Author: Rod Stephens
Publisher: Wrox, 2010
Aimed at: Intermediate level VB programmers
Pros: Clear and readable accounts of wide range of topics
Cons: Tends to run out of steam
Reviewed by: Ian Elliot
Any book with "Reference" in its title has to justify its existence in this day and age of easy access to Internet-based resources. But is this really a reference work?
It is true that the supplied Visual Basic documentation is poor, but a reference book still has to provide something more. In this case the examples do go into more than the basic reference type information, in fact so much so that this is hardly useful as a reference. There are a set of appendices provided which list Useful Control Properties, Methods and Events, Variable Declarations and Data Types, Operators, Subroutine and Function Declarations, Control Statements, Error Handling, Windows Forms, WPF controls, Form objects, LINQ, Graphics and so on. This only serves to point out that such references are fairly useless and that the book really isn't a reference work in the usual sense.
If it isn't a reference work - what is it?
The best description is that it is an intermediate level guide to the language and all that surrounds it. Take a typical chapter - Chapter 17, Subroutines and Functions. This starts off with an accurate and complete definition of a subroutine. It then explains each of the parts used in the definition in some depth - this involves occasionally going deeper into a topic than might otherwise have been the case. For example, when we reach "Parameters" then we have a major detour into all the different types of parameters you can use. Then we move on to functions and to lambda expressions as a quick alternative way of defining a function. However, there is no mention of what you might use a lambda function for and no mention of closure. So despite the approach being fairly high level and fairly comprehensive it stops short of being really insightful and helpful.
This pattern tends to be the norm with an in-depth description of the standard facilities that VB provides, some examples of using them but nothing deep and nothing novel. If you don't know why a feature is important you will probably miss the meaning of the whole thing.
The other important feature of this book is that it doesn't restrict itself to VB, or even to core VB. It deals with how to use Visual Studio. LINQ, Graphics, WCF and WPF. Of course it doesn't have the space to cover any of them in depth and if you are really looking for a focused book on Visual Basic then this is a shame.
This is a book that will be useful to anyone who programs occasionally in Visual Basic and needs a quick introduction to a topic at an intermediate level. It isn't suitable for the beginner and it isn't suitable for the expert or anyone trying to make deeper sense of it all or solve a tricky problem. It isn't a reference work on VB as its title suggests, but this is probably a plus point. The book contains clear and readable accounts of each topic but they often run out just when things are getting interesting. Good as far as it goes.