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Keywords: .NET, C#, Visual Basic 2005, CLR
Title: Understanding .NET
Author: David Chappell
Publisher: Addison Wesley
Verdict: An excellent introduction but not a programmer's tutorial
From the outside the .NET framework is a bit of a big, intimidating beastie. Come to think of it, it's pretty big and intimidating from the inside too… For developers coming to it for the first time, particularly those coming from a VB6/VBA background, there's a lot to get hold of before things begin to make sense. While there are plenty of high-level introductions - quick over-views more than anything else - those looking for some depth might be wondering where to look. David Chappell's 'Understanding .NET' is one likely place. But does it stack up?
Updated for version 2.0 of the .NET framework, the book is aimed at those developers, managers and other software professionals who want to gain an in-depth understanding of the framework and how to develop for it. This means that while there's coverage of the C#, Visual Basic 2005 and C++ languages, as well as particular technologies like ASP.NET and ADO.NET, this is not a developer tutorial. Readers looking for language tutorials would be better served looking at books like Programming C# or Visual Basic 2005: A Developer's Notebook.
However, with that proviso aside, the book does provide a lot of solid information. It begins with a solid introduction to the Framework, outlining the different components and how they fit together. Aside from introducing the basic architecture of .NET, it also looks at the place of the different programming languages and developer tools such as Visual Studio 2005 and Team Studio.
The chapters that follow this introduction look in much more detail, with specific chapters on the common language runtime, .NET languages, a survey of the most important class libraries, ASP.NET, ADO.NET and building distributed applications (web services, remoting etc). This is a fairly wide survey of the framework, and it does provide the reader with a thorough understanding of how it all fits together. More than that the author points out differences and similarities with other platforms, particularly Java and COM.
At times the writing is a bit on the dry side, but it's clear all the same.
The level of detail is about right for someone looking to understand the broader picture of the .NET platform. All of the major technologies are covered, and the place of the different architectural layers is firmly established. There's even coverage of the major class libraries that most developers are going to use once they get coding. However, it's still not a programmers tutorial, detailed as the content is, it's still probably not enough to get someone coding for real. For a technical manager, on the other hand, this book provides an excellent survey.