March 8, 2021
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Book Review: Dan Appleman's Win32 API Puzzle Book and Tutorial for Visual Basic Programmers

  • By James Limm
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Dan strikes again with yet another API tutorial book. But this time, he is taking a radically different approach to teaching advanced Visual Basic.

Intended as a companion volume to "Dan Appleman’s Visual Basic Programmer’s Guide to the Win32 API", this new title offers a fresh approach to programming with Win32 API and Visual Basic. Thirty-two puzzles allow programmers to gain hands-on experience. Eleven in-depth tutorials cover every aspect of declaring and calling Win32 API functions from Visual Basic.

As Dan himself declares, "This book teaches over 7600+ API calls". How? By teaching readers how to go about understanding the C++ based Microsoft documentation, and translating the API declarations from C to VB.

This is all very well, but how does Dan go about this?

This book is designed not to be read from cover-to-cover. Unlike other VB titles, this book is divided up into three sections, Puzzles, Solutions and Tutorials.


Each chapter in the first section consists of a short puzzle. Each puzzle consists of a code sample that doesn't quite work correctly. It is the reader's challenge to make it work! In the spirit of any decent puzzle book, Dan has allocated a whole Appendix for hints.


Here you will find the solutions to the puzzles in section 1. Each solution contains not only the correct code, but also an in depth explanation of why the problem exists and why the correction works.


These detailed tutorials cover subjects that relate to calling API functions from Visual Basic. Some are intended to fill gaps in the knowledge of most Visual Basic developers. The subjects covered include: Using the Registry, File Operations, OLE and Animation.

So what will I learn from this book?

This book is different from others because it actively tries to teach readers how to solve practical problems themselves, rather than just offering hundreds of lines of cut and paste code. Having read this book, you should be able to:

  • Read the Microsoft documentation and translate the C++ code into working Visual Basic declarations and constants
  • Use any of the Windows Explorer file operations + Find out information about the system processor and clock speed
  • Display and draw controls using OLE
  • Use callbacks and subclassing
  • Use Dialup Networking
  • Lots more advanced API techniques


If you are looking for an easy going book that makes it fun to learn API programming, the API Puzzle Book is for you! Dan Appleman's likeable writing style makes it simple to understand what he is talking about, and he covers complex subjects in a way that is guaranteed to make the learning process fun. All in all, a top class book from Dan Appleman, the long time king of API programming.

This article was originally published on November 20, 2002

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