Book Review - Beginning ASP.NET 4 in C# and VB

People often post questions to the forums at asking what they need to learn to become an accomplished ASP.NET Web Developer. Answers vary, but tend to focus on learning the framework and a bit of SQL, along with finding your way around Visual Web Developer, or if you can afford it, Visual Studio. My answer tends to consist of the same list of items:

  • HTTP Request and Response
  • HTML
  • CSS
  • Javascript/AJAX
  • The ASP.NET framework
  • Visual Studio/Visual Web Developer
  • C# or VB (or both)
  • OOP basics
  • Database design and querying

And finally, how they all come together within an application.

For the beginner, this usually involves collecting a range of books, or trawling a bunch of specialist tutorial sites, each covering one or more related technologies. The problem is that most beginner ASP.NET books ignore the fundamentals of how the web works, or cover their topic with examples in just one language. If you spend any time answering beginner questions in ASP.NET forums or newsgroups, you know that questions cover a much larger spread of technologies such as the list I outlined.

Imar Spaanjaars spends a lot of time in ASP.NET forums. Specifically, the Wrox-sponsored Programmer To Programmer forums. His latest book, Beginning ASP.NET 4 in C# and VB (Wiley/Wrox, ISBN: 978-0-470-50221-1) is evidence of the fact that he knows exactly what questions beginners ask, and what their main informational needs are. Imar covers the entire list with an ease and clarity I kind of envy (sometimes... well a bit). If you get yourself this book, you will understand how web applications work, and you will be introduced to all the key areas of the ASP.NET framework. You will be exposed to both VB and C# though examples. You won't be left wondering if the choice of language you made is the right one - not knowing very much about the other. You can work through the sample application the book takes you through in both flavours, and make an informed decision at any point. You will understand how CSS, HTML, Javascript etc work together with the framework to produce effective web sites, and you will constantly be pointed to sources of information that offer greater detail throughout.

When it comes to coverage of databases, Imar doesn't just explain data access technologies, he also adds an invaluable appendix which covers installing and configuring SQL Server - the source of so many questions. Read this appendix and wonder no more! Added to this is an excellent introduction to debugging both server-side and client-side code with Visual Web Developer. So many questions can be answered just by following this section of the book and truly understanding what is happening with your code.

If you have Imar's previous version covering ASP.NET 3.5, this book doesn't add enough to warrant purchasing it. However, if you are new to ASP.NET web development, and you want to know what you should learn to become an accomplished ASP.NET developer, the answer is not to post a question to a forum - just by this book. It delivers everything.