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Book Review: Visual Basic 2005 Jumpstart by Wei-Meng Lee

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Last year was a major milestone for Microsoft in many ways, which went largely unnoticed. In 2005, Microsoft discontinued mainstream support for one of their most popular development environments, Visual Basic 6. Even though it’s considered by most to be out-of-date, many programmers have been reluctant to switch over to Visual Studio 2005. For some, it is simply a matter of not wanting to learn something new. Others don’t know what the latest version of Visual Basic offers, or if their favorite features have been implemented. Visual Studio 2005 Jumpstart is intended to fill that knowledge gap.

This book is not intended for developers who are familiar with earlier versions of Visual Studio .NET (2002 or 2003), though there is some information that you might find useful. This book is geared mostly towards Visual Basic 6 programmers who have yet to jump on the .NET bandwagon. Towards that end, this book does a decent job of touring programmers through some new features, but lacks any real concrete information for developers who are actively switching. You’ll mostly wet your palette for more information, but at least you’ll now know what you could do, and what to look for.

Many of the new features are demonstrated with sample applications that include source code, and screen shots from Visual Studio that encourage the reader to create the applications while reading, and show some of the power behind the new IDE. There are examples that show both a Windows Forms application, and a Web Forms application, as well as how to consume a Web Service. However, some of the examples attempt to demonstrate new features by implementing functionality that is currently available through a single line of code in the .NET framework. One example of this is the Application Exit dialog, which could easily be implemented with a single call to MessageBox.Show, but is implemented with a custom dialog class instead. Brand new Visual Basic.NET users might be tempted to copy and paste some of this code into real world applications, which would be quite a waste.

Also included is a brief introduction to Object Oriented Programming, along with a quick run through on generics. While mostly accurate information is presented, I did find a few places where concepts were presented too broadly, and would be misleading to new .NET developers. Also covered are some of the changes that you’ll find in the language, including some features that are new, and some features that still exist, but go by a different name. Finally, the last chapter discusses when you should consider switching a current application from Visual Basic 6 to .NET, and some of the tools that are available to help.

If you’re a current Visual Basic 6 developer, and are looking for a good overview on why you should switch to Visual Basic .NET and what it offers, then this book will provide you with some good information. However, if you’ve already made the decision to switch, then I would recommend something more in-depth to help you along your path.

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