Ged Mead (XTab) is a Microsoft Visual Basic MVP who has been working on computer software and design for more than 25 years. His journey has taken him through many different facets of IT. These include training as a Systems Analyst, working in a mainframe software development environment, creating financial management systems and a short time spent on military laptop systems in the days when it took two strong men to carry a 'mobile' system.
Based in an idyllic lochside location in the West of Scotland, he is currently involved in an ever-widening range of VB.NET, WPF and Silverlight development projects. Now working in a consultancy environment, his passion however still remains helping students and professional developers to take advantage of the ever increasing range of sophisticated tools available to them.
Ged is a regular contributor to forums on vbCity and authors articles for DevCity. He is a moderator on VBCity and the MSDN Tech Forums and spends a lot of time answering technical questions there and in several other VB forum sites. Senior Editor for DevCity.NET, vbCity Developer Community Leader and Admin, and DevCity.NET Newsletter Editor. He has written and continues to tutor a number of free online courses for VB.NET developers.
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Pros and Cons
The introduction to the book tells you that it is for developers who want to learn about features they may have previously overlooked. In the main, it meets that promise. This book contains a great deal of useful information about how to access and make good use of a lot of tools that are available in Visual Studio 2005. The explanations are clearly written and are often amplified by screenshots and diagrams. In some cases you will probably need to go off in search of more detailed technical instruction, but at least the book serves to bring the topic to your attention in the first place and gives you a flavour of its usefulness to you. Several topics are of course covered in comprehensive detail in the book and those chapters will be great hands-on reference sources for you in the future.
Some readers may feel that this is one of those books that is open to the criticism sometimes seen on amazon that "It doesn't contain anything you can't find on MSDN". While a lot of the coverage is basic, verging on superficial occasionally, it is well written, clearly presented and it provides a useful hard copy reference to a very wide range of tools and techniques. Without a book like this one which brings them to your attention, you might remain unaware of the existence of many of these aids to productivity .
For my money, this book is going to be one that goes on my "grab when you need it" shelf; those specialist books that will show you (or remind you) how to use a particular Visual Studio feature or will get you started with one of the new features of the 2.0 Framework.
If you need a book that you can pick up when needed and use to show you how to use the Visual Studio tools most productively then this is a book you should own. If you want an introduction to several of the new features of the 2005 version of the language then again this book is a useful quick reference to get you started. Overall, this book is a tool to help make you more productive. It doesn't aim or claim to teach you how to be a .NET language developer (in fact it assumes you already have a fair degree of experience), although it does clarify several language features along the way.
I think the strength of this book is this: it draws your attention back to many of the Visual Studio productivity tools that you may have known existed, but somehow you've been so busy coding that you never really found the time to stop and use them. Its weakness is that it tries to cover too many topics. Although it seems mean to criticise the authors for trying too hard, it inevitably means that some of the coverage of difficult technical topics isn't much more than a skim over the surface. At times this left me wishing they had left the topic out altogether and used the pages to make the coverage of other topics more comprehensive.
Overall though, there is a great deal of hands on guidance in here that many readers will find very useful indeed.