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Book Review: Visual Basic Shell Programming

  • November 19, 2002
  • By Karl Moore
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Need to get down-and-dirty with the Windows shell?

Unfortunately, manipulating the operating system at such a low-level has never been an easy task.

When you right-click a file, how about adding an item to the popup menu? Or perhaps creating your own Property sheet in the File Properties window? Or maybe even getting Windows Explorer to display different icons depending on what is contained inside a file?

All of these tasks sound pretty darn difficult. And if you want to solve such puzzlers, you need to integrate your application with the Windows Shell.

And that's what this book promises to teach you.

VB Shell Programming

From the beginning of this book, it's quite obvious that the advice it offers serves a niche, super-programmer market.

It opens by explaining the various parts of the Windows Shell available for manipulation then goes on to explore how you can utilise such features within your application.

As an example, it provides a tutorial on adding items to the context menu that appears when you right-click a file in Windows Explorer. And how you can associate an icon with a file and have it changed depending on the contents of that file. And how you can add a Property sheet to the File Properties window. And much, much, much more.

But as I said these aren't issues every Visual Basic developer faces. It's a very niche market, a publication aimed at the power programmer, but nonetheless still an incredibly useful book.

Each chapter is well-written and contains a wealth of hints and tips. Every new principle encountered is also thoroughly explained, with occasional forays into the hand-held world of C++.

One of the best sections is undoubtedly the chapter dealing with Internet Explorer enhancements, with instruction on how you can create a Yahoo! Companion-like menu bar and many other such browser add-ons.

But it isn't easy. Show this book to a newbie programmer and he'll think he's accidentally picked up a German dictionary. Yet if you need to know how or you want to increase your knowledge of the Windows Shell this is one of the few books that can actually help.

Conclusion: An interesting dip into the world of the Windows Shell. Each chapter is a quality mini-tutorial, dealing with one particular method of integrating your application with the operating system. But if you're not a power user, better watch out 'cause this is one book that really ain't bedtime material.

VB Shell Programming from O'Reilly

ISBN: 1565926706

Price: US $29.95 ;UK #20.95






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