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Book Review: Pro ASP.NET 3.5 in C# 2008: Includes Silverlight 2 by Matthew MacDonald And Mario Szpuszta

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ASP.NET 3.5 is the latest release of Microsoft's NET Web technology. It is the standard for creating dynamic web pages on the Windows platform. Pro ASP.NET 3.5 In C# 2008 is the third edition of the book that gives you practical advice on learning and deploying this dynamic web solution.

This latest edition has been updated to give you everything you need to integrate with the new Silverlight 2.0, SQL Server 2008, Visual Studio 2008, and the Microsoft ASP.NET 3.5 platform. The book is 1520 pages in length, divided into 33 chapters and six sections. I will break it out into the six sections.

Section 1, "Core Concepts," begins with an overall look at the ASP.NET platform, the .NET Framework, and what has changed with the introduction of ASP.NET 3.5. Then you will begin to learn about Visual Studio 2008, the interface, and how to work with it efficiently. Finally you will examine the key parts of the ASP.NET infrastructure. This includes working with Web forms, application configuration, server controls, state management, and ASP.NET application in general.

Section 2, "Data Access," now takes a look at one of the core problems for all software development – that of accessing data. Here you will look at the fundamentals of ADO.NET and how it applies to web applications. You will also learn how to design data access components. Then you will begin working with ASP.NET's data-bound controls that give you the ability to format and present data without a lot of code.

Next you move on to advanced caching strategies that ensure good performance in your site. Finally, this leads you to other techniques beyond ADO.NET such as working with files, LINQ, and XML content.

Section 3, "Building ASP.NET Websites," is all about managing groups of web pages. You begin with user controls that let you reuse segments of the user interface, and then you work with two new aspects of ASP.NET – that of themes which are for styling pages, and master pages for creating a template to be used across multiple pages.

Next you will learn about the navigation model that allows you to let visitors surf from one page to another more easily. Finally, you will examine how to deploy your site using the IIS Web server software.

Section 4, "Security," will take a look at all of the security features that are available with the ASP.NET platform. You begin with a high-level overview of the concepts, followed by exploring the different forms of authentication. Next you will examine the membership model, and then take on the Windows authentication features.

From there you will look at how to restrict authenticated users with authorization rules and the use of role-based security. Next, you will explore the profiles feature which is a prebuilt solution for storing user specific information, and then finally you will see how to protect the data you store in a database and how to design a custom membership provider.

Section 5, "Advanced User Interface," shows you how to extend web pages with advanced techniques like custom controls, the use of GDI+, and the ASP.NET Web Parts features to create web portals.

Section 6, "Client-Side Programming," now gets into some of the newest innovations of web development. You begin by looking at how to use JavaScript and Ajax technologies in your ASP.NET web pages for a more responsive client-side experience. Then you will learn how to make your web pages more dynamic by implementing auto completion, drag and drop, as well as other topics to enhance your user's experience.

Finally you will explore the world of Silverlight, Microsoft's plug-in that gives you the ability to bring rich graphics, animation, sound, and video to your basic web page on a variety of browsers and operating systems.

Once again Pro ASP.NET 3.5 In C# 2008 is an outstanding textbook on working with ASP.NET. Each and every chapter has outstanding examples of the concepts described. In fact the whole layout of the book is equally well done.

Adding to the hefty 1500-plus pages are an additional four chapters that are available online. There is one that examines how to use resources and localization in ASP.NET as well as three chapters on working with web services.

The focus of the book is really on development and not on design so you won't learn XHTML or CSS here, but the author covers the fundamentals of C# along with explaining the basis for ASP.NET and does it very well. It is a book that delves into the meat of the framework and explains the "hows" and "whys" of working with ASP.NET without getting all technical or complex and so it makes it an easy read. 

Pro ASP.NET 3.5 In C# 2008 is aimed at professional developers who have a reasonable knowledge of server-side web development and want to get up to speed on ASP.NET. You also need to have a reasonable understanding of the C# language and object-oriented concepts, but if you do then this is a great book for getting to that professional level of ASP.NET. I highly recommend this book.

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About T. Michael Testi

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