Book Review: ASP.NET 4 Unleashed

The classic reference, updated for the .NET 4 Framework

Rating: 4/5 stars
Price: $53.99 (paper), $16.80 (eBook)

It's hard to believe that I reviewed the first edition of Stephen Walther's ASP.NET Unleashed nearly a decade ago, and followed it four years later with a review of his sequel, ASP.NET 2.0 Unleashed. Since that time, ASP.NET has gone through two major iterations correlating to the .NET Frameworks upon which it is based. With this latest release, Stephen has handed the book's primary stewardship to two new contributors, Kevin Hoffman and Nate Dudek, essentially charging them with the duties of revising and updating the book's contents to reflect the new realities of what the 4.0 .NET Framework has to offer.

ASP.NET 4 Unleashed is divided into nine parts and 40 chapters. The first seven chapters cover the basic aspects of building and designing ASP.NET pages and websites. Using the standard, validation, and rich controls along with master pages and themes, readers are shown how easy it is to construct a fully functional ASP.NET-driven website. The next two parts cover data access and building custom components, illustrating the real power behind ASP.NET websites. Readers learn how the various data, list, grid, details, chart, and query controls can bring database sources into manageable, effective web-browsable user interfaces. Site navigation and security are covered next, showing how to use navigation controls, site maps, and the ASP.NET URL routing engine, as well as learning the details of the ASP.NET Membership model.

More advanced topics are covered in Part 7, Building ASP.NET Applications. This part features such chapters on maintaining state, localization and the ASP.NET MVC framework, as well as configuring and deploying ASP.NET applications. Part 8 goes into further depth on building custom controls including templated data-bound controls. The final part of the book concludes with three chapters on using AJAX in ASP.NET applications, ranging from the server-side and the ASP.NET AJAX Control Toolkit to client-side AJAX using jQuery.

Unlike my previous reviews of the paper edition of the book, I read the Ebook edition for this release and found it well formatted for the e-reading experience. My only criticism is that the publisher didn't take the formatting far enough. While the screen shots are all in color, the code listings are not. Anyone who lives in the Visual Studio IDE has become so used to the meanings of color codings that to not see these represented in the electronic edition is a missed opportunity. And the code segments themselves have been converted to images, so code snippets cannot be individually selected or highlighted as the rest of the book can. Granted, this modification was probably due to maintain formatting on various e-reading platforms, but it's an area of needed improvement if the electronic edition is intended to eventually outshine its print counterpart.

Those who have already read and fully practiced Stephen's 2008 ASP.NET 3.5 Unleashed will not need to pick up this new title; there are enough online resources on MSDN and other websites that discuss the changes and new additions from 3.5 to 4.0. For those brand-new to the ASP.NET development world as well as those making the leap from older versions to Microsoft's latest and greatest, ASP.NET 4 Unleashed will be a very helpful reference indeed. Its various predecessors have educated countless .NET web developers and its proven format justifies its continued iterations by the book's publisher. Although I do lament the fact that the book is no longer written by single voice, the contributors have done a good job of building their writing style and expertise on top of a solid foundation.

Mike Riley ([email protected]) is an advanced computing professional specializing in emerging technologies and new development trends. He is also a contributing editor for DevProConnections. Follow Mike on Twitter @mriley.

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