Many of you might know that I do a lot of WordPress work – in fact, it’s been the basis of my business for the last several years. I love WordPress, and I know that sometimes I can be an evangelist when it comes to that particular platform. But the fact is, I’m not a “put your eggs in one basket” kind of girl. I’ve been wanting to try out ModX for quite some time because I’ve heard many great things about it, but I haven’t had a chance to toy with it yet.
As fate would have it, within a few days of me creating a localhost installation of ModX for the sole purpose of playing with it, I was contacted by a woman from a complany called “Packt Publishing,” based out of the UK, and was asked if they could send me a book on ModX and have me review it. After some investigation, I found that it was a legit company who were well-respected in publishing technical books. So I took them up on the offer, and waited excitedly for my copy.
As a disclaimer and to add “transparency” to this, I will say that I was paid nothing to review this book. Basically, my instructions were “We’ll send you a book, you read it, and please put up a review on your site within 30 days.” That’s it. No requests that it be a good review or anything – just read it and tell us what you think. I will also add that they asked if I was interested in becoming an affiliate to the company – and as of this moment I still haven’t responded to that. I wanted to do this first to see if it was something I would be interested in. But the offer has no bearing on this review – the review is what’s important, and if the book has merit, then I may consider the affiliate offer. But right now, it’s in the very back of my mind.
So, the book is written by someone with a very unique name: Antano Solar John, just to get that out of the way. I have to say, upon first looking at the table of contents, I had initially decided to skip the first two chapters, since they are basically about “stuff I already know.” However I thought it might be helpful if I went ahead and read it anyway – just to see how accurate and informative it was. I have to say, I was impressed. There’s a lot of useful information and definitions in the first two chapters (even the preface was very informative and concise) that people would find very useful, especially if they don’t know heads or tails about designing, frameworks, CMS’s and the like. It really gets to the meat of things and gives you a pretty good grasp on what’s up without information overload and being too wordy (like this review is). My only complaint was that they were a little redundant on one point: It gives you the “pros and cons” of different aspects of various systems (they don’t name anyone – but being a WordPress designer, that’s what was foremost in my mind to compare to), and it seemed like the only “con” to everything was that you had to learn the language of the platform you’re using. That’s fairly understandable, and really, to be expected. But otherwise, it was a good lead-in to ModX.
For the rest of the chapters, I will admit I didn’t sit down and read this like I would a “good book.” (i.e. I’m a HUGE Stephen King fan. This ain’t no Stephen King novel.) Instead, I decided to just take the book, and utilize it – just like I would any other technical book I have. I’m a “learn as you go” kind of gal – so I cracked the knuckles, installed it on my localhost environment, opened her up to Chapter 3 and got going.
I’ve said it before: ModX is seriously easy to install. This book gives you step-by-step instructions on how to do it, but it can give the WordPress “Famous 5-minute Install” a run for its money. The back-end is easily navigable, and the book gives you useful information on what’s going on, and the importance of each section. it really does break it down for you into easily managed chunks (pun intended). Unlike many technical books I currently own, this one gives you troubleshooting advice along with the section you’re in – most books I have have a chapter at the end for troubleshooting purposes, so you have to constantly flip back-and-forth. Not a problem with this – I guess there are common questions about stuff that happens, and they address it right there – almost as it’s happening on your screen. It’s very nice.
I will say that the version of ModX I have installed is the latest version (as of this writing, that would be 1.0.2) and I think that this book was written for at least a slightly older version, because some of the names and titles they supply in the book aren’t correct. But it would seem that even though the text isn’t an exact match to what it says in the back-end, it’s close enough that you can figure out what’s going on without any issues.
It is difficult, however, to continue giving a chapter-by-chapter review (and it’s probably too long anyway) of this book without making it a review of ModX itself. I will say that the book is very informative. Between the time I first attempted to learn ModX on my own and when I knew the book was coming (which was about 2 weeks, give or take a couple of days) I realized there were many good resources and places to go to learn about ModX and how to make the most out of it. The platform itself is intriguing, but I have to say I’m very glad I got this book. If you’re familiar at all with developing for WordPress, then you could say this is the Codex in 250 pages. It’s concise, clear, well-written and has a lot of examples and snippets to walk you through and make you understand what’s going on. It speaks plain English, and written so even my husband can understand what’s going on (believe me, that’s saying a lot). Although a lot of this information can be found elsewhere on the internet (and even within the help files) this little book packs a punch: it’s got everything in one spot, right at your fingertips.
All in all, I know you could develop for ModX without his book, but I don’t know why you’d want to. From the perspective of a beginner like me, it’s all here, ready to go, and easy to find, and I think I would recommend this to anyone who’s ready to dive into ModX and not feel like they’re going to drown.
Speaking of which, time for me to go swimming!