[Originally written for the review column in .NET Developers Journal]

Written by Hitesh Seth

SAMS Publishing ISBN 0672325748 $34.99 Score: 3/10

Rewind back to the year 2000. Microsoft is in the process of releasing betas for .NET 1.0 and there are books aplenty presenting overviews of this new technology for managers, architects and developers. They extol the virtues of web services, object-oriented web development with ASP.NET, and the sheer brute functionality of the .NET foundation class library. Now fast forward back to the here and now of 2004. .NET has undergone a minor upgrade, the world has gotten used to programming with it and Microsoft, as ever, is looking forward to.NET versions 2.0 and 3.0. So where does a company who wants to try out .NET 1.x start its quest to find out more? Those 2000 books are out of date, and in hindsight somewhat misguiding. Enter the aptly-titled Microsoft .NET Kick Start from SAMS Publishing. This new book aims to be a quick, clean and concise introduction to the 2004 vistas of the .NET 1.1 world for experienced developers looking at migrating from another platform. Sounds promising, but unfortunately not.

To be fair, all the topics you’d expect this book to cover are covered and more. .NET is introduced, the CLR is explained, common programming jobs are covered and the supporting suite of enterprise servers and SDKs are documented as well, but it’s the overall inconsistency of the book that is its downfall. It either can’t decide how much an experienced developer might already know or it decides that in the interests of being quick and concise, it should leave out information which really should be left in.

It all starts off well too. The first couple of chapters cover the evolution of .NET and the contents of the CLR. While pretty standard fare, they are both written well and informatively, as is Chapter 5 on Visual Studio .NET 2003. The problems occur when the chapters contain coding examples. Each time the author presents some code, he seems to have asked himself the question, “How much will my audience already know about this and how easily will they be able to follow the code itself?” and then come to a different conclusion. The results range from seven page listings of web forms code explained by two lines of text and a screenshot (Chapter 7) to five pages of off-topic discussion before proving the reasonably minor point that you can use Infopath as a front-end for .NET Web services (Chapter 12). There are some well-balanced examples of code and text in here as well and .NET’s facility for Web Services and COM Interop are served well by them, but they are not in the majority.

This book also makes some strange choices on what to mention. For example, Chapter 3 looks at the languages that come out of the box with VS.NET and so includes J#. Fine, but it doesn’t even mention JScript .NET which is also included in the .NET Framework. Why? It touts Visual Studio Tools for Office as a replacement for VBA, but neglects to mention that it actually costs money in addition to Office. Why? The last third of the book tries to present the icing on the .NET cake for a developer, dealing with code security, easy development for mobile devices, integration with enterprise servers and the Office suite. We are told things that are possible, but there’s little actual code, real world or otherwise as evidence to support it. Those examples which do exist either strike a resemblance to online documentation or just don’t inspire. Why? For an experienced developer, one of the most noteworthy subjects must surely be security and yet here the security chapter is the shortest in the book, at just ten pages. Why? It looks like these chapters were added because the book needed to be complete and to be current but little time was spent on them. That may not be the case, but that’s how it reads.

In conclusion then, Microsoft .NET Kick Start isn’t a great book. It’s well-written in places but lacks consistency overall. Sometimes it’s too concise and other times it rambles. Its examples aren’t great or particularly well explained. If a developer new to .NET asked me for a guide, I wouldn’t recommend this book. I might photocopy the table of contents and tell them to look the topics up on the internet, but that’s about it. Just walk away.

Buy it at Amazon UK