ActionScript Developer’s Guide to Robotlegs – done!

The Robotlegs book I’ve been collaborating with Joel Hooks on is finished! Here’s how it looks from afar:

Thumbnails of the book pages

The Robotlegs Book pages from afar

You can pre-order the print version here, and the e-book should be released very soon – they’re estimating August 9th but I’m hoping it’ll be sooner as we tamed the DocBook beast ourselves and pushed it to production in great shape. There will be a print + ebook deal from O’Reilly shortly.

I just received a message from Yennick Trevels via Twitter, and he asks an important question about the book:

@stray_and_ruby is the book about the basics of Robotlegs, or is it mostly about advanced topics (cookbook style)?

@SlevinBE Jul 16 12:05 PM

So, what kind of book *is* this Robotlegs book? Well, it’s not a cookbook, it’s not an API reference, and it’s not really about the basics of Robotlegs either (though it’s ideal for getting started with Robotlegs).

This book is about architectural decision making in your projects, as expressed through Robotlegs. It has a lot of code samples, plenty of diagrams, thorough coverage of the core Robotlegs API and also deep discussion of why you would take a specific approach, and what the advantages and risks of other approaches might be.

The chapter list

I will post the whole Table of Contents as soon as we’re through production. This is a list of the chapters in the book:

  1. Robotlegs is a lightweight framework for ActionScript
  2. The Robotlegs dream
  3. Anatomy of a Robotlegs application
  4. Automated Dependency Injection
  5. The Robotlegs context in action
  6. The CommandMap in action
  7. Models and Services – how are they different?
  8. Connecting views with Mediators
  9. Working with Robotlegs: Rich Examples
  10. Testing your Robotlegs application
  11. Power-ups
  12. Appendix A: Troubleshooting tips
  13. Appendix B: Swiftsuspenders – the power behind the Robotlegs injector

O’Reilly were keen to keep the book to 120 pages – part of a new strategy they’re following to bring smaller, more focussed books on niche subjects. This led us to make two important decisions:

  • we built two real applications (not HelloTwitter, proper, interesting apps), one Flex app and one AS3 app, and used these for many of the code samples as well as providing a complete downloadable source, with tests, for each app
  • coverage of extended topics, for example modular Robotlegs, is limited to a brief overview, so that we could explore the core in greater depth

However, don’t read the lack of coverage of non-core features to mean that this is only a book for beginner Robotlegs users; we set out to produce something that would also be of value to experienced Robotlegs users. At times I wondered if we’d set ourselves an unrealistic goal – can you really write a getting-started guide that is also a challenge to experienced developers? When we received the feedback from our tech reviewers I – literally – jumped up and down with excitement to see that we’d managed it.

Our nine tech reviewers covered the full spectrum of experience with Robotlegs. Some are working on their first Robotlegs project, others are Robotlegs utility builders with intimate knowledge of the Robotlegs API. Nobody felt that the book wasn’t for them (and no, not all of them were our friends!)

While I know it’s much more fashionable to be modest and somewhat cool when people say you’ve done something great, I feel like the trumpet blowing you’re about to read is justified.

Firstly, there could be no great book about Robotlegs if Robotlegs wasn’t, in itself, brilliant. Of the core Robotlegs team members, I’m the most able to voice this without feeling awkward. Robotlegs was pretty much complete before I got involved. I chose Robotlegs because it was already awesome. I take no credit for that awesomeness – all I’ve done is help other people to find it too.

So, while I hope you’ll appreciate the work that Joel and I have put in to communicating it, the real star of this book is the framework, not the authors.

Secondly, I feel like I owe O’Reilly extra credit for this book because of the superb training they gave me at Head First boot camp a few years back. Although this book isn’t a Head First book, it was written with everything I’ve learned as a Head First author in mind.

Thirdly, you’re allowed to shout about things when you’re part of a team, right? Between Joel, myself and our reviewers, this book is a real collaboration.

What our reviewers said about the book

Our tech reviewers added a great deal to the clarity of the book with their input, but what I really want to share with you is a handful of the lovely things they said when submitting their feedback. (So – here’s the part where I show off, look away now if that’s not OK with you)

neil manuell
Neil Manuell:
The definitive Robotlegs introduction. Every dev team should have a copy both as a reminder of good practice and a primer to any new member

douglas reynolds
Douglas Reynolds:
I’ve already used the pre-release copy twice as reference this week… something that is an indicator to me of a book that continues to be useful after 1st read… those are my favorite books.

sean moore
Sean Moore:
A TON of really great info. I’m learning so much it’s insane. This book is going to help a lot of people very, very much. It’s answering a lot of questions I’ve had and also helping to remedy a lot of stuff I’m doing wrong.

mike cann
Mike Cann:
Just taking one glance at the table of contents leaves me itching to dive into each chapter.

Complex yet simple, in depth yet concise, challenging yet fun. And that’s just the table of contents.

The long awaited book on RobotLegs and it does not disappoint.

James Wagstaff
James Wagstaff:
You appear to have written this book just for me, or at least exactly at my technical level (mid-weight developer, in too deep to not have an MVC framework)

Dependency chain problems. Been banging my head against that one for a while. It’s really good you put as much into explaining the problem as the solution.

[This book] read like some of the best tech books I’ve read. Plain English, well explained and a good grasp of what it’s like to meet Robotlegs for the first time.

Angela Relle
Angela Relle:
I enjoyed the writing style, I like the feeling that the book has been written collaboratively. Having read the book, I think I have a deeper understanding of the principles I’ve been picking up from your tweets and in the RL forum and I have a whole list of things I will be either improving in my current project or doing in my next one

Really like that you have a “Power Ups” and a testing section (I’ve got tests in place for my commands, but not so much for mediators, so this will come in handy).

Simon Bailey
Simon Bailey:

As I skimmed the Test chapter I was hoping you would offer examples for all MVCS, [and we did] brilliant!

Weyert de Boer
Weyert de Boer:
Every Frog robot needs quality legs to do its job. The Robotlegs book is the best way to learn the Robotlegs walk.

David Hunter
David Hunter:
Good luck with the book, I have really enjoyed reading it, should be
perfect for newbies *and* more experienced Robotlegs developers.

This book is about Robotlegs 1.x

For those of you who already have half-an-eye on Robotlegs 2, here’s the crucial info: while some parts of the API may be different in RL2, almost all of the content of this book will still be directly relevant. If O’Reilly commission a Robotlegs 2 book it will have to be a longer book to cover the extra features, but we’ll make sure that owners of the Robotlegs 1 book have a mechanism for getting a discount.

About the Author

I'm an actionscript programmer living and working in a tiny village in the Yorkshire Dales, UK. I used to be a TV reporter, but my inner (and often outer) geek won. I also write stuff. Most recently Head First 2D Geometry.

Visit Stray's Website

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  • Thomas

    I want/need this book. As soon as I find my credit card I am going to order one!

  • Stephen Adams

    Awesome work you guys, well done. Looking forward to reading it. Using RobotLegs on my first mobile app, so the book is perfect timing.

  • Anonymous

    Fantastic news! Can’t wait to get my hands on it!

  • Michał Wróblewski

    Once again Stray and Joel. Awesome Job. Waiting for the book now and all the gems inside. Thanks!

  • Abel de Beer

    Great news! I’m definitely looking forward to reading it. I consider my self an experienced RL user, but this introduction makes me very excited! :)

  • Abel de Beer

    Great news! I’m definitely looking forward to reading it. I consider my self an experienced RL user, but this introduction makes me very excited! :)

  • Erik Van Nieuwburg

    Bought it, reading it now. This book was the last thing missing to get team members up to speed with RL. Thanks for that!

    Great work!

  • Alex

    Enjoyed the book – while I’ve used RL for several projects already, it’s been good to get a broader, and more in-depth,  view of the framework. I was particularly impressed with the great illustrations of flows through an RL app – was they created with a standard diagramming app?

    • Stray

      Thanks Alex! The diagrams are all done with Omnigraffle Pro – which I love for any kind of visual exploration.