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Keywords: VB.NET, ASP.NET, Visual Basic

Title: VB .NET Primer Plus

Author: Jack Purdum

Publisher: SAMS Publishing

ISBN: 0672324857

Media: Book

Level: Introductory

Verdict: Very highly recommended

A good computer book shouldn't read like a computer manual. OK, we can afford to skimp on plot and characterisation, but readability, concision and tone are definite requirements. Not only that, they are also important if the author wants to maximise communication with the reader. Jack Purdum scores highly in all areas, and his VB .NET Primer Plus is a highly enjoyable and readable introduction to VB .NET for the new programmer.

One of the faults of many of the books aimed at the beginning programmer is to skimp on the hard work. The 'gee whizz - look what I can do' school of writing does a disservice to readers by focussing on gimmicks and hiding the importance of getting across key ideas. This book does not of that. Not only does Purdum emphasize, repeatedly, the importance of design, he also puts in the effort to differentiate between a variable's lvalue and rvalue, in other words the difference between a pointer to a variable and the value it contains. This means, for example, that the discussion of passing by value and passing by reference makes a whole lot of sense because the underlying concepts have already been introduced.

A similar approach is used to discuss object orientation, and the discussion of classes, attributes and methods is very clear. The use of UML class diagrams helps, and again it emphasises the importance of design.

While the text is admirably clear, the same cannot be said of VB .NET. There is no getting round the fact that the language feels like it's been cobbled together rather than properly designed. String handling is a perfect example: VB .NET includes both a String class and the set of legacy functions such as Left(), Right() etc. In some respects it would have made more sense for the book to deprecate the older functions and concentrate on the class methods, but that would have simply skirted the fact that the language supports both.

The example code is generally short and to the point. It is used to illustrate the points being made, and the coding style is a good template for new programmers to emulate.

A wide range of topics are covered, which inevitably includes both graphics programming, databases using ADO.NET and web programming using ASP.NET. These are all briefly touched on, which is as it should be in an introductory text. The book develops quite nicely, with core programming and language concepts placed well before graphics and the like.

This is the second in the Primer Plus series that we have seen at TechBookReport and the standard of both books has been very high. It certainly suggests that this is a series worth keeping an eye on.

In all this is a fine example of a book aimed at the beginning programmer. If you're starting out with VB .NET then this is one that comes highly recommended.

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