Book Review: A First Look at ASP.NET v. 2.0
Published: 01 Dec 2003
Unedited - Community Contributed
An in-depth review of "A First Look at ASP.NET v2.0" published by Addison Wesley, authored by Alex Homer, Dave Sussman, and Rob Howard. Foreword by Scott Guthrie. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this new title from the folks at Addison-Wesley...
by Robert Chartier
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Chapters 1 through 5

I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this new title from the folks at Addison-Wesley, not only does it open with Scott Guthrie’s foreword but includes a chapter on Caching by Rob Howard and features the exceptional writing talents of Alex Homer and Dave Sussman.  At first glance I noticed that this book has something for everyone, include those few of us that attended many of the early previews of the technology on Microsoft Campus or at PDC.


The book starts off with Scott’s usual summary of everything that is new.  He is always the fortunate one that gets to wow the pants off of everyone with the cool features that are coming, this book was no exception.  In just a few pages Scott outlines what to expect from the rest of the book, and more importantly what we can expect from the next major release of ASP.NET. 


Once we blur through Scotts summary, and then a slightly more detailed summary (redundant?) we jump right into an introduction to Visual Studio .NET (VS.NET) and VS.NET Whidbey. 


NOTE: “Whidbey” is the code name for all of the V2 bits, including ASP.NET v2, and VS.NET, the next major release.


I personally don’t like the fact that they started the book with their IDE product.  I got the book because I want too see ASP.NET not because I need to be convinced that I need to buy their IDE.  There are a few little bits of gold in this first chapter though.  Stuff like the new supported folders (code, themes, etc), and how to pre-compile applications (yes, pre-compile web applications). 


Chapters 3 and 4 are a very extensive look at some of the new Data Source controls and how to bind with them.  I love how the author presented the material for these chapters from all angles.  Mobility, code-free data binding, sorting, paging, event handling, grid and details views and of course some of the basic syntax that we all use (and sometimes forget) are all covered in this chapter.  Wouldn’t it nice to have one of those pull-out quick reference cards?  I could have done without most of the actual design time properties and their full explanation; I just can’t see myself, let alone anyone else, finding this very useful for a pre-beta technology which could change rendering the content useless.  For this stuff I would use either intellisense, or the online help.


Next we move onto Chapter 5, Master Pages and navigation. The authors start out with some very simple code showing you the bare bones of how to implement Master Pages.  Very nicely laid out, and I like the fact that nothing here is tied to VS.NET (show me the code!).  They move onto more complex situations where they demonstrate how to actually nest your Master pages.  We see how to programmatically access the master of the current page, how to selectively use master pages based on browser capabilities, and even how to apply a master page to the entire site by using the .config files.  Lastly they discuss Navigation features, including some new features dealing with Site Maps and such.

Chapters 6 through 13

We now move onto Security I Chapter 6.  This chapter covers the wide topic of membership (not including personalization).


NOTE: Remember, the difference between Membership and Personalization that membership deals with user authentication and authorization only.  Personalization deals with things like themes and skins, more along the lines of allowing the user to customize their view of the content on your site.


I personally like how this chapter flows.  We start off with forms authentication, then move into the actual membership pieces, some of the controls that we can use with membership, role management, cookie-less forms authentication, and finally the very cool Web Admin tool. We get a very straight forward coverage of membership.


Now we move onto Personalization in Chapter 7.  This book, of course, covers all the bases.  Personalization providers (access and SQL-Server) and even how we can roll out our own custom providers.  I also liked the fact that we get a very basic introduction to how to apply themes to your sites on a per user basis, including creating and using skins.  Finally the book ends with how to support theme’s within our own custom controls.


The next logical topic we would expect from this book would be to deal with those extremely complex Web Parts, the Portal Framework.  I tried to read over most of this chapter (we’re on Chapter 8 now) but found myself hoping that the IDE would give me sufficient support for my needs regarding these.  I think for some production rollouts these would mostly be a nice-to-have feature, and for an even smaller number a must-have, so I felt that when the time comes that I need to leverage these that I will take a deeper look then.  Either way, its nice to know that this book covers these features in over 40 pages of content.


Chapter 9 deals with Pages, Posting and Validation.  I know many of you out there will take these features to heart.  They cover such things as cross page posting, validation, validation groups, the new wizard control, client scripting support, page directive, and finally page and control lifecycles.  Very extensive coverage in about 30 pages.  I did notice that they tossed in URL Mapping within the mix.  I felt that this was out of place and could be better places with the configuration details in Chapter 13.


We now jump over to the Mobile development world.  I’ve always loved the fact that Microsoft really was interested in solving the whole device adaptability stuff.  One thing that I didn’t expect from this book was the fact that they actually introduced the browser definitions files and how to register them with ASP.NET.  Along with that we also get a peek at some of the mobile-only controls which we can leverage.  The chapter ends with a nice list of the available emulators. 


Chapter 11 jumps over to Caching.  And I believe this is all done by Rob Howard.  Basically is standard discussion regarding Caching, database caching (yes, with Yukon too).


I want to quickly jump over to Chapter 12, Control Enhancements.  We get a nice overview of Dynamic Images (device specific rendering), Image Generation Service (ImageGenerator Control),  a list of changes to existing controls (a must for everyone planning on migrating to v2) and finally the author covers resources, and how to actually add web resources, which I’m sure will impress most control developers.


The last Chapter, 13 deals with all the new Configuration and Administration features that we will see roll out in v2.  It’s a very detailed (brutal) view all most if not all of the configuration sections that we will be able to play with in v2.  Thank god that Microsoft is actually giving us a tool to help with all of these options.

Final Comments

Final Comments:


Throughout the book you will notice that most of the examples that are given are the core examples that will most likely ship as quick starts for v2.  I recognize about 90% of them from previous demonstrations from the ASP.NET team.  I guess you could say that this is good; keep things consistent.


Dont Buy IF:


It's nice too see that this book does strictly focus on ASP.NET and does not cover any topics like ADO.NET, Web Services, or any new languages features like Generics, iterators, partial classes, etc..  It allows the authors to present in-depth and precise details on the limited scope for the book.  If you're looking for more details on those or other topics not strictly specific to ASP.NET I wouldn’t recommend this book for you.


Personally I would never expect a book such as this to dive into many real world examples, its just too early (what, a full year before RTM?).  So if you're expecting to see such things, don't get this book.



Buy IF:

If you're one of those types that needs to stay on top of technology (personality –like me- or employment needs) then I do recommend getting this book.  You might think it is a bit too early to actually make the investment, but I do believe that this book does cover about 95% of the content that will actually be released.  You can expect some minor changes here and there, but for the most part I can see the value of this book lasting even past the final release of the product itself.



Some useful Urls to consider before purchasing this book:{4AF26663-2C49-469A-98F0-CEC0ACA17ABF}/catalog/product.asp


Book Details

The book has 498 pages in 13 chapters including the index.


1. An Introduction to ASP.NET 2.0
2. Tools and Architecture
3. Data Source Controls and Data Binding
4. The GridView and DetailsView Controls
5. Master Pages and Navigation
6. Security
7. Personalization and Themes
8. Web Parts and the Portal Framework
9. Pages, Posting and Validation
10. Mobile Device Support
11. Caching
12. Control Enhancements
13. Configuration and Administration

The publisher, Addison-Wesley maintains a web site for the book at:{4AF26663-2C49-469A-98F0-CEC0ACA17ABF}


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