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Head First Servlets & JSP by Kathy Sierra, Bert Bates, Bryan Basham
<pre>Author/s : Kathy Sierra, Bert Bates, Bryan Basham
Publisher : O'Reilly
Category : Servlets, JSP and Tag Libraries
Review by : Marc Peabody
Rating : 10 horseshoes
Over at the JavaRanch Saloon's Web Component Certification (SCWCD) forum, Head First Servlets & JSP dominates as the book of choice. It appeals to both those with and those without Java EE experience and I'm constantly amazed at how quickly everyone learns using this book. The SCWCD testimonies that say "I passed!" are most often appended with "Thank you, Head First, for such a wonderful book!"

A couple points about what to expect:
* This is no crammer's book. You will get more than book smarts -- you will understand the significance of the questions and objectives to real world Java enterprise programming.
* Nor is this book a flowery tutorial. This is hardcore programming wisdom. It would take you at least two years of real-world, painful, trial-and-error experience to gain the equivalent knowledge on your own. That's just stupid.

I passed the SCWCD exam years ago (before Head First Servlets & JSP existed) but now I am going to upgrade my certification to the latest version. I have never been so confident for an exam before. I am soooo ready!

More info at Amazon.com
More info at Amazon.co.uk
[ February 21, 2006: Message edited by: Book Review Team ]

Thanks Marc, we're really grateful for such kind words!

I do agree with the comments. Personally, i have been a great fan of Katty and Bates. These guys are real genius when it come to teaching high tech subject like programming not to mention Java. I had my first experience in Java in 2000, deep inside me, i know it was going to be a killer technology, more so to make my situation worse, i live in the part of world where programming was just restricted to class room lecture, even worse, the lecturers had little or no knowledge of modern programming concept.
But today, though i haven never worked in any programming related firm or job, i can proudly raise my head above even the guys in the IT industry. All my certification and achievement as a java hobbiest, i owe it to katty and Bates. From SCJP Study Guide 1.4 to Head First Series (Servlet and JSP,EJB,Java 2nd Edition are all in my closset).And i bet, i am ready to spend my last cash on any book by these guy(No Lady in the Ranch).
I might sound so passionate, but that just the way i think many of us
at the ranch, think and feel. On a final note, this is my philosophy of Head First Series.

Ever bought a Car without a manual ? Just think of what will happen when you start driving on it. So get the Java manual and i bet you, even if you ever crash, you will always find a soft landing in Head First Series

Good jobs guys all hail ya. am out
Good book that does what it says--it gets you ready to pass the exam. There isn't much else to it and other than taking the mock exam and reviewing my mistakes, I don't think I will use it again.

Since I don't have a lot of experience with Java just yet, I wished the book would have forced you to write a bit and maybe do some trial and error. Possibly a small beerApp that would use the concepts mentioned in the chapters. There is a lot of good info there, but I think that actually doing something with it will really make it sink in. The first book had a lot of exercises that you could work through if you wanted to, but there isn't much in this book.

I suggest having a project of your own as you go along with the book. Something flexible where you can try out the ideas presented and see how they really work.

If you are comfortable with Java, JSP and servlets but want to get ready for the exam in minimal time, this book is for you. If you are like me and need a bit of practice, I would read this book, but pick up something else to give you some examples of JSP/Servlets in action.

I am reading The JSP Book from O`Reilly and working on an educational project of my own. HF: S&J is really helping me to understand the JSP book a lot better the second time through. (I tried the JSP Book before HF: S&J, but gave up about half way)

So, get this book, but get something else if you don't already have a good grasp of Java/JSP/Servlets. I liked the first HF:J book more, but this one is certainly worth the cash. (8 out of 10)

[ March 19, 2006: Message edited by: Will Fleming ]
[ March 19, 2006: Message edited by: Will Fleming ]
I need to learn servlet and jsp, just enough to grasp basic. I have read lots of reviews about this book and most of them recommended to buy this book either you are a beginner or an intermediate java programmer.

So, the thing is, asI'm still not have too much clue about this servlet and jsp, is this book good for a beginner like me? I just want to make sure about this before I buy this book.
Head First Servlets and JSP is a great book .. simple very easy to understand ..even for beginners... you just need to know a bit of Java for that ...

I really thank the authors for writting such a great book ..

Hi Every One,

Head First Servlets & JSP by Kathy Sierra, Bert Bates, Bryan Basham is a book which represent the Java in 100 % FUN and 0% Theoretical. You never believe how they walk throw you in the book. You never think that you are reading a Technical Book, as you feel you watching some Movie that is fun, Exciting and Horror (Some Times). When I started reading Head First Java that is my first book in Head first series, I really enjoyed much. Then with in two days i bought Head First Servlets & JSP by Kathy Sierra, Bert Bates, Bryan Basham and Head First EJB. They represented the book more in image not in text. You can't see a 5 continuous Text Line in that book. They believe that image has more power than text, that�s really TRUE. There is always worth to read all the Head First Series Books, this is one among them. Try it.There is Ulimited Fun Waiting For You
"It's fast,irreverent, fun, and engeging, Be careful >>> You might actually learn something"
I really like the book, and I am learning a lot, but after the second practice test I feel like I am missing something. Several of the questions referenced the Servlet spec, but I don't think the book ever mentioned reading the spec. If these are relevant questions, shouldn't I be pointed towards the answers in the chapter? Am I missing something?
I would agree strongly with the above. This book has helped teach new concepts in a very gentle and fun way, and I wouldn't have been without it.

My main criticism would be the questions at the end of the chapter.
For example, I have recently finished Chapter 10 - Custom Tag Development, and eagerly moved on to the questions to see how much I had retained...
Q2 talks of jsp:invoke, but I cannot find this in the chapter?
Q3 doesn't have a valid answer (in errata)
Q7 talks of Dynamic Attributes - but these weren't in the chapter?
Q8 answer contains an error (in errata)
Q9 answer contains an error (in errata)
Q13 contains an error (in errata)
Q17 contains a clarification (in errata)

Chapter10 is HUGE so I could easily have missed the bits needed for Q2 and Q7, and would appreciate anyone who can point them out in chapter10 for me?
And chapter10 isn't unique - most contain new things not in the chapters.

Just wanted to make the point that when studying, coming across things you have never heard of and scoring low in end of chapter tests can have really adverse effects on your confidence.
Is the idea that I should have read the spec so would know what these things not covered are? In which case, doesn't this defeat the idea of the study guide?

Just to reiterate - I have honestly found the book to be excellent and ideal for introduction to concepts - I just have this minor niggle ;-)

Hope that helps,


[ March 19, 2007: Message edited by: Mark Garland ]

[ March 19, 2007: Message edited by: Mark Garland ]

[ March 19, 2007: Message edited by: Mark Garland ]
[ March 19, 2007: Message edited by: Mark Garland ]
If you want to start this is the book
Finished reading the text ... it is good. I loved the teaching style and exercises.

However, I found that as the textbook moved into JSP and EL topics it was not as clear as earlier chapters, and so a lot more trial and error and reading offical specs and docs and google searches. I did near perfect on the exams in the first half or so, the 2nd half marks were dropping to about 85 - 90%

I felt like it was rushed towards the end, or perhaps I was just running out of steam.

I also felt there were a lot of technical errors, but the errata covered them. Still ... several instances were I was frustrated and finally figured that the text could not be correct, leading to refer to errata.

hmm .. my review probably sounds more negative than positive, but overall very happy with the text, looking forward to the next edition.
I'm a big fan of the Head First series. Whenever a newer version of Head First comes, I'm going to buy it immediately without any hesitation.
I feel honor to say three Head First series books, I am having now.


About to complete HFSJ and found it really worthy.

Head First Series has give a new attraction to the book stores.
Certification aspirants are very much fascinated toward it.

Heartedly Thanks to the originators of HF concepts.
[ June 03, 2007: Message edited by: Chandra Bhatt ]
head fist ejb
is there a title that describes ejb3.0
Head First books are great. Keep the great work going and thanks BERT AND KATHY for those wonderful books.

SCJP 1.5
Hi everybody,

I have already prepared for the SCWCD CX-310-081 exam and I have a few questions:

1. Which book is better for preparing to exam?
A book from O'Reilly Media: Head First Servlets and JSP Passing the Sun Certified Web Component Developer Exam by Bryan Basham, Kathy Sierra, Bert Bates or from Manning Publications: SCWCD Exam Study Kit 2nd Edition by Hanumant Deshmukh, Jignesh Malavia, and Matthew Scarpino?

2. Is the book from O'Reilly Media: Head First Servlets and JSP is enough to prepare for and passing to the exam and give me the correct and enough knowledge, which I need for the exam?

3. I want to ask if there is anybody, who was recently passed at the exam CX-310-081, and prepared only/mainly from Manning Publication's SCWCD Exam Study Kit 2nd Edition (and also started study as a rookie like me) - even if there is a lot of errors?

So finally, which book is better to prepare and pass the exam, and also as a future reference after passing the exam?

I will appreciate any response so please share me your positive (or negative) experiences from preparing to exam with this book and/or the exam.
Thank you very much.

Best regards,

[ January 30, 2008: Message edited by: Artur Kovac ]
The book ensures that an interested reader passes SCWCD.
But which one: Head First Servlets and JSP or the book from Manning? I assume you mean HFSJ, am I right?
Head First Servlets & JSP is much better than the manning book.
Thanks for the reply. Is that means that the HFSJ book is enough for preparing and for passing the exam (and also as a future reference material)?
<pre>Author/s : Bryan Basham, Kathy Sierra, Bert Bates
Publisher : O'Reilly
Category : Servlets, JSP and Tag Libraries Java Certification
Review by : Ulf Dittmer
Rating : 8 horseshoes
The second edition of this classic book about the Java Servlet and JSP API continues the tradition of other Head First titles that liven up the text with pictures, hand-scribbled notes, questions&answers and other devices to engage the reader's brain. Never having read a Head First book before, this reviewer was pleasantly surprised by how well this works. Even though the book is much thicker than I consider healthy for a tech book (over 800 pages), it's an easy read thanks to the lively prose and varied content elements.

The book is billed as a preparation aid for the SCWCD exam, but it also serves as a general introduction to Servlets and JSP. I found it easy to read individual chapters (e.g. on the Expression Language, servlet filters or custom tags) by themselves to refresh knowledge on particular topics. It's made clear which exam objectives are covered in each chapter, and there are exam-style questions and answers that go with the text, plus a brand-new mock exam with as many questions as the actual exam has.

I recommend this book as a tutorial -- not as a reference -- to anyone needing to come up to speed with servlets/JSP, or in need of learning aspects of it he hasn't used before. (Disclaimer: The author of this review was one of the tech reviewers of the book.)

More info at Amazon.com
More info at Amazon.co.uk
[ May 13, 2008: Message edited by: Book Review Team ]
I was wondering why the second edition got fewer horseshoes than the first edition. Then I noticed that the ratings were done by different reviewers.

I definitely agree with Ulf regarding HF being more the tutorial book than a reference book.

Still, you gotta love those books! They are really reader friendly.
[ May 15, 2008: Message edited by: Paul Michael ]

I was wondering why the second edition got fewer horseshoes than the first edition. Then I noticed that the ratings were done by different reviewers.

I hadn't seen Marc's review when I posted mine, but he seems to put more emphasis on the exam preparation, while I primarily look at it as a tutorial for servlets/JSP. Not having taken (or prepared for) the exam, this might be the greatest SCWCD exam prep book there ever was, and I'd never know it.
I think I'm going to have to get this book after reading the reviews
I'm preparing SCWCD exam and I think that this book is very helpful.
I prepared SCJP exam with SCJP Study Guide by Kathy Sierra and Bert Bates and I passed with 93%.
I think that the concepts are very well explained: I'm spanish and I can tell you that is very difficult to study tough concepts in a foreign language.

Really good job !
When I got this book, I did not know anything about JSP/Servlet, after 3 months I was Sun Certified Web Component Developer

Without this book it was really hard to me to learn JSP/Servlet and pass the exam.
Is this book "Head First Servlets & JSP" first edition good for the SCWCD 1.5 exam?

The exam objectives haven't changed from 1.4 to 1.5, so the first edition will work fine.
Just a simple Question.

I am interested to purhcae Head First Servlets & JSP but one of my friend told me that there will be a new version with in few month. May i know is it true, if yes then i should wait to purhcase lates version. Right now i am reading from Library copy and I would like to keep my own copy, its wonderful book. Thanks Kathy Sierra and all others. Keep it up.
We updated the book a little more than a year ago, and the exam hasn't changed since then. We have no plans to update the book any time soon.


I was trying out the example beerStruts app downloaded from the book site at
But I'm getting errors like
message Servlet FrontController is not available

description The requested resource (Servlet FrontController is not available) is not available.
and in my logs
15-Feb-2009 11:38:16 AM org.apache.catalina.core.ApplicationContext log
INFO: Marking servlet FrontController as unavailable
15-Feb-2009 11:38:16 AM org.apache.catalina.core.StandardContext loadOnStartup
SEVERE: Servlet /beerStruts threw load() exception
java.lang.ClassNotFoundException: org.apache.commons.collections.FastHashMap

I am using tomcat 6 (latest), java 6, and struts 1.1

Any ideas way?
The struts.jar manifest file has references to :
Class-Path: commons-beanutils.jar commons-collections.jar commons-dig
ester.jar commons-logging.jar commons-validator.jar jakarta-oro.jar s

do i need to get these jar files separately?
Hey Cal,

For technical discussions like the one you're bringing up you should post this question in either the SCWCD forum or the Servlets forum. This forum is really just about reviewing books.

Welcome to the ranch!

Is there is a forum where we could get support if we get stuck in the the Head First Servlets and JSPs? I am an entry level programmer and feel I could benefit from a support group for this book.

If the question is focused on the book, the Bunkhouse Porch is the place to post. If it's more general servlet or JSP questions, then the Servlet or JSP forums are most appropriate.
I have the HF Servelets and JSP -Firstedition
To do SCWCD ,do i need to buy 2nd editon?

Hi Jones,

We added just a few things to the new version:

- we fixed some technical errors
- add wrote a new batch of questions
- we added a very view new topics - most notably we added a section on dynamic attributes. You can find that same discussion here at the ranch - also written by Bryan.

So, long story short, if you're really rich go ahead and buy the new version - if you're not rich, the old version plus Bryan's write-up will be fine.


Thanks Bert for the reply.
Being out of java world for few months.
Now I am back
hi, actually i hv just passed my SCJP 1.5 with 86% and planning to start the preparation for the advanced version but m a bit confused among the various categories there. I asked some people and they suggest me SCWCD n m also thinking for that bt i dnt knw the book i should use. somebody suggest me head first servelets and jsp n i also found it good but i dnt have any previous knowledge of JSP and SERVELETS , so can i continue with that or should i use some other book first ? kindly guide me in the right direction.......
and also suggest me the version (SCWCD 1.4 or 5) i should choose along with the difference between those.....
Hi All,
I found a small misprint in the “Head First Servlet and JSP” . Details are as follows:-
Book Name : Head First Servlet and JSP
Edition : Seventeenth Indian Reprint April 2007
ISBN : 10 : 81-7366-403-x
ISBN : 13 : 987-81-7366-403-8

Chapter : High Level Architecture
Page No. : 58

Section : Bullet Points

“A typical servlet is a class that extends HttpServletRequest and overrides one or more service methods that corresponds to HTTP methods invoked by the browser (doGet(), doPost(), etc.)”

Correct paragraph may be like:-

“A typical servlet is a class that extends HttpServlet and overrides one or more methods that corresponds to HTTP methods invoked by the browser (doGet(), doPost(), etc.)”

Necessary correction may be already done.
Wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more ... https://richsoil.com/cards

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