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Keywords: Visual Basic, .NET 2.0
Title: Visual Basic 2005: A Developer's Notebook
Author: Matthew MacDonald
Verdict: It's a great taster for the next generation of VB, and as such gets the TechBookReport seal of approval
Matthew MacDonald's 'Visual Basic 2005: A Developer's Notebook' is a fast-paced and well-targeted overview of some of the key features in the next major release of VB, .NET and Visual Studio. It's a fast read that gets straight to the point, focussing on the areas most likely to be useful to the experienced VB.NET coder. As with the other books in the series, this is a book very much in the style of a set of working notes rather than a finished text-book or in-depth tutorial.
The opening chapter looks at improvements to Visual Studio. The chief amongst these is the return of the 'code, debug and continue' functionality that VB6 programmers have missed since moving to .NET. Now we can change code during a debug session and carry on, making for a much faster development and test cycle. Other new features include some additional refactoring support, support for XML documentation from code, improved inspection of objects during debugging etc.
The second chapter looks at changes to the language. This includes the introduction of generics, a new My namespace, operator overloading for custom objects, short circuit evaluation of logical expressions, better loop handling and more. The effect of these changes is to make VB.NET feel much more like a 'proper' grown-up object oriented language. There are also some downsides, and the author makes a point of showing how the My namespace can make mixed language development tricky.
Windows applications and web applications each get a chapter. While there are many changes and improvements in both these areas, the stand-out change for this reader at least is the addition of a new grid object (DataGridView). At last Microsoft have given VB.NET programmers a grid control that isn't brain-dead. That's not to say that this is the only substantial change, MacDonald makes sure that there's plenty of coverage of other changes, such as improved communication between forms, template pages for web apps and more.
Chapter five looks at files, databases and XML. The great news on the files front is that .NET 2.0 will include something akin to the FileSystemObject that VB6.0 programmers have come to know and love. Again, this is good news and helps to plug some of the gaps that existed in the first generation of VB.NET. Database topics that are covered include an example of how to write database-agnostic code. This makes it relatively straightforward to write code that can be migrated from one database to another.
The final chapter covers changes in .NET 2.0 Platform Services. This includes the addition of FTP functionality, logging, improved networking and more.
This review hasn't listed every feature that MacDonald manages to look at, and to his credit the book does a great job of highlighting key changes and improvements. It's a great taster for the next generation of VB, and as such gets the TechBookReport seal of approval.