Review: AppDev Professional Training (Visual C# 2005: Developing Applications)
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by Zachary Bussinger
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Topics Covered

These videos have a large amount of content; as such, I will not be covering every section in depth in this review.  I will mainly cover the highlights (the sections I thought were very helpful, along with some sections I felt could be improved or expanded upon) and will clump together certain related sections.  I will also include a brief description of each topic.

1) Introduction to Windows Forms, Taking Advantage of the Form Event Model, and Common Windows Forms Controls

These are the first three modules in the series.  They really encompass the same topic, serving as a very good general introduction to Windows programming.  When I watched these I had never done anything with Windows programming and can honestly say that after watching them I have a much firmer grasp on the various foundational concepts involved.  The sample programs provided with these modules are very easy to follow and simple enough for an amateur developer to understand.

2) Exception Handling

This is an excellent introduction to exception handling.  This module encapsulates so much information about handling exceptions.

3) Working with Strings and Dates

Again, not having much experience with C# to begin with, this was an indispensable lesson.  The instructors review the basic .NET Data Types and go in depth about working with strings and dates.  There are many little things that I often forget how to do when it comes to manipulating strings and dates even months after watching these videos, but it is nice to know that I can use the lesson and the sample program to find the answers I need.  There are still many things from these that I have not used in practice, but it definitely taught me a lot about the potential of string and date formatting in .NET.

4) Accessing Data, Data Binding Techniques, Using the Data Controls

For me, these sections were among the most important.  At my job I do a lot of database-related work that requires multiple methods of interfacing with SQL Server 2005 Databases.  The Accessing Data module covers a lot of important concepts in working with ADO.NET and does a great job of it.  Granted, a lot of what is presented is based on Windows application programming, but the concepts are presented generally enough that they can be adapted to different environments.

Within this section there is also a lesson on Data Validation that is very practical and useful. Robert covers validation at the form level and the data level, including how to use event-driven techniques for validation.

Data controls are covered fairly well here too, at least enough to jump in and start getting your feet wet using them (as I think is the idea with most of these lessons).

5) Handling Input/Output Tasks

This section was very helpful for me as well.  Coming from a C++ background, I found that I/O tasks were quite different (in syntax) in C# when I started learning how to code in it.  There are many lessons on this topic, starting with a good introduction to the System.IO namespace and continuing to cover topics like I/O streams, working with files and folders, and working with paths.  The examples for these topics are well thought out and illustrate many of these concepts in an easy to understand way, especially when used in conjunction with the videos.

6) Project Settings in Visual Studio 2005, Debugging Your Applications

This is a good reference for working with various properties in Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 and debugging applications.  There are lessons which teach you how to work with the Project Designer and various properties (application, compilation, debugging).  Project references, resources, and settings are also covered in detail and I have found the lessons to be very useful in practice.

The debugging section here is also GREAT!  I cannot stress how useful the contents of the debugging lessons have been.  Before I got to this lesson, I really did not realize just how powerful Visual Studio's debugging features are.  Breakpoints, stepping through, evaluating variables, edit and continue (my favorite!), tracing, and even debugging assembly code are all covered.  I cannot say enough about how much I took from these lessons; it was really great stuff!

7) Container Controls

I do not do much design work, but these lessons do give some great tips on how to get started with using the various available container controls in Visual Studio.  I know if I ever need to design a relatively complex web page, these lessons and the examples that come with them will be one of the first references I will turn to.

8) Menus and Toolbars

This mainly covers the ToolStrip controls in Visual Studio 2005.  Again, something I do not use much in practice, but useful lessons nonetheless.

9) Creating MDI Applications

This is something I have not really used yet in practice, but they were good lessons and had good examples to accompany them.  Includes lessons on what MDI applications are, working with parent and child forms, and managing the tasks involved in MDI programs.

10) Complex Windows Forms Controls, Creating Custom Controls

The lessons on complex Windows forms controls are pretty much just a marathon run-down of a whole bunch of Windows controls.  Helpful?  Definitely, but this is where one of my few criticisms of the AppDev videos surfaces.

Sometimes the videos really do just become a rundown of various controls/properties that can take a really long time to get through.  Sometimes I found myself wondering if a lot of this could have been included in the reference material or even just briefly touched on with some suggested resources to refer to.  I am not complaining about the information being available in the videos, but it can be grueling to sit through when I could easily Google search for a given control and look all of its properties up or even refer to Microsoft's documentation.  These lessons are still good, but I might not recommend just sitting through all of them.  I would just refer to them as you need them.  The examples for all of these are nice, though.  I would really suggest loading them up in VS 2005 and trying them out.

The lessons on creating custom controls are very good.  They explain how you can inherit from existing controls to make your own or just how to go about making your own controls from scratch.  In my opinion, this is one of the foundational topics in the video series that I am glad to see covered.  This is something that beginning developers will learn to use time and time again as an elegant solution to many problems.

11) Working with ToolBox Components, More ToolBox Components

This is an important section for Windows programming.  Components covered are:

·         FileSystemWatcher Component

·         Process Component

·         EventLog Component

·         Timer Component

·         BackgroundWorker Component

·         PerformanceCounter Component

·         ServiceController Component

12) Interoperability

This covers lessons on using COM.  To be honest, this topic seemed pretty advanced to me (especially for a beginning developer who has never used COM and compared to a lot of the other lessons).  It seems to be a good starting point for learning how to use COM, however, and if I ever wish to use it I will watch the videos and follow the examples much more closely.  The lessons cover calling COM from .NET and vice-versa, using platform invoke, and web services.

13) Deploying Applications using Click-Once

This was a very cool and informative set of lessons.  The videos illustrated the kind of power a programmer has when deploying his or her application and how to use that power effectively.  The deployment options in VS 2005 are really nice.  Personally, I have not yet used them in detail, but I look forward to it.

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