Google App Engine is taking me into new territory that is both familiar (HTML, CSS, Ajax) and not (Python, application engineering), but I’ve found a very good resource in Using Google App Engine. It’s more of a catalyst than a reference for me, spurring me to work with Google App Engine through its exercises but not being in-depth enough to cover the full range of what Google App Engine can do. The book may simply be trying to cover too much.
The customary introduction
The first three chapters cover web programming in general, HTML, CSS and Python, and they all introduce those topics well but are certainly not comprehensive. O’Reilly publishes books on HTML, CSS and Python many times larger than Using Google App Engine. The introduction is very good material for novice web designers who need a survey of the technologies at work, but readers must look elsewhere for full coverage. This is not a problem for me, because I think these smaller, introductory books have value for a segment of the market.
Working with the Google App Engine
After the introduction there are only 150 pages left to discuss Google App Engine in detail, but Using Google App Engine does a good job of it. All the major concepts and tools are explained clearly and there’s quite a bit of hands-on exercises with your own applications. I’m looking forward to Programming Google App Engine, which is slated to be released in November 2009. It’s 300 pages and written by a member of the Google team, so I expect it to continue the learning started in Using Google App Engine.
I’ve seen some reviewers complain that Using Google App Engine is too rudimentary for most users, and that may be true for some but I can see the merit for novices. I am a total Python novice and I found the Python chapter to be a good primer for the programming language. I plan to buy more Python books to master the language. If you are interested in learning Google App Engine, Using Google App Engine is a good introduction to the technology.