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Review: ASP.NET Professional Secrets
by Jason Salas
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I happily read "ASP.NET Professional Secrets" by Bill Evjen and friends. The book is authored by some of the more notable and most active personalities in the ASP.NET community today, lending their knowledge and empowering you with a quiver of tricks and skills to build next-gen apps faster and more efficiently.

The well-read Evjen's discussions dominate most of the text, although contributions from specialists like Dave Wanta for working with e-mail and Doug Seven in managing data-driven list controls are very helpful.

Although the book implies a title written to feature little-known tidbits, the book is a refresher course for the most part for the intermediate-level developer. Code samples are not largely explained line-for-line, if at all, and that's nice for those who've been working with the .NET Framework a little while and can most past the obvious. Such is becoming a recurring trend in ASP.NET publishing, and it's a nice shift for books that don't assume a little-to-no experience level and just get right to the topics at hand.

So while the book may not be the saving grace for someone looking to get into Web development using Microsoft technologies for the first time, it is great for someone migrating up from .NET 1.0 and older builds of Visual Studio .NET.

Best of all, the sections on XML Web services and mobile apps development (featuring multiple chapters for each topic) are fantastic and give more insight into subjects most omnibus ASP.NET texts only give the obligatory single chapter to. Some depth is provided beyond creating a "Hello World" WebMethod or an obsolete mobile page.

And while the book leans towards Visual Studio .NET as the preferred tool for development, it doesn't present the information exclusively with that tool and its proprietary code (i.e., code behind with the InitializeComponent() method). Code examples are simple .ASPX pages with server-side logic coded in-line. This makes for a very pleasant, readable, generic, IDE-agnostic approach. In fact, the book is honest in mentioning that for the web-only developer, in a few areas ASP.NET Web Matrix is superior to its bigger brother, VS.NET.

It's an excellent read if you've used ASP.NET for awhile, and will make for a great reference for those inevitable "now I know I saw how to do that somewhere before..." situations we all run into.

- The code isn't painstakingly explained post mortem - an objective is stated and then matched with a sample
- All code samples are in both Visual Basic .NET and C#, and written consistently
- The sections on XML Web services and mobile programming are must-reads
- The book features fantastic quick-read appendices
- Evjen's writing is excellent - friendly and helpful - and you'll pick up some great tips. His contributions make up about 85% of the book's chapters, so his positive, helpful tone is well received throughout the book.
- You'll find all sorts of tidbits you might not have picked up
- Doug Seven's chapter on list controls is well-written, well-explained, very usable, and overall - excellent!
- An outstanding in-depth discussion of the use of e-mail in ASP.NET apps by Dave Wanta, widely considered to be the world's foremost expert on the topic
- Good discussion of using client-side JavaScript within a page for commonly-asked topics such as postback
- Great chapter on COM interoperability by Jason T. Roff.
- Great use of viewing all the code examples in .ASPX files with server-side code inline. The only exceptions are where code-behind is stated for example purposes.

- The chapter on Custom Controls doesn't make mention of the fact that classes don't need to be compiled to an assembly before using them as a portable control. This, IMHO, is a major omission and will confuse developers who have used ASP.NET 1.0, having to compile a class to a .DLL prior to usage. - I can't really hold the authors responsible for this, but I don't really care for the book's physical binding. The spine is flimsy and made with thin, brittle paper.
- Some graphics don't match the captions
- Although the book's main focus is on the .NET Framework 1.1 and VS.NET 2003, it doesn't give much of a historical perspective on how the Framework and ASP.NET has changed since its earlier incarnations. Given the scope of this book, such would have been nice.
- The book is surprisingly missing a discussion of building custom HTTP modules and HTTP handlers
- Chapter 11, "Creating Custom Controls" could use some work. The example on Page 397 makes no sense whatsoever. The "Creating Adaptive Controls" example should discuss how CSS-compliant HTML is rendered in the browser, and it led me to believe that it was so, not writing out the Browser property.
- A few glaring editorial snafus should have been caught in the proofreading phase


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