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Book Review: Best Kept Secrets in .NET

by William Ryan
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As someone who spends my life living and breathing .NET, I happen to read quite a few .NET Titles.  Although there's some crud out there, most of the .NET Stuff that's published these days is pretty good.  However, unless the topic is something I knew nothing or little about, I usually end up with a few good insights or ideas but nothing too dramatic.  However some books are just so good that I feel compelled to write about them.   Deborah Kurata's Best Kept Secrets in .NET is one of those gems that's so good it's hard to really describe.  Apress has earned itself the reputation of an absolutely first rate publishing company and it is titles like this that has contributed to their success.  And as I've mentioned before, with APress and Addison-Wesley pushing out some of the best computer books I've come across in a while, I'd hate to have to compete in this market.  

Why do I think this book is so great?  Well, basically because I've been working in .NET for about 3 years or so now and know my way around .NET fairly well.  But after 20 minutes of reading this book I felt compelled to run for my computer and try some of this stuff out.  There's just too much stuff that you can do, immediately upon reading it, that will save you time and effort for me to go into in this one review (Besides, you need to buy the book for yourself).

I read a pretty positive review on Amazon stating that the book doesn't go into design patterns or teach you how to code in .NET.  That's true, it doesn't.  What it does teach you is how to whiz around the IDE, save yourself a bunch of time, make most aspects of development a lot easier and just enjoy working in Visual Studio .NET.

Below are my original comments that I posted on Amazon:

Not since the C#/VB.NET Programmers Cookbook have I come across something with soooo much cool stuff in it. There are tons of great .NET books. But usually you have to read through things (and that's fine - it's the way you should learn stuff). But sometimes, you know you've come across something and you want to do it right without searching all over the place. I often forget which of my books I read a given technique in and search and search. Well, in 207 Pages you'll never have to look far.

Chapter 1 - Hidden Treasures in Visual Studio - A must read for any NET Developer. I'm pretty well versed in VS.NEt but the reference of shortcut keys, organizing your code snippets and Executing VS Commands all had more than a few tricks that I'm GLAD I came across.

Chapter II - Designing Winforms - Well, it's a little late - I wish this was out 3 years ago. However that doesn't detract from it. Virtually every subtley nuanced little winforms trick I wanted to do in my career is here in one form or another. I hate Winforms programming so I didn't like the chapter personally as much as the other ones, but that's only becaues I don't like Winforms programming and i've stumbled through, often painfully, a lot of what's covered. It's still kick a33 as a reference though.

Code Tricks - another great, GREAT chapter. The discussion on Regexs is one of the most clear I've come across but that's just the beginning. Overloading operators is discussed very to the point and even though that's hardly a major task, her discussion is just so to the point that it's about the best I've come across. Debugging - This is so Good even John Robbins would have to give her props - and he's written the best debugging book ever written.

ADO.NET - well, that's probably where I spend most of my time - but she taught me a trick or two. The discussion on validation and using Extended Properties is second to none - and that's not just because it's hardly ever touched up anywhere else.

Defensive Programming - EVERYONE should have to read this chapter. Everyone!

Anyway, this is another superb title that APress put out and at this rate, if the others don't catch up, APRess and Addison-Wesley are going to be the only real players in the developer market.

Let me elaborate on a few of these.  How many keyboard shortcuts do you use regularly when working in .NET, 10-15 tops?  I know that was about it for me.  Know I consistently use at least 30 which has made me much more productive, just about instantly.  "So you're saying I need to buy this book to learn Keyboard Shortcuts, huh Bill?"  No, that's just one of the many cool things here.

Here's another fine example.  Hit google for
DataTable "Extended Properties".  I got a whopping 593 hits, few of which dealt with the subject.  I think I have just about every ADO.NET book out there, and while many of them are really first rate, I don't remember coming across this area.  After playing with them for one night I wondered how I lived without them before (then I remembered, I wrote a ton of unnecessary code).

Her section on Debugging is another pretty good piece.  After reading John Robbins'  Debugging Applications for Microsoft .NET and Microsoft Windows, I was pretty well versed in Debugging although I have to admit I didn't put as much into practice as I would have liked to.  Deborah's discussion though was so good she should get Bugslayer kudos!  Incidentally, if you haven't used Log4Net yet, it's an opensource logging tool for .NET that pure gold.  

I could go on and on, but you can go through this book quickly enough that, had you been reading it instead of my review, you would already be more productive.  Incidentally, as of 10/7/2004 I've 8 other people take my recommendation and every one of them, advanced .NET Developers concurs that this is a true Must read book for any .NET Developer.  Sure, it caters to folks that already know .NET and want to move around quicker, but I really wish I would have had it two years ago - it sure would have saved me some headaches!

Writing Add-Ins for Visual Studio .NET
Writing Add-ins for Visual Studio .NET
by Les Smith
Apress Publishing