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Book Reviews

101 Microsoft Visual Basic .NET Applications
Buy this book! I know you haven't even read the review yet, but take my word, if you are a VB.NET developer - particularly a beginning or intermediate developer - then you are going to want to have this book on your bookshelf. The book is divided into 16 chapters with 101 VB.NET applications grouped by topics. The majority of the book deals with VB.NET in a client/server environment, but there is some discussion of VB.NET in a Web environment as well. These topics cover a great deal of information, such as:

  • Working with VB.NET
  • Data access
  • Building Windows Forms user interfaces
  • Building Web applications
  • Working with console applications
  • Interacting with the operating system
  • Working with the .NET Framework
  • Advanced .NET Framework
  • GDI+
  • Building enterprise services applications
  • COM Interop/PInvoke
  • Creating a VS.NET add-in
  • Coding conventions
  • Windows Server 2003 for .NET developers
Each application is set up with the following format. There is an introduction, a "building upon" section that indicates other applications in the book where the concepts that are being discussed were previously introduced, a new concepts section, a code walkthrough section, and a conclusion.

 When writing a book that discusses code, there is always a fine line between having too much or too little code included on the page as an example. I can't tell you the number of books I have seen that have pages and pages of code included with little or no real discussion. This book, however, takes the right approach. It shows you the important snippets but strongly encourages you to download all the applications from the Microsoft Press Web site and review the code for the entire application.

Each sample is written as a mini-application, with 101 applications in all. But don't let that fool you. The examples are well thought out and quite robust. You will learn a lot about how to write Windows applications in VB.NET. In addition, the samples on the Web site come in two flavors, one set for VS2002 and one set for VS2003. As I said before, this is a top-notch book that you will want to own if you want to create professional, well-written applications.

Title: 101 Microsoft Visual Basic .NET Applications
Authors: 3 Leaf Solutions, Patrick Barnes, Sean Campbell, Bob Carver, Kris Horrocks, Jim Pragit, Oz Rugless, Scott Swigart
Publisher: Microsoft Press
ISBN: 0735618917
List Price: $39.99
Rating: *****
Reviewer: Steven Mandel

Steven Mandel has worked in the IT industry for over 15 years designing databases using Microsoft Access and Sql Server. He has developed Web and Windows applications using VB.NET and has written numerous articles and reviews about ASP.NET and VB.NET.

The XML Schema Companion
It may seem strange to include a review of this purely XML-related tome in .NET Developer's Journal, but when you consider that a good portion of the .NET Framework and all of Office uses XML in one form or another to function, it isn't really strange at all. What better way to come to grips with XML than to start with schemas and develop your own grammars for later use?

Matching the structure of the schema specification itself, The XML Schema Companion covers the definition of a document's structure and the definition of custom data types in separate sections. It also throws in a discussion of DTDs and the XML Namespaces standard as further reference material at the end of the book. The first section of the book works through the elements of a schema in a top-down fashion, introducing the idea of a document model and then starting with the root element of a schema doc on into the child elements and so on. Likewise, the second section starts with the root elements for schema type definitions and steadily works its way through the elements and permutations you will encounter as you write. And it's good. And it's factually complete. But does it serve its reader well? Well, not really.

 Let me be clear about this: most of the information on schemas you're likely to need from day to day is contained in this book. It's just a pain extracting it. Most of the problem lies in that the book has the rigid structure of a pure reference for schema developers but is written as a beginner's guide for newcomers. It's almost as if the author wrote a much larger book and then tried to condense it.

At each step the facts presented are qualified with text and very short, tightly focused examples pertaining to the one thing talked about. Complexities are passed on into the later chapters in the section but - while you understand for the most part what the author is teaching at the time - what you don't get is a sense of the whole. You're left wondering where the bigger examples are that show all the pieces of the schema we've met so far in context with each other. Part beginner, part complete reference, and really succeeding as neither, if this is to be a beginner's book, let's have more examples. If it's a reference, let's have all the facts in one place and less chatter.

The XML Schema Companion is author Neil Bradley's fourth in this series and it shows. The structure of this book is solid, his writing is consistent, and the subject matter is covered fully and well. The three just can't agree on what the book is setting out to do. Ultimately, this is a useful desktop book for people already familiar with schemas, but there are better books both for beginners and for those who need a quick reference on this topic.

Title: The XML Schema Companion
Author: Neil Bradley
Publisher: Pearson Education
ISBN: 0321136179
List Price: $39.99
Rating: ***1/2
Reviewer: Dan Maharry

Dan Maharry is a freelance technical writer and reviewer based in the UK.

More Stories By Dan Maharry

Dan Maharry is a freelance techical writer and reviewer based in the UK.

More Stories By Steven Mandel

Steven Mandel has worked in the IT industry for over 15 years designing databases using Microsoft Access and SQL Server. He has developed Web and Windows applications using VB.NET and has written numerous articles and reviews about ASP.NET and VB.NET.

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