This is not a book, it is a kit. What's the difference? A book is a book with a CD containing lots of software on it at£20. (See my review of Web Programming Unleashed .) A kit is a box containing a book (with CD containing software) and a second CD containing lots of trial versions of software and costing just short of£80. Now, to be fair, the kit does contain 2 more books in PDF format on the CD, but so do most other books in the Unleashed range.
The paper book in the kit is in the usual Unleashed format. That is to say the same size, weight and density as half a gold painted breeze block. The title is HTML&CGI Unleashed .
Ignoring the packaging and ancillaries the paper book is up to the usual Unleashed standard, which is very good. The book is largely text with a little source code. The publishers have realised that there is no point in wasting paper when the source is on the CD.
Despite the title (HTML&CGI) the sections run through general web design and planing for 200 pages before getting on to HTML at all. There are 'only' 160 pages on ordinary HTML programming, before the rest of the book dealing with gateway programming (protecting your own web site and network) and some case studies. Whilst all the whiz bang stuff is covered this is a more conservative text that will be useful for companies who need a web presence.
The text covers many non-programming points. When discussing how to change founts it also covers the use (and more often misuse) of founts. This will be very useful for those doing formal web sites. They have taken their own advice and the pages are easy on the eye.
I found it was possible to dip into the book for specific topics and discovered that it talks about Mosaic and other older browsers. It does not assume that all the audience of your web site will be using the latest browser with all the bells and (stereo) whistles.
The CDs contain a good selection of Win95 and Win3.1 tools. However these are largely the usual freebies or the 'lite' and trial versions and not necessarily the latest ones at that. (The Hot Metal Light is V2, the current 'give away' has been V3 for some time.) The CD inside the back cover of the book actually contains the better set of goodies, in comparison to the additional CD, to my mind. The two electronic books are Teach yourself Java in 21 days and Teach yourself CGI programming with Perl in 21 days .
The Professional Web Development Kit is not worth the£77. The HTML&CGI book would be OK on its own, though with a lower price tag.