stand out and contrast 
>> with
>> Times.
>> All 'Code' text in Courier Bold would have been better and easy to do.
>>
>> Yes, these comments are picky, but in a constructive way I hope and
>> free advice from a Typeface Designer.
>>
>> Adrian
>>
>> On 9 Dec 2006, at 10:01, Peter Alcibiades wrote:
>> >
>> > Get Dan Shafer's book revised for a third edition, some introductory
>> > parts
>> > slimmed down, a few more details on some of the topics, a few more
>> > detailed
>> > howtos, and put the CD with the express edition with it.  
>> Particularly
>> > expand
>> > the parts about storing, retrieving and deleting data.  There's too
>> > much
>> > about the user interface, and too little about how to write stuff 
>> that
>> > deals
>> > with the data which is why the end user is writing the program in 
>> the
>> > first
>> > place.
>> >
>> > But, small criticisms aside, 'Software at the speed of thought' is
>> > really
>> > excellent for a first introduction for a sophisticated end user.  
>> It is
>> > everything that the Dummies book is not - it just needs to go a 
>> little
>> > further.  And have the express edition packaged along with it.
>> >
>> > Get some detailed material on how to work with arrays, lists, and
>> > tables  into
>> > the Revolution pdf.
>> >
>> >
>> > Peter
>>
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