Book Information
Title: ActionScript : The Definitive Guide
Author(s): Colin Moock, Gary Grossman
Published by: O'Reilly & Associates.
RRP: USD $39.95
Format: Mass-market paperback
CD: No, Web instead.
User Level: Beginner - Advanced
Review By: Jesse Stratford (ActionScripts.org)

At a glance:

As good as I'd hoped, and better. Most certainly the 'Definitive Guide'.

Review:

Before I begin I should probably declare an interest. I learned a lot from Colin's site when I was just a babe-in-arms in Flash terms but my review, as always, will be impartial.

In ActionScript: The Definitive Guide, Moock has created a resource that will last you from your first day at ActionScripting through until you're a guru, wracking up the profits and living the high-life. The sheer volume of information in the book is astounding, but it's not just a technical reference; it's well taught and conveniently structured.
Moock takes a language-school approach to begin with; starting with some basic expressions and explaining what they do but not how (initially), just as though he were teaching you a foreign language. Soon you are into your first fully-fledged example though and then the in-depth analysis begins, with line by line code descriptions in the early chapters to help those of you who are real beginners. I read this book as best I could, in the mind-set of a beginner, and I believe that it truly is suitable for people who have never touched ActionScript before which is a great achievement as it is also the sort of book that high level users will want to keep close at hand. That being said, Moock himself states and I agree that readers should have a competent understanding of the Flash environment before they begin scripting. Start at the very beginning, it's a very good place to start :o)
The book is deceptively small and inviting. Looking at it sitting here on my desk I think "600 pages - I think I could read that in a day", but I know I couldn't. Moock (with help from his editor I imagine) has managed to make every word on every page count for something. Although there is a personal undertone to the text, there is little idle chit-chat and lots of in-depth background and analysis.
Moock's writing style is succinct but fluid with one sentence or explanation following on logically from the last. The early chapters help you build a basic understanding of the 'structure' of the language, which is then built on in the later, more advanced chapters. The language-school style applied throughout this book (most noticeably in the early chapters) is a unique yet effective way of approaching teaching ActionScript. When learning German I was taught the basic ordering of words in a standard sentence. (Subject, Verb, Time, Object, Place - my German teacher would be so proud I still remember that!) Moock has taken a similar approach, describing the syntax or 'form' that a 'sentence' in ActionScript should comply with. This method makes our knowledge extensible; if I know how to use the _height property, I can make an educated guess as to how to implement the _width property.
Ultimately this book is a sound investment for those of you who really want to know your stuff when it comes to ActionScripting. I admit without reservation that I learnt quite a few things from the early chapters of this text, meant to aid beginners. I would recommend this book without hesitation to users at any level of scripting ability and you can be sure it's secured a place on my desk, next to my Kenny doll for quick reference.

You may also wish to read our interview with the author.