Tuesday, September 09, 2008


Professional Visual Studio 2008, Nick Randolph and Dave Gardner (Wrox)

I have been remiss by not mentioning this book sooner (it came out towards the end of July, 2008).

The authors, Dave Gardner and Nick Randolph will be familiar to members who regularly attend the Perth .NET user group. Nick Randolph originally started the Perth .NET user group and both Dave and Nick have recently presented to the group. Dave Gardner donated a copy of the book to the Perth .NET user group library, and several local user group members helped review some of the pre-print chapters.

Let me start with a disclaimer: I know Nick Randolph and Dave Gardner personally through my involvement with the Perth .NET user group. They are both very talented and skilled developers and active in their support of the developer community. I tried not to let this fact bias this short review too much!

I reviewed the Visual Studio 2005 predecessor of this book some time ago, and I think the new 2008 version is an improvement.

It’s a big book and not just by its size. It covers a huge amount of material and could probably have been subtitled ‘everything you wanted to know about Visual Studio 2008 but were afraid to ask’! The Visual Studio 2008 Integrated Development Environment (IDE) is a complex beast, and worth getting to know well, if like me, you spend most of your working life in it! You could, of course, still do most of your development in Notepad, but you could also wear a hair shirt...

The primary focus of this book is on the IDE itself, rather than the specific languages that can be used within .NET or indeed the .NET Framework itself. I’m not going to give a chapter by chapter account of what is contained in this book, mainly because it would take a loooooong time, but also because I fear my head might explode! Seriously though, I have read around 75% of it. The writing style is clear and I doubt whether you could make any book about Visual Studio more engaging than they have achieved.

The authors’ goals, as stated, were not just updating the Visual Studio 2005 version of this book or simply to explain how to use Visual Studio, but also to create a set of productivity best practices and recommendations on how to use Visual Studio features in an effective way. I think they have achieved that goal.

One of the first Amazon reviews was not favourable, but that reviewer was looking for a book that would teach C# and an introduction to the .NET framework. As Dave mentioned in his response to that reviewer, although both authors do have a bias towards Visual Basic, approximately 40% of the code samples are written in C#. There is also a chapter that provides coverage of F# (http://mitch-wheat.blogspot.com/2008/09/new-net-f-ctp-release.html)

It is probably not the sort of book you would read cover to cover, but rather delve into specific chapters to gain insight into particular features. It’s great for quickly finding out what features are available. The first day it was on my desk at work, I used it to quickly find a debugging gem that might have otherwise remained undiscovered.

Kudos goes to Nick and Dave for producing a great resource for developers.

There is a companion website and blog here: http://www.professionalvisualstudio.com/

Links to the book:


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