“Creating Concrete5 Themes” book review

April 11th, 2013 | Adam Johnson

Two weeks ago Packt contacted me about writing a review of Remo's new "Creating Concrete5 Themes" book. Now that I've read it, it's time to share some insights and answer questions for those who are thinking of purchasing the book. Who's it for? Should I buy it? Will I learn anything?

The quick and dirty:

Remo did a great job writing this book. It’s for people who are either interested in or have built a couple of themes for Concrete5 but want to learn more. If you fall into that category, it’s definitely worth dropping the $12 bucks for the eBook ($12 bucks is cheap!). I give it a 7/10.

Now, for the more in depth review…

Who’s this book for?

You’re gonna get the most out of this book if you’re solid with HTML & CSS. If you know or have dabbled with PHP, that’s also a huge help. Creating Concrete5 themes is already stupid easy (comparatively, at least), so you can’t get too lost if you decide to dive in. Basically, if you’re interested in Concrete5 and don’t know exactly where to start to begin learning about creating themes, this book will set you straight and keep you on the learning curve for a good while.

If you’re someone who already has a whole lot of Concrete5 experience (say, you’ve made more than 6-10 custom themes or are a community leader or whatnot), this book probably has a lot of the information you already know. You’d be better suited to check out Remo’s deceptively titled first book, the Concrete5 Beginners Guide (2nd edition appears to be coming out in May of 2013, woot woot!). The “beginners” guide is a broader overview of Concrete5 and delves into a whole lot more detail on other awesome topics. A better title might be “The definitive guide to Concrete5” or anything without the word “beginner” in it.

Should I buy it?

Like I said before, if you’re learning how to theme with Concrete5, this book will set you straight and help you keep on learning. I’d say it would be best to combine this book with other online resources (like the legendary “Concrete-ize a theme in 8 minutes” tutorial). Online resources will get you started on the basics (as will this book). The book will get you moving beyond just what you see in basic tutorials (working with attributes, embedding blocks in templates, customizing markup output in blocks, the list goes on…).

Don’t get me wrong, chapter 3 of this book goes into creating a Concrete5 theme from scratch; however, I think you might understand that process better via a screencast or the like. The book is best served as a supplemental resource in this case.

Will I learn anything?

Yes, I can guarantee it. I learned stuff and I’ve been using Concrete5 for several years. Obviously, the less you know about Concrete5, the more you’ll learn. But, even if you’re a seasoned Concrete5 developer, you will learn something when turning pages in this text.

What did I learn? I learned that you can apply max-width: 100%; height: auto; to an img tag instead of having to override the image block’s controller to remove the height and width attributes in the HTML. I also learned that you have access to the page type handle and you can apply that as a body ID or class in your template.

Sweet, that’s a lot of good stuff. Any cons?

  • You can tell Remo is a developer. He definitely favors the technical stuff where people newer to PHP and CMS theme development might be confused about the more advanced topics. But then again, if you’re buying books on this subject, you probably want some juicy details.
  • There are some things that I feel could have been made into separate chapters or perhaps had been made clearer by segmenting them with “Pro Tip” or “Advanced Topic” or something along those lines. There’s “absolute basic stuff you need to know” versus “going further/advanced topics”.
  • The section about creating a responsive Concrete5 theme talks more about media queries and basic responsive principles than anything else. Don’t expect any hail marys or breakthrough moments about how to revolutionize responsive development with Concrete5.
  • I’m a designer. It’s not designed like this awesome HTML5 book (‘aye, please refrain from shooting me).

Overall, for $12 bucks, you can’t really go wrong—especially if you’re learning and looking to take Concrete5 themeing to the next level.

Overall Rating: 7/10

A huge shout out goes to Remo and friends for making these resources. Ya’ll are blazing the trails for printed publications about Concrete5. Mad props! A big shout out also goes to Packt for helping make it happen.

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