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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Can it be a whole decade since Microsoft revolutionized programming by introducing Visual Basic? Ten years later, there are somewhere between five and eight million VB programmers worldwide -- and we'll bet the majority of them are greeting Microsoft's new VB.NET with trepidation.
In many respects, this is the VB of our dreams: streamlined, modernized, object-oriented through-and-through, and an "equal player" in the new .NET universe, no longer playing second fiddle to C++ (or even C#). On the other hand, the language has changed extensively: slavish upward compatibility was not a VB.NET design goal. Elements that were once statements are now functions or procedures. Worse, after all these years, we'd finally started to get comfortable with the Component Object Model -- and now it's gone.
To program with VB.NET, you're going to have to "think differently," to swipe a cliché. And it's going to take awhile to get comfortable with the new paradigm -- not to mention the new statements, functions, procedures, directives, and objects. That's where VB.NET Language in a Nutshell comes in. It'll be your rock-solid professional reference as you start working with VB.NET -- and for years thereafter.
The authors assume that you've either been programming for some time (quite possibly with Visual Basic 6) or you're looking for a primary reference to accompany whatever VB.NET tutorials you're already using. Having said that, the first hundred pages of VB.NET Language in a Nutshell deliver concise, insightful discussions of several of the most important issues you face in developing with VB.NET, whatever your background.
For example, you'll find a chapter on VB.NET's standard data types and how VB.NET wraps the data types built into the .NET Framework; and another on VB.NET's approach to object-oriented programming. There's coverage of how the .NET Framework Class Library replaces portions of the Win32 API, and what that means to you as a developer. You have to pay more attention to event handling in VB.NET than you did with VB6 or VBScript, and there's a chapter that shows you how. VB.NET adds a new "structured" option for error handling to accompany the hoary old On Error statement; the authors show you how (and when) to use each.
As you might expect, the authors intend VB.NET Language in a Nutshell to be especially valuable for those upgrading from VB6. To that end, they've provided extensive coverage of the differences between the two languages, both in two detailed appendices and throughout its language reference. (In VB6, if you declare a variable using Dim without specifying a specific data type, it'll be a Variant -- in VB.NET, it'll be an Object. In VB6's Lock statement, you can separate fromrecord and torecord arguments with the "To" keyword; but not in VB.NET. On and on the differences go, large and small.)
The heart of this book is its 500+ page language reference section. Unlike other .NET books, this one focuses specifically on VB.NET's core language elements: its statements, functions, procedures, directives, and objects -- especially the Err and Collection objects. (You'll find some information on the .NET Base Class Library -- the services provided by the .NET Framework. But the authors have restricted that to .NET elements which replace commonly used VB6 features, or significantly expand the functionality of existing VB.NET features.)
To give you fast access to what you're looking for (even if you're not sure what it's called), Appendix B lists every VB.NET function, statement, and major keyword, organized by category. When you do jump to the reference entry, you'll find all the information you need -- presented with maximum clarity and brevity. Syntax. Descriptions. Rules at a glance. Programming tips. And, in many cases, example code.
Best of all, the authors have done a yeoman job cataloguing "gotchas" that are waiting to bite you. (Here's just one: if you need to convert a string representation of a number to a numeric, don't use Val: unlike VB.NET's datatype conversion features, Val doesn't take into account the regional settings of the system it's running on, and can inadvertently return the wrong data.)
Put simply, if you're going to depend on VB.NET, you'll really depend on VB.NET Language in a Nutshell. Every day. (Bill Camarda)
Bill Camarda is a consultant, writer, and web/multimedia content developer with nearly 20 years' experience in helping technology companies deploy and market advanced software, computing, and networking products and services. He served for nearly ten years as vice president of a New Jerseybased marketing company, where he supervised a wide range of graphics and web design projects. His 15 books include Special Edition Using Word 2000 and Upgrading & Fixing Networks For Dummies®, Second Edition.