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Keywords: VB .Net, ADO, web forms, XML

Title: Professional VB.NET

Author: Fred Barwell et al

Publisher: Wrox Press

ISBN: 1861004974

Media: Book

Level: Introductory .Net, intermediate.

Verdict: Good, solid material

Featuring a cast of thousands, (well, seventeen actually, with fourteen of their mugshots plastered on the cover), this is another hefty book in the successful Programmer to Programmer series from Wrox Press. In the same way that software by committee doesn't always work, books by committee are not also nor always a good idea. Some of the best software development books bear the distinctive voice of a single author. Francesco Balena's Programming Visual Basic 6.0, Bruce Eckel's Thinking In Java and Ivor Horton's Beginning Java 2 all exemplify the unified, single author approach and they are good solid books. The dangers of too many authors spoiling the broth are obvious: different approaches, erratic writing style, repetition and redundancy. However this book manages to avoid these failings to a great extent, and while there is a degree of repetition occasionally, it's forgivable in a book of 940 pages.

As the title makes clear this is a book aimed squarely at the professional VB programmer, and this means it's largely aimed at those who are making the switch from VB 6.0 to VB.NET, rather than those who are new to programming altogether. Strictly speaking it is possible to read this book without knowing much VB 6.0, but much of the introductory material at least depends on some knowledge of it, though an understanding of Java will help those who are lacking in the requisite VB background. It is assumed, however, that the reader is familiar with software development and is unlikely to be fazed by discussion of function calls, stacks, error handling and so on.

The book opens with a very solid chapter on the problems that Microsoft are trying to tackle with .NET. This is includes discussion of the problems with Visual Basic, both as a language and as a development environment. Two of the authors, Billy Hollis and Rockford Lhotka tackled this topic in VB.NET Programming with the Public Beta, and the handling of the material is of a similarly high quality here.

Other introductory chapters include an overview of the new features in VB.NET, a first look at a VB.NET program, a run down on the Visual Studio.NET IDE and an extensive look at the Common Language Runtime, which is the heart of .NET software development for all supported programming languages. From then on the book focuses on more specific topics, starting with variables and types through to error handling, object syntax, inheritance, threading and so on. Major topics include data access through ADO.NET, using XML, web forms, windows services, web services, security and deployment. An all too brief appendix discusses the Visual Basic Compatibility Library, which exists to help in the conversion of what is now legacy code to the new platform, an area which will grow in importance in the next few years.

While the topics are handled well, it needs to be borne in mind that this is still a general introductory text - albeit a very good one. Major areas, such as ADO.NET, cannot be adequately covered in a single 40-page chapter, even if that chapter provides a good introduction and is enough to get a programmer working.

All in all this makes for a good solid grounding in VB.NET, and it certainly lives up to the high standards set by the other books in Wrox's P2P series.

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