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Getting Ready to Learn JavaScript

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Unlike stand-alone languages like Java or C, JavaScript works with HTML (or more rarely XML.) As a result, you need to have a basic understanding of HTML (or XML) in order to use JavaScript effectively. If you can't write a simple web page from scratch, you should probably brush up on your HTML before learning JavaScript. Knowing CSS is really useful as well, there a quite a few really cool and useful things you can do by combining HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. The BellaOnline HTML site has an excellent section on learning HTML. I also really like HTML Dog, because it focuses on current best-practices and accessibility. In spite of not really covering JavaScript, HTML Dog is the best source I've ever seen on accessible JavaScript.

WHAT YOU NEED TO HAVE

To write and run a program in JavaScript, you need a web browser with a JavaScript interpreter and some type of text editor. If you already know how to write simple web pages, you probably already have both of these on your computer. All of the graphical web browsers (FireFox, Opera, IE, Safari, etc) that I'm familiar with support JavaScript by default. If you have turned it off (usually in an Options or Preferences dialog), you will need to turn it back on. My current personal favorite browser is the Mozilla-based Flock, but I recommend testing any code you put on a public web site with at least IE and Mozilla FireFox. Just like with HTML, it's not a bad idea to test code on multiple browsers as you are learning so that you don't start depending on something that is not supported by other browsers. A text editor is an editor program that writes and saves your information in plain text without markup or formatting. You don't want to use a WSIWYG HTML editor like Dreamweaver, GoLive, or Frontpage or your word processor. Default text editors include vi (and often emacs) on Unix and Linux, notepad on Windows, and TextEdit on Mac OS X. There are also a multitude of third-party text editors and development environments that you can install on your system. This is particularly common on Windows, as programmers generally find that notepad isn't sufficient for their needs.


HTML Basic Series on the BellaOnline HTML site
HTML Dog


Flock - “the social web browser” and my current favorite. Flock makes it easy to blog and share pictures from your web browser.
Mozilla Firefox - the innovative browser that everyone else copies
Opera - a full-featured browser that runs on a multitude of devices from computers to phones to the Wii. Opera has some great features for web development.
Internet Explorer - No longer multi-platform and with poor standards compliance, nevertheless, IE is a regular contender for most used web browser.


jEdit - a Java-based Programmer's Text Editor
vim - vi-improved editor, based on the Unix vi editor, available for many operating systems
GNU EMACS - one of the first, and still in the running for the best, developers editor/development environment
PSPad - a highly rated unicode compatible text and code editor (Windows only)

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