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Visual Basic 2005 Jumpstart - Book Review

Move Up To Visual Basic 2005 For About Ten Bucks!

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Visual Basic 2005 Jumpstart

Visual Basic 2005 Jumpstart

Wei-Meng Lee

September, 2005
ISBN: 059610071X

If VB 6 (or earlier?) is still your primary language but you want to move up to VB.NET, this slim (less than 200 pages) and compact volume is exactly what you're looking for! It's a well written, fast and inexpensive introduction that does exactly what the title claims: It will get you jump started into the great new world of Visual Basic 2005.

A lot of the Visual Basic books and even online articles seem to be written for people who already know VB.NET. This one isn't.

Did I mention inexpensive? Less than $15 list price! Amazon has it for just over ten bucks! Combine that with the free Express downloads from Microsoft and VB.NET is within everyone's reach. Author Lee is really into the concept of keeping more of your dollars right where they are in your wallet. You might also want to check out his .NET Compact Framework Pocket Guide with a list price that's even less than ten bucks.

The really difficult part of writing a book about VB 2005 (let alone Visual Studio, SQL Server and ASP.NET which are also part of this book) is deciding what, in this huge body of software, to write about. Other authors get caught in the trap of trying to make their book more precise, more comprehensive, more authoritative than anything else and the reader ends up holding something heavy enough to break your foot and so mind boggling that first you're afraid you'll go blind reading it and then you're afraid you won't.

Lee usually does a great job of selecting just the right level of detail to show new VB 2005 programmers what it's about without burying them at the same time. Experienced programmers will find it a little light, but newcomers will really appreciate Lee's condensed version. If you need to get up to speed at the lowest cost in both money and time, this is your book!

There's another side to everything, however. Although beginners will find this is one of the easiest to read and understand, they will also find that actually coding some of the examples is a bit tougher because there often just isn't enough information.

For example, early in the book, Lee "assumes" that you have both SQL Server Express and the databases used as examples installed. They're lightly dismissed in just one partial page sidebar. Hey! There are whole books, big thick ones, written about this. If you do get confused, the book often doesn't have quite enough information to clear up the confusion.

When you do get SQL Server Express and the Microsoft NorthWind and Pubs sample databases successfully installed (two big "if's" - a lot of people have a lot of difficulty), Visual Basic 2005 makes actually using the databases a lot easier than it used to be. Still, there are nagging differences between the real databases that you download from Microsoft and the illustrations in the book. With a little guessing, most people won't be bothered too much. (Helpful hint: On my system, the install scripts were placed in C:\SQL Server 2000 Sample Databases.)

Another advantage of this book is that it was published a month before the final version of Visual Basic 2005 was released. The cost of doing that is that there are quite a few little details that aren't the same in the final version of VB 2005. For example, the "new project" menu looks a little different (but the specific template used by the book hasn't changed). The "Add Connection" dialog isn't exactly the same. Some code examples, such as the one in Example 1-1, have changed just a little bit. (The Else clause shown in the book was missing when I followed the book's instructions.)

An almost hidden gem in the book, however, are the two applications, downloadable from the O'Reilly web site, that are bundled with it. The first, the "LibraryApp" uses information from Amazon's web service in a really neat and clean little application that has all the essential elements. The second turns the situation around and creates a web service called the "ShoppingApp" that runs on the web server built into Visual Studio 2005. (Lee thoughtfully creates an application that allows you to shop for three of his books, including this one!) Again, neither of these apps are explained thorougly and completely, but they're all there and the book provides enough detail to get started.

Bottom line, this book does a great great job with the specific goal and a specific audience it was designed for. For others, however, it might not be complete enough to be really satisfying. But, then, you're not risking much if you give it a try, so if you even think it might be the one you need, why not go for it?

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