Sunday, November 12, 2006


Book Review: Professional Visual Studio 2005

Professional Visual Studio 2005, Andrew Parsons and Nick Randolph. WROX

This book is aimed at developers who are new to Visual Studio, and those with some exposure to it. It attempts to cover a large number of topics and features, and it does that admirably. It contains 56 chapters, spanning approximately 870 pages. This means that the coverage will not be quite as in-depth as other books on similar topics. For instance, compare with Apress’s PRO ASP.NET 2.0 which is longer by almost 400 pages and just 34 chapters. The source code for the examples in the book can be downloaded online.

It’s rather extensive breadth means that some of the chapters are a bit short; for instance Chapter 28 on Assembly Signing is just 3 pages long. In one or two places, I would have preferred slightly less breadth and a little more depth. Some of the chapters should have either been condensed into other sections or removed completely.

There is one omission in Chapter 4. This chapter provides a good introduction to the various kinds of projects available, but does not cover the ‘new’ Web Application Projects. This was due to the timing of the book’s completion and publication. Web Application projects are a freely downloadable add-in and will be included in Visual Studio 2005 Service Pack 1 in the very near future. They have been around for some time, and are in use around 50/50 compared with Web Site projects. They are essential for enterprise development of web sites. Another restriction of Web Site projects is that you can not use them with TSFS, as they do not have a permanent solution file.

There are a couple of places where screenshots might be confusing, such as Figure 51-3 on pg 728, because the correct line (aspnet_wp.exe) is not highlighted. There are also several sections with perhaps too many screenshots, such as pages 30-33.

The sort of coverage I would have liked to see expanded upon would have been best practices using the IDE and some worked examples. Since this book is aimed at newcomers, I think it could have contained more process based advice rather than just explaining what features are available. Even experienced developers moving from other environments would benefit greatly from advice showing ‘best practice’ ways of organising projects and solutions.

In conclusion: If you are new to Visual Studio 2005 and want to whet your appetite with a book that covers a great number of the available features, this book is worth reading. If you are already an experienced developer, you may pick up one or two gems, but the majority of the material will probably be familiar to you. I do not think this is a book you will read cover to cover, but rather dip into as and when you come across a certain feature and want to explore it a little further.

Disclaimer: I know one of the authors, Nick Randolph, personally (Nick has been the main organiser of the Perth .Net UG until his recent journey to New Zealand). I borrowed a copy of the book from the User Group library, as Nick had kindly donated a copy. Use of the library is free to User Group members, which is just one reason to join and participate.

One thing I noticed was the book states (pg xxxix) that the minimum requirement to use the book is VS 2005 PRO but I did find just one feature that requires VSTS. I’ll leave finding it as an exercise for the reader!


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