Book Review: jQuery UI in Action by TJ VanToll

JavaScript Reviews This post may contain affiliate links. If you buy something we get a small commission at no extra charge to you. (read more)

Mastering jQuery is a lengthy task. But delving into the related jQuery libraries can be even more intimidating.

I love jQuery UI because it makes dynamic features easy to implement and style without much excess code. I’m constantly looking for books that focus on practical applications and I’ve finally struck gold with this one.

The best way to learn jQuery UI for real-world projects is from jQuery UI in Action. The book teaches everything you need and even stuff you never knew existed.

It’s worth mentioning that this book’s author TJ VanToll is a core member of the jQuery UI team. This is a person qualified to teach the subject and he definitely knows how to teach it.

Whether you want to learn jQuery UI for practice projects or launching SPAs, TJ walks you through every step of the way bringing anyone from a complete novice to a jQuery UI extraordinaire.

Book Contents

I was surprised that this book hit 384 pages long. I wouldn’t have expected a jQuery UI guide to run this long, but it’s actually packed with great info from start to finish.

Like most Manning books you get three distinct sections containing 12 chapters in total.

Part 1: Meet jQuery UI

  1. Introducing jQuery UI
  2. Enhancing UIs with widgets

Part 2: jQuery UI Core

  1. Building complex web forms with jQuery UI
  2. Enhancing interfaces with layout and utility widgets
  3. Adding interaction to your interfaces
  4. Creating rich animations with effects
  5. Theming and styling applications with jQuery UI

Part 3: Customization and Advanced Usage

  1. Using the widget factory to build stateful plugins
  2. Extending widgets with the widget factory
  3. Preparing your application for production
  4. Building a flight-search application
  5. Under the hood of jQuery UI

In the early chapters you’ll learn the fundamentals of implementing jQuery UI and how it ticks. I was much more excited getting into the second part covering user interactions and dynamic layouts.

This book can actually work as a guide to SPA development for single page webdev aficionados who want to add jQuery UI into the stack.

The author TJ VanToll covers all the major jQuery UI components and how they work in great detail. You learn practical applications through mini-tutorials and live code snippets.

jquery ui homepage

The third section gets into detail about widget customization and finalizing an app for live production. Again this is undeniably the most detailed resource on the market for learning jQuery UI. The online documentation does not come close to how much you’ll learn from this book.

Single page app development is a tricky beast layered on top of the jQuery UI cake. However TJ approaches this subject from a distance using jQuery UI as the frame of reference. And in this manner he does an exquisite job introducing newcomers to the components, features, and workflows of jQuery UI for dynamic web development.

You should walk through each demo and write the code yourself to see how(and why) it works. You can then check your code or customize TJ’s code from the jQuery UI in Action GitHub repo containing every completed code snippet from the book.

jquery ui book github

I’ve used the jQuery UI library before but never to this level. VanToll knows his stuff and I would argue this book is the ultimate starting point for anyone interested in jQuery UI development.

Who Is This For?

Anyone who already knows JavaScript and some jQuery will be ready to read jQuery UI in Action.

I don’t think it’s impossible for someone with less jQuery knowledge to pick up this book. However it will require a lot of back-and-forth checking the documentation and trying to learn on the fly.

TJ does an excellent job holding your hand throughout every section. You do not need any prior knowledge of jQuery UI. This is definitely a beginner’s book.

However it’s also an intermediate-level book and even lightly touches into more advanced topics.

This book is perfect for a few kinds of people:

  • jQuery developers with no knowledge of jQuery UI
  • jQ UI devs who only know a little but want to expand further
  • JS devs who want to use jQuery UI for their single-page webapps

And seriously you couldn’t ask for a better teacher than one of the primary contributors to jQuery UI. TJ’s style of writing is very clear so it appeals to both beginners and intermediate devs alike.

Pros & Cons

I went into this book with a little working knowledge of jQuery UI. The content blew me away and really made me realize I was only at the beginning stages of working with this library.

The author knows his way around this library and it shows in every chapter. My quick thoughts on the book:


  • Concepts are illustrated beautifully with precise detail
  • Real-world examples are taught and can be applied with ease
  • The customization section will help novices become jQuery UI professionals


  • Not as much coverage on mobile development

TJ knows his way around jQuery UI having worked on the core for many years. His style of writing breaks down the framework into building blocks that can be styled and plugged into any website. This may be a rudimentary way of looking at jQuery UI, but it’s also fairly accurate.

If you’re completely new to jQuery this may be a tricky book to pick up. Actually I’d recommend learning most of the jQuery features first before reading this title.

However I do believe it’s possible to learn as you go by studying both jQuery and jQuery UI at the same time.

I do wish there was more on jQuery UI used in mobile responsive design for smartphones. There is a jQuery Mobile library, however that’s for mobile webapps and not for single page webapps.

TJ does cover a bit about mobile development so don’t think the subject was completely omitted. But I would’ve liked a more in-depth look into that topic.

Honestly that’s the most I have to complain about and it’s really just a minor nitpick. This book is phenomenal and whether you’re a complete beginner or a fairly advanced developer you’re bound to learn something from this book.

Also if you buy a copy of the book you get a free voucher to download the digital version for Kindle, ePub, or PDF. It’s a sweet deal and it’s just another reason I’d heavily recommend this book for anyone interested in learning jQuery UI.

Final Summary

I’m thrilled with this book and I have to say jQuery UI in Action should be considered the pinnacle of frontend web development books. The simple yet informative writing style flows well with TJ’s deep knowledge of the library.

This book covers jQuery UI in excruciating detail. So much so that you cannot complete this book and still consider yourself a novice. TJ knows how to teach this library and he gets into a lot of common workflows that’ll be useful for advanced users too.

Whether you’re a complete beginner or just want to move a bit further with jQuery UI this book gets my highest recommendation. It’s also perfect for anyone interested in developing single-page applications with jQuery UI.

I really can’t bitch about anything here. Code samples work great, writing style is super clear, and the level of detail is unmatched by anything you’ll find online. Highly recommend this book.

Review Rating: 5/5


Alex is a fullstack developer with years of experience working in digital agencies and as a freelancer. He writes about educational resources and tools for programmers building the future of the web.