List Price: $54.50
About Visual Basic readers know that I have reviewed a lot of Murach books and I like them a lot. (Click here to read my review of the previous edition of this book, Murach's Visual Basic 2008.) Murach is a publisher with a unique style that works. But you can read all about that on their web page. This review is about whether an investment in this Murach book will work for you.
Murach's "Core Book" For Visual Basic Programming
In the first paragraph of the first page of the book, you can read, "this book will become the on-the-job reference that you'll always turn to first." In my case, that would be true only with the ebook version since I turn to the web first whenever I have a question these days. (More about their ebook version in a few paragraphs.) But, in general, I don't think it will be true for most people.
Shortly after I received my copy of Murach's VB 2010 book, I had a question about the ListView control for an article I was writing. So I decided to take them at their word and see if I could answer my question. The short answer is, "No." The index listed two pages where the control is mentioned (Murach uses a "paired page" format that really works for reinforcing the learning experience. For reference, however, it means that the same topic is usually covered twice in different words. That was why ListView had two pages indexed.) The entry notes that, "you may want to refer to Visual Studio help to find out how it works."
They got that right! ListView has 135 properties, 90 events, and an eye-glazing 247 methods listed in the Framework 4.0 documentation. There is no way that any book can be a "reference" for development tools that are exploding like a supernova star. (In fact, Microsoft didn't even have the answer online. I had to work it out on my own.) But their discussion did put ListView into an understandable context so that a student reading this book to learn Visual Basic would "get" how it works and be able to use it in their example.
Comparing the VB 2010 version with the VB 2008 version shows that they have updated the content but the topics and organization are virtually unchanged. The book is aimed at people who may not even have a really clear idea of what Visual Studio is. The initial chapters cover basic information that you already know if you've worked with VB.NET at all. And at the same time, more advanced topics that are part of VB.NET now, like WPF, MVC and Entity Data Models, are just not there.
I mentioned earlier that I turn to the web first for information today and I'll bet most of you do too. And the hottest items flying off the shelves in electronic stores right now are ebook readers. So ... how does Murach stack up there? The answer is, "OK -- But not blindingly brilliant." Rather than align themselves with one of the giants battling for market domination, such as Kindle, PDF, iPad, Sony Reader, or Barnes & Noble's Nook, Murach has chosen a third way again. (I am constantly impressed with the way Murach chooses an independent stance in virtually everything. And I'm frankly disgusted by the way those "giants" completely disregard the interest of the reading public in their drive to become a monopoly with a proprietary reader.) Murach encodes their ebooks using a system called "LockLizard" that lets you use the book on three Mac or PC computers.
The view is a type of PDF file, but with their ebooks, you ...
- Can't ... Use anything except a Mac or PC. (At this point, I'm tempted to say, "What's a Mac?" but I won't.)
- Can't ... View them in Citrix, Windows Terminal Server, and other virtual environments (There's no "buy once, read everywhere the network runs". You can't really blame them.)
- Can't ... Cut-and-paste, mark up text, add your own bookmarks, or change the existing built-in bookmarks (Bad Scene! I depend on online code stealing to get my work done.)
For this, you can save about seven bucks off the price of a dead-tree book. But you might want to give their ebook a try. The Murach "paired page" format works great on a wide screen. I actually prefer reading on my computer. For me, the text is easier to read and the images are brighter and in full color. You can zoom in on any detail with a click of the mouse and search rather than use the index - a whole new level of performance in finding things. Using this technique, I found ListView on two more sets of "paired paged" than what was shown in the index. And I can always play pinball for a few minutes for a break.
Murach's books have been, and continue to be, optimized for one function: learning. But the good news is that they really can't be beat for learning. For example, they also provide an "Instructor's CD" with a wealth of resources that you can use in the classroom such as PowerPoint slides and suggestions about how to go beyond the book.
Murach has succeeded in creating a book that meets practical needs. They note that their book focuses on "how to get the most from Visual Studio 2010 as you develop your applications." I've noticed that nearly all of Microsoft's MSDN documentation fails to mention Visual Studio in any way and a lot of MSDN examples are even based on code modules rather than Windows Forms (or even WPF or ASP.NET) so the typical Microsoft example is completely independent of Visual Studio. You can run most of them from a "DOS" command prompt. That's not the way most of us work! Murach's books support the way we work! (On the other hand, if you're buying this to use in a WPF or ASP.NET environment ... ummmm ... consider looking at other books.)
In supporting someone who wants to learn VB, I can't say enough good about Murach's VB 2010 and Murach's books in general. Within that niche, they're better than "Step by Step," "Missing Manuals" or "24 Hours" - actually, far better. But to avoid buyer's remorse, make sure that you buy this book for what it does really well and not for something it doesn't do.