Wednesday , April 17 2024
If you want to get up to speed quickly, Essential Windows Presentation Foundation will give you a solid foundation.

Book Review: Essential Windows Presentation Foundation by Chris Anderson

Microsoft Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) is a replacement for the diverse presentation technologies that have been developed over the course of the last 15 years. It is an attempt to unify into a state of the art platform, a foundation by which you can build dynamic applications that take advantage of all of the latest technologies. It fully integrates the best of Windows and the Web including interfaces, documents, and media, all while leveraging the power of XML.

While the author of Essential Windows Presentation Foundation knew there would be a lot of books coming out on WPF, he wanted his to offer something that was unique. Since Chris Anderson worked on the WPF design team, his perspective would, by default, be unique in and of itself, but his goal was to have a book designed for application developers and intended as a conceptual reference book covering most of WPF. Essential Windows Presentation Foundation is about application software; that is, software that is designed to communicate with people, not other software. It is 512 pages in length and divided into eight chapters.

Chapter 1, "Introduction," presents the platform and breaks down how the seven major components of WPF fit together. It is here also where you will see a quick start of how to build applications as well where to find content in the documentation and how to use the SDK.

Chapter 2, "Applications," will explain the structure of applications built using WPF as well as the application services and top-level objects used by applications. Here you will look at the Application object and the main components that make up an application. You will also see how to manage state throughout any kind of application.

Chapter 3, "Controls," explores the major design patterns in WPF controls and the major control families in WPF. Since controls are the fundamental building blocks of user interfaces, this may be the most important chapter in the book. In this chapter you will examine the three main principles that lie within all controls: element composition, rich content everywhere, as well as a simple programming model.

Chapter 4, "Layout," describes the design of the layout system and an overview of the six stock layout panels that ship in WPF. While controls are the basis of an application, it is the layout that plays a critical role in positioning and sizing those controls.

Chapter 5, "Visuals," gives an overview of the surface area that is the WPF visual system. In the last two chapters, the roles that controls and layouts played were examined. Now you will learn how to use them to create a set of visuals that display pixels on a screen. This will now take you down the road from typography, 2D and 3D graphics, animation, video, and audio.

Chapter 6, "Data," gets into the basics of data sources, data binding, resources, and data transfer operations. Because WPF's data binding system is deeply integrated in the platform, with the proper model you can create applications with a completely data driven approach.

Chapter 7, "Actions," describes how events, commands and triggers work to make things happen in your applications. Up till now your topics have focused on the application presenting information to the user, but many times you need an application to respond to input from the system or the user. This chapter will show you how.

Chapter 8, "Styles," will show you the styling system in WPF. Styling enables the clean separation of the designer and developer by allowing the loose coupling between the visual appearance of a UI and the programmable structure. You will also see how styles can be packaged in to themes which provide consistency across applications.

The Appendix, "Base Services," drills down into some of the low level services in WPF. The topics covered include threading, property and event system, input, composition, and printing system.

Essential Windows Presentation Foundation provides a very good primer on WPF. It is remarkably focused and to the point. It provides a concise overview that will point you down the right path and does, as the author suggests, constitute a good reference book.

The only thing I wish this book had going for it was more insight into how WPF evolved, especially coming from one of the architects of WPF. With something as complex as the changes that created WPF, it would have been nice to have more in-depth discussion on why some of the decisions were made.

That said, Essential Windows Presentation Foundation does provide the key principles on using and creating WPF applications in a relatively short period of time. It is aimed at the developer, so this is not the place for a pure beginner to start, but if you are a developer, and want to get up to speed quickly then Essential Windows Presentation Foundation will give you a solid foundation. I recommend this book.

About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.

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