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 »  Home  »  Reviews  »  Book Reviews  »  Book Review: Mastering Visual Basic 2005  »  Mastering VB2005 Express Edition
Book Review: Mastering Visual Basic 2005
by Ged Mead | Published  09/19/2006 | Book Reviews | Rating:
Mastering VB2005 Express Edition

   If you currently have the free version of Visual Basic 2005, that is the Express Edition, then you may be more interested in the companion book, co-written by Evangelos Petroutsos and Acey J. Bunch.

   Putting these two books side by side, they are both the same physical size so at first glance you might think that both are 1300+ plus mammoths.   Actually that's not so.   The slimmed down version of VB2005, the Express Edition,  also has a slimmed down version of the book which weighs in at  around 700 pages. 

   (It just goes to show where we have got to with computer books, doesn't it,  when I find myself describing a 700 page book as "slimmed down"!)

     This version of the book overall  takes a more  gentle approach .  Although it too is classified as suitable for All Levels of developers I think it will certainly be less daunting to newcomers than the  version of the book reviewed on the previous page.     And very sensibly so.  The Express Edition has been put out there to attract newcomers, students and hobbyists, as well as Classic VBers still dragging their heels over making the change to .NET.   (Read: "still kicking and screaming I won't! I won't! I won't - You can't make me!").

   So, to take a random example, in the full version book the author says "The code of our first application isn't very robust" and then goes straight on to suggest improvements.   With the possibly less experienced reader in mind, the Express Edition version reads: "The code of your first application isn't very robust (meaning that it doesn't really do a whole lot and it doesn't respond well to different kinds of input)".  Then goes on to suggest the improvements.

   And this approach is fairly standard throughout the book   The majority of the content of the Express Edition book has been taken from the full version book, but with additional explanations and clarification where needed.     Makes sense to me, no point in reinventing the wheel if good material is already there to use.

  So, what does this book cover?  Here is the breakdown of the main Parts:

Part 1:  Getting Started with Visual Basic 2005 Express Edition

Part 2: Understanding the Visual Basic Language

Part 3: Using Windows Controls

Part 4:  Understanding Object Oriented Programming

Part 5:  Common Programming Tasks

Part 6:  Programming Databases

   For a full listing by chapters, check out this page on the Wiley Site for a pdf version of the contents list.

   As I mentioned previously, most of the topics in this book are inherited from  the full version book, but there are some exceptions.   This book for example includes a Chapter on Automating MS Office Applications which works through several examples with explanations of how to program against MS Word and MS Excel  in VB2005.   There isn't a corresponding chapter in the full version (although it is covered in the earlier VB.NET 2002/2003 book).    There are some very useful tips in this chapter, which shows the reader how to harness some of the Office Tools seamlessly into VB2005 applications.   These examples include spell checking via MSWord and parsing mathematical expressions courtesy of MS Excel.

  Also, as you would definitely expect, some topics don't appear at all in this book  - ASP.NET web programming, for example, because VB2005 Express Edition targets Windows Forms applications, leaving web development to Visual Web Developer 2005 Express Edition.  Some of the more esoteric subjects, Interfaces, Delegates, Encryption, for example didn't make the cut.  And again, with the target audience in mind this makes sense.

  Where an element of the revamped VB2005 is of particular assistance to beginners, this book gives it a good amount of coverage.   The My object, for example, gets several pages of explanation and examples which will ease .NET Newbies along the learning curve (which is of course exactly why it was added by the Microsoft development team) .   'My'  gets a brief mention early in the other book, but quickly followed by the author's warning that 'My' isn't a substitute for learning the language and the Framework.  I think you'll be getting the picture by now:   The Express Edition book  fairly gently coaxes the reader into understanding the essential starter topics of VB.NET;  the full version book grabs each new topic by the throat and doesn't let go until it's squeezed every ounce of usefulness out of it

  The book comes with a battery of downloadable code demonstration projects   You can get them  here.     In a perfect example of Sod's Law coming into play, the very first sample I tried as a test crashed out.   As a reasonably experienced developer I could see from a quick investigation what the problem was - a FileStream trying to access a non-existent folder.   But it did make me wonder how a complete newcomer would react when faced with this kind of problem.   No structured exception handling or If File.Exists check in the code sample to deal with it, no commenting to remind them to check and I couldn't find any additional explanation in the book itself.  (If it is there and I just haven't spotted it then my apologies to the authors).  

  I had a similar problem with the next sample, (which was a huge coincidence because this time it was a totally different chapter topic).     It's easy to criticise, I know, ( "Criticism is easier than Craftsmanship") but it is these kind of frustrations for beginners that make them lose heart, give up or write negative  comments in amazon reviews.  When you think of the months of work that goes into writing a book like this, it does seem a shame if it's let down by samples that don't run out of the box.

   Anyway, the fix isn't difficult.  As far as I could tell, all the samples which need to access files assume that the file will be saved in the C:\Temp folder.   So I suppose that - so long as you have read this review before buying the book - you won't find that those samples will cause you any problem.

   As with the other version of the book, you can preview the content of Chapter 1 to see if the authoring style is the one for you.  The link to the page on the  Wiley site can be found here.

   This is a perfectly good book whose written content will help  VB2005 beginners get some way down the road to .NET understanding.



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