.NET Framework Essentials by Thuan L. Thai & Hoang Lam, ISBN 0-596-00302-1

Reviewed by: Songmuh Jong, send e-mail
Published by: O'Reilly & Associates, go to the web site
Requires: Microsoft .NET Framework SDK and/or Visual Studio .NET
MSRP: USD$29.95/CAD$44.95

A book on this topic has to be concise because the title covers a broad topic (and the main text is less than 300 pages, FYI). The market is rapidly filling up with books on the .NET. It is therefore interesting to find that this book is still the textbook of choice for general .NET programming. It must be good because this is the second edition.

The book begins with an overview of the .NET (pronounced Dot Net by the way) platform, then proceeds to the underlying design of common language runtime. It explains the meaning of terms such as metadata, delegate, boxing, IL, CTS and CLS very well, and even tells you how to examine the metadata using the disassembly tool.

The (most often suggested) beauty of the .NET platform is that it allows programs written in any language to use the same objects and run on top of the common language runtime. This book provides examples written in managed C++, VB.NET and C#, then shows an example of a managed C++ ancestor class utilized in VB.NET and C# to work together in a single project. The sample programs for the other chapters in this book are mostly written in C#.

.NET development is used mainly for pushing Windows programming into the area of Enterprise Computing, which often includes the areas of distributed computing, object pooling, transaction, security, and message queuing. All these topics are discussed in the book, detailing the deployment of .NET projects (single assembly, shared components, share assemblies, new versions, etc.)

Data access is a also big topic and often requires several chapters of discussion, yet this book condenses the topics of ADO.NET and XML into a single chapter. Not only is a concise description of the topics provided, it also touches on more areas than I have read from other .NET books. This is also one of the rare .NET books that provides XML examples while discussing data access.

Web Services is a modern topic and is discussed in chapter 6. Although I think another book from the same publisher gives the best definition, this one provides more detailed discussion and examples on .NET framework for web services.

Web forms using ASP.NET is covered in less than 50 pages. The chapter summarizes every aspect of ASP.NET, including terms not covered by other publications.

The last chapter goes back to Windows desktop programming (called Windows Forms in the .NET terminology). It contains an excellent discussion about the benefits of the new Windows Forms .NET framework versus old libraries such as MFC. It also shows you how Windows Forms can benefit Web development. I am also happy to see that it includes a discussion of data binding, deployment and web services for Windows Forms. The appendices are also very useful, including common acronyms, common data types and common utilities.

In summary, this may be the best book for programmers new to the .NET platform. Not only does it get you started quickly, it also provides a quick reference to every major area of the new platform. This book does not waste space on item lists, talking instead about no-nonsense essentials accompanied by useful examples. This book is best suited as a textbook for classes teaching the introduction to .NET. Every new .NET programmer should own this one.

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