C# in a Nutshell by Peter Drayton, Ben Albahari, and Ted Neward, (Paperback, 856 pages); ISBN 0-596-00181-9

Reviewed by: Songmuh Jong, send e-mail
Published by: O'Reilly & Associates, go to the web site
Requires: .NET Framework SDK or Visual Studio .NET
MSRP: $39.95

C# (pronounced "See Sharp") is Microsoft's new programming language. The C# compiler (csc.exe) comes with the Microsoft.NET framework SDK, which can be downloaded for free from Microsoft's web site

This book starts with a list of language basics just like any other language. Chapter 2 lists the language syntax, chapter 3 and 4 discuss the Object Oriented Programming (OOP) features in C#. It quickly becomes clear that C# is a modern language and should be respected as such. Because it comes after other modern languages, C# syntax is presented in the most systematic manner in those three chapters. The authors could have done a better job if they had discussed definitions beyond the official descriptions. For example, the params modifier is listed as one that can be specified on the last parameter of a method to accept any number of parameters of a particular type. Since arrays can be valid parameters at any position, obvious questions arise as to why and when we might need that modifier.

Beginning with chapter 5 (Part II), the integration of C# with the Microsoft .NET framework is presented. The order of chapters is very logical from a programmer's point of view. String handling is discussed in chapter 6, followed by Collections (7), XML (8), Networking (9), I/O (10), serialization (11), assemblies (12), reflection (13) and so on. From chapters 5 to 19, most of the important programming topics are covered. Part II is like a showcase for features in Microsoft.NET framework. Some of the examples are so interesting that I'd like to try them out. However, this is one of the rare books that does not have source code available for downloading. I hope we can see the source code available online sometime in the near future.

Part III (chapters 20 to 23) includes quick lists of C#-related terminology: C# language, XML tags, C# naming and coding conventions. Part IV includes the API reference similar to other books in the same series. C# has the same reflection mechanism as in Java. Therefore, the API reference can be easily compiled by looping through the entire library classes.

Now that C# and other traditional languages (C++, VB) on the Windows platform are all based on the Microsoft.NET framework, it will be interesting to see how books discussing each language can distinguish themselves from each other. For example, would a "C++.NET In A Nutshell" book duplicate the class libraries as in this C# book? I don't find such a book on the O'Reilly Web site, but I'm delighted to find that at least for the "VB.NET Language In A Nutshell" book, there is no obvious duplication.

For a C# programmer, this is a handy book to keep on the desktop. The authors have done a good job in assembling a reference book for a modern programming language. A free copy of chapter one is available from the product Web site.

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