“Visual Basic 2005 Express Edition for Dummies” written by Richard Mansfield, is the first book of the “Dummies” series I have read. Wiley sent me a copy of this to review.
I look back fondly on my early days of VB programming. I received my first start in VB back in 1996. I remember buying one of the popular “in 21 Days books.” It was extremely helpful in getting a quick grasp of the development environment. I had programmed in several environments previously, yet I was to start on a project which would require VB. In less than 21 days, I was up and running and learning several new items. It was probably one of my favorite learning experiences.
VB has changed a lot in 10 years! It is not as “basic” as it once was. Mansfield’s book takes the challenge of delivering a book that eases readers into the environment. Within a mater of only 28 easy to read pages, you are building the classic “Hello World” application. Throughout Part I of V, readers learn how to navigate through Visual Studio’s shell and see how take advantage of key properties on common windows controls. What’s the point of programming up front if you cannot show of your skills to someone, including yourself!
Part II begins the process of learning the basics of programming including the most important aspects of control flow, variables, data types, arrays, and the new, easy to use, My classes. Chapter 5 through 8 are common chapters which are difficult to mess up in any book. The layout of the book is very helpful in locating key issues with TIPs, REMEMBERS, and well formatted text and bullet points.
I was disappointed with the entire chapter 9 section however. While the section teaches the concepts of graphics and using the printer classes, I imagine many introductory developers will reach similar as “deer in the headlights.” I noted in my reading, “thank goodness I know how to use reporting tools.” Using this chapter will quickly make someone think this is too difficult and will probably never do any printing at all. Perhaps, Wiley should have partnered with a third party tool company and split this chapter into 30% the VB way and 70% the more fun and efficient way of tools.
Chapter 10 strolls down debug lane. Every developer deals with this. If you meet a developer that has never had a need to using debugging, then scratch them off you list of contacts. I can’t speak for all, but this person is probably a novice themselves or a liar. It would have been nice to spend more time on watches and breakpoint settings. I was quite shocked by Mansfield’s statement about the Immediate window, “I’ve never found this feature too helpful. I suspect I use it about four times a decade.” This has been an incredible tool for me and others that I know. I often use it to help drill down into a class and determine current properties, it is often faster than the local windows when you know what you are looking for in a value. Because the content on Structured Error Handling is excellent, I almost forgive him for insulting the Immediate window [:)].
Databases are the foundation to almost every program these days, including graphic based solution using XML repositories if not small relational database management solutions. If you have used databases before including Access, MySQL or else, skip chapter 11 and jump right into 12. Any reader can jump into storing information based on this chapter and maybe a little out of a Dummies book for Access. Or even better yet, find one on SQL Server Express. The author balances two chapters on introducing data binding with VB Express, generating datasets and even persisting data to XML. VB Express makes working with XML simple. Yet do not think you can get by in programming today without understanding the basics of XML.
Most new developers love to create websites and this book only barely introduces them to web site programming. If you want the underlying basics, then the book provides it with examples of event handling with server side controls and even adding an insecure database to the project. I believe a little more content around master pages would quickly bring someone to having a nice looking “show-off” site.
I liked this book and I give it a 4 out of 5.