A First Look at ASP.NET v2.0 - The book

Over the Christmas holidays I finished reading A First Look at ASP.NET v2.0 by Alex Homer, Dave Sussman and Rob Howard.  I thought I would include my review:

A First Look at ASP.NET v2.0
Alex Homer, Dave Sussman, Rob Howard

A First Look is one of the first, if not the first, books on "Whidbey", the codename for Microsoft's new version of ASP.NET version 2.0. At the time of this writing, ASP.NET v2.0 "Whidbey" is in the Alpha stages and not even released into Beta, but already it has caused quite a stir in the ASP.NET development circles. The latest information I have heard is that Beta 1 will be out at the beginning of May 2004 and Beta 2 will be the first release that includes the "go-live" license so that anyone can host a website using Whidbey.

The first chapter of the book starts out with an introduction to "Whidbey" and briefly covers many of the impressive features, giving a strong "wow factor". The second chapter touches on Visual Studio "Whidbey" and then the rest of the book covers "Whidbey" development and administration in detail. Whidbey is something worth writing about and the authors have done a great job covering the whole spectrum of impressive new features.

So, what type of book is this? It's not just a book trying to show off the ease and power of Whidbey, otherwise I'm sure I would have been bored before too long. It's a book that is both a reference book and a readable book on "Whidbey" that gets into the features in detail and expounds on the properties, methods and other aspects of v2.0. There is really so much to cover that some parts weren't covered at all or only briefly in this book. For example XML and ADO.NET each get their own book. Also, as this is specifically about the changes that Whidbey offers, you won't see mention of anything that isn't new or changed. Again, the target audience isn't the non-ASP.NET developer.

Code examples were generously given, and in my opinion, a good balance of small and simple, offering a foundation to work with. One example where I wasn't disappointed was the Client callbacks, a new Client-Side Script feature. The description of it was good enough but I was itching to see a code example, and sure enough they gave one. Expect to see code examples in Visual Basic for most of the major features and many of the sub-features. There are dozens of great code examples that will at least get your feet wet.

I have to try hard to come up with any cons for this book, but there are two things I noticed. I found that there wasn't consistency throughout the book in regards to documentation, code examples and other reference information. Sometimes you would find reference charts, code examples, even flow charts while other times there is just a quick mention in paragraph form of a new feature or change to an existing feature. This really isn't as bad as it sounds, the features that have the largest target audience and 'wow factor' are well covered. The second thing I wish this had is a better means of locating the reference information. There isn't a cross-reference chart or means to quickly find much of the great information, and when I have used this as my reference guide for some development it look me a while to find what I was looking for. But, with a few bookmarks and a highlighter this could quickly become a great tool to use as a primary reference for development in Whidbey.

One of the things that I appreciated most was the inside knowledge that all three authors offer. They don't just cover specs and reference material, but give information on the goals of the ASP.NET Team on various features, and vision on what will be available in the Beta and final releases of the product. This is one of those books that you don't think twice about its accuracy and correctness. I found the book enjoyable although my wife (a non-developer) started getting sick of me telling her all the details of Whidbey. It's one of those topics and books that you just need to tell someone about and my wife happened to be the unfortunate recipient of my excitement.

I would highly recommend A First Look to existing ASP.NET Developers. The topic is exciting and the authors did a great job of covering the bases in an enjoyable and easy to follow format. Now it's just a matter of waiting until Whidbey is fully released so that development with Whidbey can be shown to the world.

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