Microsoft s .NET technology is, in my opinion, some of the coolest technology to come out of Redmond in recent memory. It s going to revolutionize how people build Web sites. But, before people start building cool sites, they must wade through the documentation to figure out how to do it. Scott Worley s Inside ASP.NET is designed to help guide new developers through ASP.NET to start building good applications quickly.
The book gives a good introduction to the key ASP.NET topics required to start building applications. It mentions the key languages, but it uses VB .NET as its example language. It s easy enough to convert between the languages, so that shouldn t be a concern (see my article There and Back Again, asp.netPRO April 2002). Beginning with the fourth chapter, the examples become significantly better and more useful for readers to adapt for their own projects. The book covers topics I haven t seen in other books that came out after .NET beta 2, such as message queues, transaction processing, encryption, and decryption.
The book also includes a full-blown project, a common feature in recent books. In this book, you build a project-tracking tool, complete with a database, an object model using custom-built classes, and security using the built-in forms authentication features that are already getting popular. For many developers, this is the best way to learn the tool because they can reverse-engineer the code to solve their own problems.
Unfortunately, the book has some problems, as well. The first few chapters and six of the seven appendices for the most part are simply lists of properties with less documentation than that provided in the .NET Framework. Most of the lists in the second chapter are simply copied from the Microsoft documentation, with some minor wording changes. These lists seem to add to the page count without adding any value to the book. There are also some typos and text-formatting issues that could lead to errors in code, such as two hyphen characters converted into a single long dash (called an em-dash). Unfortunately, this occurs in an HTML comment, which requires two dashes to work properly; someone typing in the code without noticing this is going to get the wrong result.
The book also seems to breeze through important topics that can cause problems for programmers converting from ASP classic programming. For starters, there s no coverage of the VB .NET language. The book does not recommend any prerequisites in the introduction or on the back cover, so a reader should expect to get coverage of the language. There are some incorrect statements in the section named Migration from Classic ASP to ASP.NET, such as this: ASP.NET offers full syntax and processing compatibility with classic ASP applications. Developers just need to change file extensions from .asp to .aspx to migrate their files to the .NET Framework. This is simply not the case and is certainly not a good thing to recommend to new developers. I took an ASP page from my own Web site and tried this, only to receive a server error message. According to the author, it should have worked just fine. Chapter 2 proves my point by listing the incompatibilities between VB .NET and VBScript. Blanket statements like this not only give incorrect information, but they give new developers the sense that ASP.NET is simply ASP version 4.0, which is far from the truth.
In short, if you can make use of the middle section of the book, it might be worth looking into. The content on message queuing, security, and transaction services is fairly useful. But, because at least 150 pages of the book are straight out of the Microsoft documentation, you probably can do better with a different title to help you learn ASP.NET.
Inside ASP.NET by Scott Worley, New Riders, http://www.newriders.com.
Cover Price: US$49.99