I basically had some real dread about this book. WROX editors have gotten the wrong people to write books outside of their specialty, and have been downright sloppy as I have pointed out in many other reviews in the past. The new owners are trying hard to only get the best attributes of WROX, not the worse, with mixed results on some of their books I looked at. This book trots out some major players: Scott Hanselman major guru and creator of an awesome beyond compare tool list; Devin Rader a very interesting blogger and community participant extra-ordinaire; finally Bill Evjen, INETA founder.
My expectation when picking up this book is I expected a ton of info that could be found elsewhere, scattered across many smaller books, under one cover. Asp.net Unleashed spoiled me so I have to assume even at best, it will just duplicate material that Walther's book covers better with no special insight.
I was pleasantly surprised!!! I like this book so much I will buy the hardcover the minute it appears. It actually offers quite a few insights other books do not. This book is fabulous!
I could write a 20 page review of why everyone must own this and ASP.net Unleashed if they only own 2 books on ASP.net but I will just summarize to save us both a heck of a lot of time and reading.
Since the book clocks in at 1,600+ pages I cannot elucidate on all all the gems in this book, so hopefully a few examples will make you realize how good this book is. Debugging, Exceptions and Trace are an area I care about a LOT and boy did they cover the topic well. The subtleties and interactions between Debug.Write/ Trace.Write and some really insightful data about Trace listeners makes this much more useful than the documentation, in ways no one else has tackled before this concisely. Good sections on Server Controls, HTTP Handlers and Modules, WebParts, Provider models, CSS and ASP.net, et al. The scope of this book is fabulous at covering a little about everything but with a lot of insight and attention to detail.
And WOW WOW WOW this book actually gives lots of Visual Studio tips. Visual Studio is a labyrinth of options and the good stuff is always hidden so having lots of great Visual Studio tidbits (and screenshots) really enhance this book's value.
The weakest part of the book is the Online Resources section. I think it is way too short. I read well over 300+ blogs to keep up with ASP.net a dozen does not do justice to the blogsphere. Sites are of variying quality so Great sites like CodeProject, DaveAndAl.com, 4GuysFromRolla.com, CodePlex, SourceForge need to be highlighted and given some brief blurbs as to how they offer more and what specifically they offer. Given the importance of Open Source, Shared Source, not giving a whole chapter providing brief overviews and links to MS App Blocks, NHibernate, iBatis, LLBGen, Log4net, Mole Visualizer, the Starter Kits, et al. is I think a big oversight.
I also think communities (listservers, Groups, Forums, newsgroups, Social Networks with SIGs) are something that need some explanation to people as a FREE help resource. Some summaries of how to find the right ones for your experience level, explaining the organization and etiquette of specialized groups vs. FreeForAlls, explaining which forums are active and responsive and which tend to breed more discouragement and unanswered posts to avoid, etc. The book has a bunch of great explanations of many ideas but .NET is so huge and areas are so deep people need to know how to get answers on things beyond just pointing to a few URLs. A book worth it's salt at covering community even as an Appendix, a dozen pages at least would give a person a much better overview of how to find and maximize value of community to solve ongoing job challenges.
To summarize... Great book (I hope they make a hardcover so the book has a longer, stronger reference life without falling apart). A great companion to ASP.net Unleashed that goes deeper in many areas, but sometimes you need concise terse shallow insightful overviews and this book is filled with them. I am major book critic and can be quite harsh when reviewing .NET books, mostly because I really think given the quality of online info, books better bring some major insight and depth not just duplicate what is out there on the web on paper, to be of value. This book is the real deal .... These 3 authors and their editors delivered a book the ASP.net developer will find invaluable, and help them write better code, solve tougher problems, and elegantly understand and apply quite a bit of the richness the Framework offers in real world ASP.net web site building and maintenance. Bravo, Bravisimo!