The About Visual Basic series of reviews of the "Express" products from Microsoft (links to the reviews are in the sidebar) mentioned that, along with a fully functional copy of the product, you also get a "free" online version of three Microsoft Press books:
Introducing Microsoft Visual Basic 2005 for Developers
Introducing Microsoft ASP.NET 2.0
Writing Secure Code, Second Edition
In this review, I check out what you actually get. It's an interesting new wave of stuff from Microsoft, but as I wrote in my last review, "One thing I'll say about Microsoft. They plan strategically."
Although the retail price for all three books is close to a hundred dollars (... and the retail price for all three Express products, once they're released, will be about a hundred and fifty ...) Microsoft isn't actually giving much away here.
Still ... Checking out these three products and trying out their new books and training are thoroughly worth the effort. The future of Microsoft, and therefore Visual Basic, can be seen here with matchless focus.
But first, a quick review of
Introducing Microsoft Visual Basic 2005 for Developers.
Right in sync with the new Microsoft mantra of "team software," this book was team written by seven different authors. Even better, it was actually written on contract by a technology company, 3 Leaf Solutions. The most accurate summary of the whole book is that it really 'feels' that way.
Since this is a Microsoft book, one of the things you have to do is "read between the lines" to get the full meaning. What's missing is often as interesting as what is there. And one of the things that is missing now is ... (Ta Da!) ... .NET! Notice how the qualifier ".NET" is gradually starting to drop out of Microsoft's "official" product names. It's "Visual Basic 2005," not "Visual Basic 2005 .NET". This never would have happened last year. The significance of that is that Microsoft now regards the .NET revolution as complete since they don't feel that they have to put .NET right up front anymore. We knew that before, but this puts a lock and chain on it.
Another thing that's interesting is that Visual Basic is taking the lead in all of this. They're even giving away this Visual Basic book with their C# and J# downloads. I think Microsoft has concluded that Visual Basic is still the best language they have and they're gonna push it!
And a final point to notice is that those of us who have been gritching and griping about the total lack of support for VB 6 have been heard even though we're still not being listened to!
VB.NET was released over three years ago and Microsoft has now officially dropped VB 6 support, but this book still leads with more reasons why VB 6 developers really, really should move up to .NET. You can almost see a footnote from Microsoft: "Please, Please, Pretty Please won't you upgrade from VB 6 now!!" Reliable industry statistics are hard to find, but this tells me that the most serious competition to VB.NET is STILL VB 6. That, and five euros, will buy a cappuccino ... but it might make a few of you who are still getting great results using VB 6 feel better. And this latest upgrade might even make a few of you switch.
At 288 pages, the book is far too short to cover Visual Basic, let alone .NET. So what it DOES cover is all that's new, cool, and way too clever in VB 2005. The good news is that there's plenty of that to fill this book ... and more.
.NET 2.0 richly deserves the full version number increase and VB 2005 takes full advantage of it. To get the most from this book, you need to have a pretty good understanding of .NET 1.1 already. For example, one major topic discussed very early in the book is the new support for the strongly typed new generic objects. If you don't understand weakly typed objects already, you won't appreciate the advantages that generic objects provide.
One consequence of the fact that ALL of the Microsoft technologies are now based on the .NET Framework is that ALL of them must move in lockstep up to the next level when .NET moves. So ... ASP.NET moves, ADO.NET moves, SQL Server moves, all of the languages move. This simple fact provides the content for most of the rest of the book. There is a discussion of how VB.NET 2005 will work with the new ASP.NET, the new ADO.NET, the new SQL Server .NET, and so forth. After you finish reading it, you feel like you've been on a five day bus tour from Alaska to South America even though it is only 288 pages.
On the plus side, one hallmark of a Microsoft Press book is exceptional quality. You get content that is checked and double checked. You get super organization and clear, flawless writing. It's like a Microsoft technical conference between book covers! If that's what you're looking for, go for it!