Ben Scheirman


Book Review - ASP.NET 2.0 Anthology

A few weeks ago, Jeff Atwood sent me a free review copy of his new book, The ASP.NET 2.0 Anthology.  He co-authored the book with K. Scott Allen (from OdeToCode), Wyatt Barnett, Jon Galloway, and Phil Haack.

Normally I wouldn’t get excited about a book like this, but looking at that list of authors I was more than intrigued to give it a try.  Granted, the book is targeted for the beginner to intermediate ASP.NET developer, so a lot of it was not very helpful to me, but I did find quite a few good nuggets that I will take away and utilize in the future.

The first few chapters give a general overview of the newer features of .NET 2.0 and some other basic concepts.  I think that this would be helpful to someone just coming to ASP.NET (maybe from another language) and want to get started. 

The book was published by SitePoint, under their “Anthology” style.  This means the book is organized into 101 different “tips” phrased as questions that someone might ask on a forum or similar.  Some examples from Chapter 1 are “How do I use source control?” and “How do I go about using open source code?” — I was pleased to see these sections in the book.  You normally wouldn’t expect this and I think it helped make the book more well-rounded.

The middle chapters were a bit more targeted to the intermediate ASP.NET level, which made it more interesting for me.  They covered things like custom configuration sections, custom validation, how to maintain control state when viewstate is turned off.  All throughout I think the authors gave solid advice on all these features.  There was a good section on Membership and Access Control, which is sure to be helpful to intermediate ASP.NET developers.

The last few chapters were the most interesting to me, which is funny because most of them weren’t specific to ASP.NET.  A section on troubleshooting bothersome SQL queries is sure to help people out.  There were a good number of general web developer tips, such as considering SEO and clean HTML for good search engine rankings.  I appreciated the tip on how to utilize URL rewriting at the IIS level, and how to serve-up custom images to evil hotlinkers on myspace (thanks Jeff Jon!).  These types of things are great to know when pursuing a career as a web developer.  The last chapter introduced SubSonic, which I think was awesome.  Not many developers that I meet have heard of SubSonic and I find it to be a pretty useful tool with a low barrier of entry.  It definitely warranted some attention in this book.

While a lot of the content was your typical ASP.NET 2.0 fodder that I avoid (like SqlDataSource), I thought that the authors did a good job of noting when things were applicable, for example when to use the Web Site model vs. Web Application Projects.  The book didn’t have enough beginner content and explanation of ASP.NET to be a beginner book (which is a good thing), but it did have quite a lot of excellent tips that makes this book a great companion to any intermediate developer.