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MODX: The Official Guide – Book Review |

September 6th, 2011 · 18 Comments · Book Reviews, MODX

If you closely follow the happenings in the world of MODX you know that Bob Ray’s book MODX: The Official Guide
is now available.  I was fortunate to receive a copy of the unreleased PDF a few weeks ago and have been looking through it. Now that the book is available for pre-0rder, I thought it would be a good idea to share my thoughts.

First, I want to say that the release of this book is really exciting and a great step forward for the MODX community.  This is not the first MODX book to be published. The first one was written in Japanese and covered MODx Evolution.  This was followed later by two books published by Packt that also covered Evolution.  I have, of course, not read the Japanese book but have looked at the two Packt books, and I can comfortably say that Bob’s book far supercedes either of the Packt books and is far superior product to either of them, and I recommend it without reservations.

Why Buy MODX: The Official Guide?

Let’s start with two simple reasons why I consider this book to be THE MODX book to buy, then we will go on to actually talk about the contents.

Why MODX: The Official Guide is THE MODX book to Buy

  1. The author: This book has been written by an active and well known MODX community member and contributor who has a proven track record and relationship with the community.  At the time of this writing, Bob has over 9000 posts in the MODX community forums, asking questions, responding to requests for help, and contributing in many different ways to the community.  He has also authored more than a few addons for both MODX Revolution and MODX Evolution. So you know that this is not a book written by a novice or a casual MODX user.
  2. The Publisher:  This book has not just been dubbed “The Official Guide” as a marketing strategy. It IS the official guide, and you can tell that this is the case because it’s been published by MODX Press, the new publishing arm of the MODX CMS team.  So it’s the real deal.  It also comes with the official stamp of approval from the MODX team and core developers.

What’s between the covers?

Let me first say that this is a massive book.  It’s 772 pages in total, full of text and code.  The pre-release copy I have doesn’t have much in the way of images, so you can imagine how much content has been packed into this book.

- Table of Contents:

Acknowledgments

Introduction

About This Book

About MODX

Chapter 1

How MODX Works
The MODX Database
MODX vs. Third-Party Components
The Back End vs. the Front End
Basic MODX Building Blocks
How MODX Delivers a Web Page
Transport Packages
Other MODX Concepts
Summary
MODX Evolution Notes

Chapter 2

Installing MODX
Installing the Current Stable Release
Installing Add-on Components
Friendly URLs, Friendly Aliases
Installing MODX on Your Local Machine
Porting an Existing Site to MODX
Summary
MODX Evolution Notes

Chapter 3

The MODX Manager
The Resource, Element, and File Trees
The Top Menu
Summary
MODX Evolution Notes

Chapter 4

Resources
Documents
Weblinks
Symlinks
Static Resources
Template Variables and Access Permissions
Other Resource Operations
Summary
MODX Evolution Notes

Chapter 5

Templates and Template Variables
Templates
Creating a Template
An Example Template
Example Template: A Closer Look
Deciding What to Put in a Template
Using Tags in a Template
Template Variables
Summary
MODX Evolution Notes

Chapter 6

Chunks and Properties
Introducing Chunks
Creating a Simple Chunk
Using Chunks with Other Tags
Other Uses for Chunks
Introducing Properties
Sending Properties in the Chunk Tag
Default Properties Versus Property Sets
Working with Default Properties
How Default Properties are Used
Property Sets
Summary
MODX Evolution Notes

Chapter 7

Snippets and Plugins
Working with Snippets
Working with Plugins
Summary
MODX Evolution Notes

Chapter 8

Advanced Snippet Operations
MODX get*() Methods
Object Methods
Working with Resources, Elements, and Users
Summary
MODX Evolution Notes

Chapter 9

Site Organization and Contexts
Site Organization
Contexts
Summary
MODX Evolution Notes

Chapter 10

MODX Security
Security System Overview
Security Elements
Working with MODX Security
Controlling Access in the Front End
Summary
MODX Evolution Notes

Chapter 11

Customizing the MODX Manager
Altering the Top Menu
Form Customization
Custom Manager Pages
Summary
MODX Evolution Notes

Chapter 12

Using Common MODX Components
Installing Components and Creating Property Sets for Them
Creating an FAQ Page with EZfaq
Creating a Contact Page with SPForm
Using Breadcrumbs to Show the Current Path
Using Wayfinder to Create a Menu
Using getResources to Aggregate Content
Using FormIt to Create and Process Forms
Summary
MODX Evolution Notes

Chapter 13

Creating Transport Packages
Transport Package Overview
A Simple Transport Package
Summary
MODX Evolution Notes

Appendix

MODX API
PHP Primer
MODX Objects Reference
Using SMTP to Send Mail in MODX
MODX System Events

As you can see, this is quite a comprehensive book, and attempts to cover a LOT of material.  This is always a tricky undertaking, and sometimes things can be left out or covered in not enough detail to be useful. But I can say that Bob has done a good job covering a lot of material in this book in such a way as to be useful.

Revolution or Evolution?

The primary focus of this book is the Revolution branch of MODX. However, each chapter has a section with MODX Evolution notes. In my opinion, if you’re interested in learning just Evolution, this may not be too useful for you as it does not cover Evolution as comprehensively as you may need it to.  But seeing as Revolution is the larger focus for the MODX team at the moment and going forward, you may be wise to start upgrading your MODX knowledge to Revolution anyway :)

Who is MODX: The Official Guide for?

I think that this book will benefit anyone who is interested in MODX, whether a complete beginner or a seasoned MODX developer.

For Beginners: This book covers enough details about the whole MODX ecosystem to be useful for starting from scratch and understanding how MODX works.  However, because of its sheer size and the amount of content presented, it may prove to be a little overwhelming to complete beginners.  It definitely isn’t a beginners primer and quick intro to MODX. I think those who benefit from it the most will be people who have at least a little familiarity with the MODX CMS either from the official docs, from tutorials, or from just dabbling around.  However, even if you’re a complete beginner who is serious about MODX, I definitely recommend buying this book and having it handy for when you’ve got the lay of the land and are ready to really dive in.

For those who know MODX: I believe this book will make an excellent reference, and will help fill some of those knowledge gaps that you may have about different parts of how MODX works, particularly chapters 7 and 8 which dig deeper into code.

Now that you know that I strongly recommend this book, let me say what I didn’t like about it :)

Things that could be improved

Scope too wide? While I appreciate the scope of material covered in this book, I feel that it may have been a tad too ambitious in trying to cover everything about MODX.  It may have been beneficial to perhaps divide this guide into two parts, one for the site builders, and the other for the developers.  As it stands, this book can be a little overwhelming if you’re just coming into MODX as a beginners and want to just get the lay of the land, since it attempts to cover everything in one fell swoop.  However, take my word for it, it’s definitely worth the time to dive in and find the information you need.

Lack of graphic content: I’m partly a visual learner, so I like screenshots and snapshots, flowcharts, and images.  Perhaps the print copy will have some, but the pre-release copy I have doesn’t have much in the way of images. It’s mostly all text.  Images are great for breaking up text and for aiding in understanding the written material. Flow charts and tables are also great as a quick reference, and screenshots help you to relate where stuff is on the web page that you’re looking at as compared to what the text is telling you.  Given the amount of content the author chose to cover, adding images would probably have made the book considerably larger, and perhaps this is where two separate parts would have come in handy.

Overall?

  • If you’re serious about working with MODX in more than a casual way,  buy this book
    .
  • If it seems a bit overwhelming at first, be patient, and work through the chapters that cover what you need, and then move out from there to explore the other chapters and build your knowledge.

I definitely highly recommend MODX: The Official Guide
for anyone who is serious about delving into MODX.

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18 Comments so far ↓

  • FickleLife

    Great review, just the book I need to get my head around revos new fine grain security model. Purchased.

  • ironchip

    will this be a hard copy, or electronic file?

  • ironchip

    Ok, i see it’s hard copy, but doesn’t matter either way. Purchased :)

  • alyainec

    Is this possible to ship here in the philppines? How much it cost for the shipping?

    • mary

      It will be shipped everywhere as far as I can tell, but I don’t know how much shipping is, I think you have to go and check the pre-order page for more details.

  • alyainec

    Is this possible to ship here in the philippines? How much it cost for the shipping?

  • Ian

    Mary, great review. I set aside time to read this when I was caught up. Now the book is ordered.

  • Max

    Nice review! I will most definitely be getting a copy.

    Reading the chapter list makes me wonder about it possibly being too “geek focussed”? By that I mean it presents a list of all the things that MODx can do with all the building blocks used in the system. I think most new users come to a project with a simple mission statement: “I need my site to do XYZ.” Effective presentation should then guide you through the steps to achieve that. For example: you want to build a site that presents articles with two or three different navigation areas plus post/article aggregation and a lot of image galleries. How do you do this? What is the roadmap to get it all done? I like “you need that, then do this” style of presentation. Mary, your own tutorials meet this style of learning very well.

    One of my oft criticisms of MODx documentation is that all the building blocks are presented as a rather dry laundry list with all the parameters that are present in the coded building blocks. I prefer a “how do I meet a project goal” approach. What are the steps to building a news site? A blog? A portfolio gallery? An e-commerce site?

    Is there any chapter that covers images and presenting photo galleries in this book? One of my frustrations with Revolution is the lack of a well presented and explained gallery system. The Revo Gallery snippet is confusing, convoluted and with little direct how-to guides as far as I can tell. Evolution’s MaxiGallery is still a much cleaner/better option in my book. Image presentation is the main reason I continue with Evolution.

    The previous Packet MODx book was sort of hit and miss in my opinion. It (the book) is now serious out of date as well. I know Bob will do a much more thorough job of presenting all things MODx. Bob has been one of the main MODx “communicators” for years now. Can’t wait to get a copy…

    • mary

      Hi Max
      IMHO the book is still a bit more geek focused than I would like, not entirely beginner material. There’s unfortunately no chapter that covers image galleries. There’s a chapter on the most used components but it covers things like Wayfinder, EZFaq, getResources, SPForm, Breadcrumbs, and FormIt. It will be interesting to me to see what the rest of the books audience makes of it. As I said, I think it may have tried to cover too much in one volume, but this is just my opinion. Definitely worth buying though. Looking forward to your thoughts when you get your copy

      thanks Max

      mary

      • Max

        Bob’s efforts and generosity with the MODx project has been simply amazing.

        This book is almost 800 pages. I think at one time it was over 1500 pages! Its current length of 772 pages is still large though. Hopefully it is well indexed. This way readers can jump to sections on issues they are struggling with. How well it reads from cover to cover remains to be seen. The lack of images and diagrams is a concern though. I will be getting one for sure.

        I recently had a long phone conversation with Jay Gilmore who is one of the main players on the MODx team. The whole concept of learning and documentation came up.

        I was thinking about this the other day: what would I like to have added to the MODx-dot-com site that would promote learning and understanding? How about this: have ten MODx site developers present their favorite site and then deconstruct it all down into the various building blocks. Show the design template structure, snippets used, snippet calls, TV’s and custom PHP code that make it all work. Most feature rich pages use a combination of all these elements. Have different people explain “I needed this so I chose that…” might be a visual way of highlighting how best to get these kinds of projects done. I bet readers would love to see how a full featured blog, gallery system, article aggregation, real estate site listing site, TV rich system, expanded form system, multiple member user, etc, etc, functions under the hood. This would take the MODx “showcase” feature to the next level in my opinion.

    • Alex

      Hi Max,

      Just wondering what issues you’re having with Gallery for Revo? I’ve been using it for the last week or so and have found it fantastic, especially with the new multi-upload tool. It’s fully templateable, so I’m wondering why MaxiGallery for Evo is better?

      • Max

        Alex,

        My mission for the day is to give the Gallery snippet in Revo another go. I have not tried it in some time. My past experiments were littered with failure and frustration though. There seems to be a lot of geeky steps to get the thing running.

        I have had good success with MaxiGallery and EvoGallery in Evolution. Most of the sites I build I hand off to clients etc. The MaxiGallery system is nice for site owners: following that Manage Photographs button from the front end page(s) is clean and easy.

  • Robert Tobys

    Thanks for the review! I was waiting for a review before purchasing.

  • Micke Svensson

    I been thinking about this book for a while .. but decided to buy after reading this … and also a big thank you for this great webpage,

  • jadd

    Hi.
    There is an ebook version somewhere?
    Thanks.
    Roberto.

  • Deano

    Hello

    I’m interested in getting this book.

    Is it still relevant for the latest version of ModX(2.2.6)?

    Or would it be out of date?

    Thanks

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