Review: Building Microsoft ASP.NET Applications for Mobile Devices, Second Edition
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Published: 27 Sep 2005
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Abstract
Whether you are a novice developer looking to create your first web-based mobile application, or a seasoned developer seeking advanced knowledge, Michelle Beall recommends Building Microsoft ASP.NET Applications for Mobile Devices, Second Edition as a must-have book.
by Michelle Beall
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Written by: Andy Wrigley and Peter Roxburgh
Published by: Microsoft Press (2003)

Building Microsoft ASP.NET Applications for Mobile Devices covers a broad spectrum of topics, from basic concepts in the early chapters through to some more advanced areas in the later chapters. For anyone looking for an introduction to developing for mobile devices using ASP.NET, this book is a must. Even experienced .NET programmers will find useful information. It is evident that the authors thought out and planned the book with both the novice and the experienced programmer in mind. The fact that some intermediate and more advanced topics are covered in a book that also covers introductory information is very appealing. To learn good habits from the onset is better than having to correct bad techniques later. This book has 22 chapters in all, has 666 pages, and currently lists as US$59.99.

Table of Contents

  1. Introducing Microsoft ASP.NET for the Mobile Web
  2. Getting Started
  3. Programming ASP.NET Mobile Web Forms
  4. Programming the Standard Controls
  5. Special-Purpose Controls and Validation Controls
  6. Programming the List Controls
  7. Using the Downloadable Controls
  8. Programming Styles and Style Sheets
  9. Customizing with Property Overrides and Templates
  10. Advanced List Control Programming
  11. Accessing Data
  12. State Management
  13. Enhancing Application Performance
  14. Multilingual and Multicultural Web Applications
  15. XML Web Services
  16. Debugging, Testing with Emulators, and Handling Run-Time Errors
  17. Packaging and Configuration
  18. ASP.NET Application Security
  19. Supporting New Clients
  20. Building a Reusable User Interface as User Controls
  21. Creating Custom Controls by Inheritance and Composition
  22. Programming Device Adapters and Building Controls from Scratch

Chapter 1 serves as a basic introduction to some of the issues faced when developing for mobile devices, and how .NET addresses some of these issues. There are a multitude of devices that have varying screen sizes and support different markup languages. The authors ask the question, “How then do you create an application that works with a significant number of these devices?” Naturally the answer is using the .NET Framework, as indicated by the title of the book. The remainder of the chapter gives an introduction to the .NET Framework as it applies to mobile device application development. It is a brief introduction as the topics are discussed in more detail in the next chapters.

Chapter 2 sets the scene by enabling you to develop a rudimentary application, which you then run in an emulator. The simulator used is by Openwave, and the URL for downloading it is supplied in the book.

Chapter 3 does a great job in introducing the concepts behind ASP.NET and then applying them to the development of mobile device applications. If you’re experienced in writing ASP .NET applications for web browsers there isn’t a whole lot of new material here, but it is still worthwhile to read through as the MobilePage class is introduced here.

The next four chapters cover various ASP.NET mobile controls and demonstrate some of their properties and events. The container and standard controls are covered in chapter 4. Chapter 5 covers validation and special-purpose mobile controls such as the Calendar, PhoneCall, and AdRotator controls. List type controls are discussed and explained in chapter 6. The three controls discussed are the SelectionList, List, and ObjectList. Chapter 7 focuses on three downloadable controls created by the mobile device developer community: MobileCheckBox, MobileMultiLineInput, and MobileDynamicImage. These chapters include lots of example code, and screenshots from various devices are spread throughout so you can get a feel for the UI of the controls.

Chapter 8 covers styles and style sheets and how to apply them for specific devices so that you can “take full advantage of the display capabilities” of the various devices. This chapter even includes some coverage of XHTML. Though this chapter does not exhaustively cover CSS and style sheets, there is enough information to get started.

Chapter 9 covers more advanced information on overriding properties to “apply to a specific subset of client devices”. Templates and templated controls are discussed, which allow you to add device specific markup.

In chapter 10 the List controls are revisited. Template information from chapter 9 is applied to List controls. In addition databinding is discussed, showing how the controls can be bound to data collections.

Chapter 11 discusses databinding in more detail and introduces ADO.NET as well as the techniques for accessing various data stores.

State management is the focus of chapter 12. This chapter demonstrates the means by which information can be stored between client requests, such as session state, cookies, hidden variables, ViewState, and application state, and touches on some of the pros and cons of each in the ”Things to Consider” section.

Chapter 13 marks the beginning of the more advanced topics that seasoned developers will be familiar with. Application performance is crucial to keeping user interest alive. This chapter examines application performance optimization techniques, including caching.

Chapter 14 focuses on globalization and localization, which are topics that create confusion for many developers. I like the fact that this topic differentiates between the two by introducing them as multilingual and multicultural. This chapter explains how to develop and test multilingual and multicultural applications.

XML web services are introduced in Chapter 15, though not covered in detail. In fact, the authors recommend alternative books for more detailed coverage on web services. They do a fine job of introducing the topic however.

Debugging, testing, and run-time error handling are covered in chapter 16. This is a very good chapter to read, particularly since it covers working with emulators so you can test your application across different devices without having to own each device.

Deploying the completed application is covered in chapter 17, which covers packaging and configuration. This chapter presents information on versioning, creating an installer, and XML-based configuration files.

Though the topic of application security is vast, this book makes no attempt to cover this topic in detail and makes no assumptions that to cover the topic in one chapter is even feasible. The authors direct the reader to other books whose sole focus is this topic. However the topic is addressed in chapter 18 to demonstrate some techniques in which security can be implemented in an application so that the reader is aware of the need and is equipped with some fundamentals.

In chapter 19, new client support is discussed and will be further enhanced in the final chapter (22 for those of you who have forgotten how many chapters are in this book). New browsers and mobile devices are developed and not all of them will automatically support your application. This chapter covers, amongst other things, device adapters and shows how to use the configuration architecture to support new client devices.

Chapters 20 through 22 cover code reuse and development of user and custom controls, either through inheritance and composition, or by developing them from scratch by inheriting from the MobileControl class. Chapter 22 also covers programming device adapters which are needed to implement device-specific behavior such as rendering custom markup.

Summary

For the more experienced .NET programmer, there is a lot of basic information in this book that may cause you to skip through various sections and chapters. For the novice, the book covers a lot of information, including some more progressive topics, but never gets bogged down with too much information. The book is well laid out with a good spread of code samples and visual aids to support the text. There are a couple topics missing from this book, such as printing and RAPI (though this is more specific to Pocket PC), but this book is a great general mobile device application development book--a must if you’re just getting started with mobile device application development.



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