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A Book for VB Masters Headed to a New World

  • April 2, 2002
  • By David Fisco
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In revising the Visual Basic language to make it compatible with .NET, Microsoft formally promotes this common development tool into the world of object orientation. While VB 6 introduced Visual Basic programmers to OO, VB .NET, built for coding to the new Common Language Runtime, makes new demands on developers. Many industry pundits believe the eventual adoption of VB .NET, while perhaps not imminent, is inevitable. As a technical manager, today's decisions about training your staff to effectively develop for .NET will determine the quality of tomorrow's software deliverables. The Book of VB .NET: .NET Insight for VB Developers by Matthew MacDonald is one of the many tools you should consider for a specific subset of your development team.

MacDonald is a veteran author, having penned ASP.NET: The Complete Reference (Osborne McGraw-Hill, February 2002, ISBN: 0072195134) and co-written Programming .NET Web Services (O'Reilly). In The Book of VB .NET MacDonald covers an ambitious list of topics:

  • The Visual Studio design environment
  • Windows forms
  • Object-oriented programming
  • Bug proofing
  • Dealing with data (files, printing, and XML)
  • Databases and ADO.NET
  • Threading
  • Setup and deployment of your applications
  • Web forms and ASP.NET
  • Web services
  • Migrating to VB .NET.

As each topic could be expanded into its own book, MacDonald chooses breadth over depth, making The Book of VB .NET an introductory-level text. Sometimes readers are referred to supplemental reading for a more in-depth look at topics; many of MacDonald's references are to resources available from Microsoft.

Book Information
REVIEW: The Book of VB .NET: .NET Insight for VB Developers.
By Matthew MacDonald.

Published by No Starch Press, Inc. February 2002, ISBN: 1-886411-82-4, 465 pages.

The book is best suited for a Visual Basic 6 developer who has dabbled in Java. The reader should have at least some experience with object-oriented development and a desire to make the transition from traditional VB development to the .NET world. Developers with no VB experience will need to first take a course or read a book to get up to speed with VB's syntax. Experienced Java developers may find the book incongruent with their skill sets.

Thanks to the Common Language Runtime (somewhat analogous to the Java Virtual Machine), many similarities exist between the Java platform and VB .NET. For example, VB .NET supports an "Imports" statement, much like Java's "import". Like import, Imports adds no code to your program, but allows you to avoid fully qualified names. VB .NET also supports a "Shared" statement, which translates into "static" for Java developers.

Experienced Java developers wishing to learn VB .NET have a leg-up and should find a text that exploits their knowledge to fast-track them into VB .NET. Ideally, the book should take the approach of a point-by-point comparison of the similarities and differences between Java and .NET (e.g., object comparison in Java vs. VB .NET). Perhaps one of my future columns can focus on which .NET books are specifically geared towards experienced Java developers. (If you'd be interested in such a review, please drop me a note at feedback@davidfisco.com.)

MacDonald's book is an ambitious project, most notable for the breadth of topics incorporated. The text even teaches the reader how to use Visual Studio to deploy applications and migrate existing VB code to .NET (not an easy task and not one you'll want your developers doing for anything but trivial projects).

So if you are looking to make an investment in the future skills of your developers, here's my bottom-line advice: Identify your VB programmers who have some Java experience and understand the basics of object-oriented software development. Get them copies of Visual Studio .NET and The Book of VB .NET. Make sure they download the additional code from the book's Web site. Give these developers a 2- to 5-day sabbatical to explore the book and play with some code. Many will be intrigued, and although you may not have any .NET projects in your immediate plans, your developers might just reward your efforts by continuing exploration on their own.

[Ed. note: Look for excerpts from The Book of VB .NET in coming days in Developer.com.]

About the Author

Dave Fisco is a consultant and writer and always likes to hear from readers. He can be reached at feedback@davidfisco.com.






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