I have been working with ASP since the initial beta came out back in 1997. As anyone can attest, working with ASP was both exciting and extremely frustrating. ASP.NET changed all that.
From one release to another, Microsoft has continued to improve upon its flagship product for developing Web Pages. What once was a hair pulling experience, has now become a more rewarding adventure.
With the new Visual Studio 2010 and ASP.NET 4, Microsoft has once again raised the bar on things you can do with a web page.
Trying to get a handle on all of the changes can be a daunting task. Not to belittle Microsoft, but their documentation this go around is probably the worst that ever came out of Redmond.
But thanks to books like ASP.NET 4 Unleashed, that is no longer an insurmountable hurdle. What Kevin Hoffman and Nate Dudek have done to Stephen Walther's book is fantastic.
Continuing in the same vein, they run through the every part of ASP.NET programming. From the base controls that mirror their HTML counterparts, to the more rich controls that really bring life to your applications, this book details it all.
One of the things I liked best was that they not only gave an example of how to use a control, but they gave you an explanation as to WHY you would use the control.
With data access being so much a part of a web sites life these days, they devote over 380 pages to extracting data from a data source and displaying it on within your site. With great examples of GridView, DetailView, FormView, Repeater, ListView and even the Chart Controls, you will have your site displaying data and looking sharp in no time.
I personally appreciated the section on Themes. For whatever reason, I never delved into using themes on my site and the documentation I had was rather nebulous so I just pretended it wasn't there. Their coverage of the topic has me itching to update my site and really put some nice polish on it.
Chapter 17 covers building your own components. How often have you thought "I could do that better" or found that you are putting the same set of controls on page after page? With this chapter, you will be well equipped to start writing your won controls to save you all of that time and headache.
Not to be just about ASP.NET and its controls, the book also covers LINQ and URL Routing. Other topics they cover are WCF Data Services, ASP.NET MVC, Navigation Controls and Security.
Honestly, if there is something you want to know about ASP.NET, it's in this book.
Even at 1781 pages of content, there are some topics that I would have liked to have seen covered in more detail. For instance, I would like to have seen a deeper look into Security and the process of writing my own Membership provider. But even with that being said, they had to draw the line somewhere or this book would have required a forklift to move (it's pretty sizable as it is).
If you're new to ASP.NET or you really want to know all that ASP.NET can do for you, then this book has it all. It will definitely get you started in everything that's available and have you putting together a site in no time.
For coverage, it's going to be hard to beat.
Part I - Building ASP.NET Pages (232 pages)
Part II - Designing ASP.NET Websites (100 pages)
Part III - Performing Data Access (384 pages)
Part IV - Building Components (290 pages)
Part V - Site Navigation (136 pages)
Part VI - Security (116 pages)
Part VII - Building ASP.Net Applications (312 pages)
Part VIII - Custom Control Building (98 pages)
Part IX - ASP.NET Ajax (110 pages)
One other thing I should point out. The examples in the book are in C#, while this shouldn't be a drawback to VB.NET developers, I know it can be frustrating to some when the translation to VB isn't always one to one. One thing to keep in mind, is that with .NET 4.0, Microsoft has done more to make VB.NET and C# more compatible so that the differences are even more minor than before.