Saturday, September 23, 2006

Book Review: Visual Studio 2005 Unleashed

Visual Studio 2005 Unleashed by Lars Powers and Mike Snell (Sams, 2006, ISBN 0672328194)

This is a pretty impressive book, albeit a bit lengthier than it needed to be.  There's tremendous coverage of everything, and I mean everything, in Visual Studio 2005.  If you're new to VS 2005 then you'll find this a great guide to getting the most out of your environment.  If you're fairly familiar with VS 2005 then you may still find a few goodies hidden away here too.

One thing I didn't care for the was the large amount of material that would have been better summarized or flat out omitted.  Did I really need pages and pages of screenshots of each and every menu in Visual Studio?  Probably not.  Did I really need to see six pages listing a single project file, with little discussion on the details of it, or three pages of code auto-generated by the forms designer?  Probably not.  There's a lot of this kind of stuff, but in reality it's an annoyance and not a fatal flaw.  ("Dude, didn't you just finish writing a book 1300 pages long?" Uh, let's leave that off for now, eh?)

What you'll find in the book is a wealth of details on useful stuff like moving around your document with bookmarks, getting the most from VS2005's search capabilities, or how to best use features like the XML editor -- which is discussed in great depth with examples in the Data View and Schema editor.  The book's smattered throughout with useful tips on avoiding gotchas, such as dealing with issues in the Refactoring's Promote command.

Several of the chapters, such as the ones on VS's Automation Object Model and Writing Macros, left me a bit underwhelmed; however, the majority of chapters give great value.  The chapter on Refactoring, in particular, is a terrific walkthough with great examples.  The chapter on Debugging is another good walkthrough, with a nice discussion of setting up for debugging a modestly complex scenario of a web application.

The sections on Team System features are a nice introdocution to getting the most out of the three VSTS products (Architect, Developer, Tester).  There's also solid coverage of working with issue tracking, VSTS's source control, and dealing with VSTS projects.  The information here is from the basic useage viewpoint, so you'll need something like Guckenheimer's Software Engineering with Visual Studio Team System to get the most out of VSTS.

Overall this is a solid book that's very useful introduction for novices and intermediate VS2005 users.

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