Customer Reviews: ASP.NET 3.5 Unleashed
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on January 12, 2008
This is a VERY good book for learning ASP.NET 3.5 from A to Z. It covers just about every ASP.NET topic you will touch in your career. This book is a LIBRARY of information on a wide variety of topics. The chapters on custom controls were much easier to read and more in depth than any book on the market. The chapters on ASP.NET AJAX were also very well written and were presented in a very systematic fashion.

Having been working as a senior-level developer and architect for ASP.NET system for many years now, I can tell you that this book will take you very far. If you're a seasoned ASP.NET developer, but aren't familiar with some of ASP.NET's lesser-known features (custom controls, custom configuration sections) or need to learn the various new features of .NET 3.5 like LINQ and the now native ASP.NET AJAX, this book is one you should definitely look at.

Also note that the author is not only an MVP, but he is a Microsoft Software Legend, the highest possible rank of a soldier in Microsoft's public army. He is a General; you can trust his work.
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on February 13, 2008
At first blush, it may seem strange for me to review a "competing" ASP.NET 3.5 book. However, Stephen Walther's ASP.NET 3.5 Unleashed doesn't target the same audience as ASP.NET 3.5 For Dummies (For Dummies (Computer/Tech)). Mine is unabashedly a beginner's book. ASP.NET Unleashed is for intermediate to advanced programmers and definitely hits that mark.
At over 1800 pages, this is definitely not "light" reading. It is, however, packed with most everything a professional ASP.NET developer needs to know to work in ASP.NET 3.5.

I was interested in Walther's assertion at the opening of Chapter 31 (Using Server-Side ASP.NET AJAX) that the future is AJAX:
"Microsoft ASP.NET is a dying technology. It received its death blow on February 18, 2005 when Jess James Garrett published his article 'Ajax: A New Approach to Web Applications.' All that is left is the long, slow goodbye."

The author encourages readers to "leave the safety of the server side and enter the wilds of the client side." To that end, Walther does an excellent job of explaining the use of the UpdatePanel, Timer, and UpdateProgress controls that are built into ASP.NET 3.5.
The subsequent chapter, Using the ASP.NET AJAX Control Toolkit, gives a solid overview of the toolkit's suite. It then shows how to use the AutoComplete, DragPanel, FilteredTextBox, MaskedEdit, Animation, and UpdatePanelAnimation controls. As always, there are many code listings (in C# in this edition). Chapter 33 digs even deeper into AJAX to program client-side applications against the Microsoft AJAX Library. If you're ramping up to build on the client, the book's AJAX content is very valuable.

The book is also solid on LINQ, the popular addition to ASP.NET 3.5. Chapter 18 goes through the concepts of LINQ to SQL entities, automatic properties, initializers, type inference, anonymous types, and lambda expressions. You learn how to perform standard database commands using LINQ to SQL and debug your queries.

This is a programmer's book, for sure. Where my book caters to beginners by using the IDE's graphical tools, Walther writes and explains lots of code. Don't look for numbered steps telling you where to click in Visual Studio 2008. The book focuses more on ASP.NET code than how to get the IDE to write it. This makes sense for the intermediate and advanced audience. Interesting to note, however that ASP.NET 3.5 Unleashed uses the single .aspx page model very effectively that I recommend for beginners. The book includes a CD with tons of valuable samples in C# and VB.

I have only two minor issues with this book: Firstly, the screenshots take up an excessive amount of space on the pages for very little value. For example, at page 448, Figure 10.6 takes up half a page to display a list control, a label, and a button scrunched into the top left corner of a browser page. I wish Sams would revise its template standard to do away with full page screenshots and focus on what's important. Secondly, the book is too heavy to rest comfortably on my stomach for bedtime reading. Buy a tray for increased comfort! <grin>

In summary, if you're an ASP.NET beginner, start with my book and graduate to ASP.NET Unleashed as you expand your confidence and capabilities. If you're already working comfortably in .NET, you only need this book and the MSDN reference documentation. Buy it.
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on March 31, 2008
At 1890 pages this book has just about everything you need to know to start building complex ASP.NET applications. While the book assumes that you have some familiarity with using ASP.NET the first few chapters are still devoted to the basics. I encourage everyone to read them, even the experts. There are many tips and tricks in the book so you may learn something new or pick up on something you'd long forgotten. Did you know the asp:Literal control has a build in Mode property that can be set to HTML encode it's content? I'd honestly forgotten about that and had been doing my encoding on the back-end.

This book provides an in-depth look at just about all of the core ASP.NET features building on many of the techniques we used in 2.0. For the new features specific to ASP.NET 3.5 , Walther devotes an entire chapter to the new ListView and DataPager controls. These controls can be thought of as a GridView or Repeater on steroids. There's also a chapter on data access with LINQ to SQL and a 3-chapter section devoted to working with AJAX.NET and the AJAX Control Toolkit.

There are many books out there that focus on the "how" but what I like most about Mr. Walther's books is that he devotes a great deal of time to the "why". For example, the book explains how to use the SqlDataSource control but then also explains why you'll want to avoid it for most complex applications and use the ObjectDatasourceControl instead. With this book you'll not only learn how to get things done, you'll learn how to get things done right. For that reason it's an invaluable resource for your library. Every ASP.NET developer should have this book on his/her shelf.

Note: While the code samples in the previous 1.1 and 2.0 Unleashed books were written in VB.NET, this new 3.5 book has them written in C#. Walther cites the fact that there are now more C# developers than there are VB.NET developers as the reason for the switch. I would've liked to have seen two different versions of the book but all code samples are also provided in VB on the included CD-ROM so everyone can easily follow along.

From [...]
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on February 7, 2008
Stephen Walther is of a rare breed of authors that can churn out a 1,900-page book and actually give you immense value on each of those pages...unlike most that might give you about 10% value, 90% rambling.

Walther does an especially good job explaining the new built-in ASP.NET AJAX functionality, how to mimic the ASP.NET AJAX architecture in your own JavaScript, and how to integrate the two to better extend the existing AJAX functionality.

A couple other interesting points were the rundown of the ASP.NET AJAX control toolkit and his blurb about Visual Studio 2008 support for IntelliSense for JavaScript via XML commenting. Very useful.

The one topic that I was surprised not to see was mobile ASP.NET development, especially since .NET has so much built-in support for it. The only book I've seen yet with mobile ASP.NET covered was an ASP.NET 2.0 title by Dino Esposito: Programming Microsoft ASP.NET 2.0 Applications: Advanced Topics...but the mobile coverage is just cursory and not nearly as useful as the MSDN site.

Overall, though, this book is a definite must-read and must-have for any ASP.NET developer. I'm now getting rid of my five other ASP.NET books...they've all been rendered obsolete by this title.
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on January 17, 2008
Out of all the ASP.NET textbook that I've already had, this one is the best. ASP.NET 3.5 Unleashed by Walther has everything that one needs to know you about this great Server-side technology. It covers not only all of ASP.NET 2.0, but also, all of the new features such ASP.NET AJAX, LINQ TO SQL, ListView, DataPager etc... Finally, I would like to say that I did not regret buying this book.
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on July 15, 2009
I got this book because I am moving my projects from 1.1 to 3.5 and didn't want to make the leap without an in depth understanding of "what's new". I'll start by saying that this book gave me exactly what I was looking for. It is beyond thorough. I did have a few issues while reading it but as you will see they have more to do with my personal preferences in tech book than actual flaws on the authors part.

So with that in mind here are a few things to consider about this book...

The author intermixes C# and VB terminology assuming that the reader is proficient enough in both languages to "translate". There were more than a couple times where I needed to look up a term only to discover it is simply something I already know - just the other language's equivalent.

The code samples are amazing. In print it is all C# and on the CD there is both C# and [...]. I did get frustrated at how many times I would be shown how to do something only to discover that the very next (almost identical) code sample was preceded with something like, "While that may work, this next sample is a much better way to do the same thing in less code and is more efficient". UGH! Then why show me the first way??? I am guessing that this book could literally be hundreds of pages shorter if this methodology hadn't been used. This also makes it hard for me to keep this book around as a reference book because I will have to re-read a bit each time I look something up to see if the code I am revisiting is the "good, better or best" version.

I love that everything came on a CD. That really helps when the thought of typing everything out character by character makes your brain bleed. I wasn't able to use the CD as intended (I choose not to run SQL Server Express on my machine) but with a few workarounds I was able to play with the code just fine. Maybe future editions should include scripts to recreate the databases.

There were some mistakes but not too much more than other books of this size but I did notice they got more frequent once I passed the half-way mark. (Yes, I actually read it cover-to-cover.)

Overall, great book and worth the read.
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on March 14, 2009
The first thing everyone notices about this book is the size (and weight) ... which makes it less mobile than others but a great deal per pound (~$6 a pound of Asp.Net goodness).

For beginners:

I know the book's back cover says it is a book for Intermediate-Advanced, but I honestly think most beginners could use this book as much as anyone else - mainly due to Stephen's writing style. He is very good at walking through the details in an easy to follow manner while showing all the parts and details that help the reader get the complete story. If you are a beginner, I would suggest reading the sections completely and looking at the code on the CD. If you are serious about becoming an Asp.Net expert - read the whole book from cover to cover.

For experienced Asp.Net developers:

I've been using Asp.Net for awhile now (since it came out in 2002) and use this book for my first reference. I have the 2.0 version at work and the 3.5 version at home and keep them both in reach of my desk. The things I like about this book (and why I use it more often than Google for Asp.Net related questions):

1. The Index ROCKS! - whoever put the index together for this book really knew what would be useful and makes finding useful information easy (and I know I can trust faster than Google).

2. The coverage (as in completeness) of Asp.Net is amazing. Sometimes I find myself hitting F1 or looking something up in MSDN only to be disappointed (or not completely satisfied) with the detail and examples to then reach over and grab this book (or run a text search on the source code - which I keep on my dev machines for reference).

3. The samples and source code are practical and useful. For me there is nothing better than complete working code examples for reference when I need to do something similar or understand how things work.

The only problem I have with this book is the weight (~6 pounds) ... but then again, maybe I should just get to the gym more often:)

In summary, if you are serious about writing Asp.Net applications you should get this book. If you don't have time to read it, page through it to get a sense of Stephen's writing style, put the code on your machine and keep it in reach of your desk. Next time you think of Googling some detail about Asp.Net - first check the index of this book ... you might be surprised at how fast you locate a working example and detail of what you were looking for.
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on August 25, 2008
I just bought this book, I'm studying for the new 70-562 exam. I've gone through about 300 pages, and I'm astounded at the information. I've been programming in ASP.NET 4 years, and have picked up a lot along the way ("junkie"). Some people get on and say "I wanted to learn ASP.NET from scratch!!!" This book is not for that. This book, so far, covers everything incredibly well, and fills in any gaps you might have. I am confident this book will allow me to pass the exam. I'll update once I do. The downside is there a lot of forward references. So once again, this book is for people who really, already know ASP.NET. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to become a well-rounded ASP developer. Even though it has 1800 pages, the font is good, the information is clear, and it is extremely easy reading. It doesn't get bogged down and repetitive, but covers everything.
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on May 27, 2013
... and already I rate this the best ASP.NET 3.5 book I have. I purchased "Murach's ASP.NET 3.5 web programming with C# 2008" and found it a great disappointment for a programmer already skilled at client/server.

As I read more I hope to add to or improve on this review.
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VINE VOICEon May 12, 2009
To say it is the best in its category is not saying a lot with what's out there. It is a good book but typical of something so large.

Defining beginner can vary greatly. Having coded in VB6 and VBA (classis ASP) for 15 years or better I would be considered a beginner to .NET. And even tho examples are in C# locating the VB samples on the CD wasn't a problem.

The problem I do have with the book is that there is more emphasis on using controls than actually coding. For instance, I prefer to code all of my database access because I can see it - nothing hidden within the control to deal with when debugging. He also left out a very critical part of coding, error handling and how to really use the web.config file. Some of his samples had a lot of web.config code that was not explained so the samples wouldn't always work without tweaking. Finding what needed tweaking took time.

He does seem to know his stuff and there is a lot there. Some of it is beginning level but like a lot of books that have some beginning info, some important stuff gets left out when transitioning beyond. For example, creating a user login. What he gave was very simple. But how do you make those controls more robust. If you can't, then it's strictly beginner.
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