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Wrox Silverlight 3 Programmer’s Reference Book Review

November 19, 2009

In July, I was offered the opportunity to review Wrox Publishing’s newly released “Professional Silverlight 3”, a massive full-color book covering nearly ever aspect of Silverlight 3.  I’ve long been a Wrox fan and as a WPF developer with a web background I have a keen interest in all things Silverlight, so naturally I jumped at the chance to review this new book.  Unfortunately, life did what it always does and prevented me from completing the review until now. 

NOTE: I finalized this article while attending PDC09, where Scott Guthrie announced Silverlight 4.  This release interval for Silverlight has been unprecedented: only three months after the official Silverlight 3 launch!  I am confident though that you will still find this book timely and valuable.

As expected, Wrox does not disappoint.  Authors J. Ambrose Little, Jason Beres, Grant Hinkson, Devin Rader, and Joseph Croney, all from Infragistics, have provided a wonderful edition that should capture the attention of both fledgling and experienced Silverlight developers.  In fact, the introduction and first four chapters should be mandatory reading: they provide the perfect overview to this game changing technology all .Net professionals should understand whether or not their particular interests run towards Silverlight.

If you have never read a full color technical book, you’ll quickly find this is wonderful addition.  The numerous graphics and screen shots jump off the page, making the material easily consumable.  In addition, all code and XAML samples are in full color as well, mimicking the default IntelliSense color scheme.  This is perhaps the best part of having a .NET volume printed in full color because it allows us to read code on the page in the same manner in which we are used to reading it on screen.  I’ve always found it a bit unpalatable to read code on the printed page, but this feature makes the code imminently more readable.

The book itself is very well written and easy to follow.  The style of the authors reveals their mastery of the material without being overbearing.  This is an extremely accessible book to those new to Silverlight but contains plenty of material for the more experienced developer.  While the text is clear and concise, in no way is this a light read.  Silverlight is a very large topic and any book that attempts to do it justice needs to be sized to the task.  That being said, I would not attempt this book, or many like it, cover to cover.  While none of the chapters is superfluous, if you are new to Silverlight or WPF, beyond the requisite 4 chapters mentioned above, I would begin with chapters 7, 8, 12 and 14.  I would tackle the rest of the chapters on an as needed basis.

Another item I really appreciated in this book was the frequent inclusion of Microsoft Expression Blend. Blend is an invaluable tool for developing WPF and Silverlight applications and yet I find it frequently passed over in technical publications.  Going forward, the more complex XAML based applications become, the more imperative it is going to be for developers to learn Blend, so it is nice to see a Silverlight book give Blend the attention it deserves.

On a scale of 1-5, I give this book 4.5 stars.  This book is exactly what it needs to be, a great reference aimed at professional developers.  I know that as I get more serious about my Silverlight development efforts, I will be reaching for this book frequently.

Categories: .NET, Book Reviews, Silverlight
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