Authors Kirk Allen Evans, Ashwinn Kamanna, and Joel Mueller, with
contributions by Scott Worley, tackle several must-know concepts of XML and of
XML-related technologies in a fine book that’s a great addition to any technical
library. The book is 686 pages, comprised of 13 well-ordered chapters, and also
has (3) great appendixes. While dealing with a very advanced topic that in my
experience can often easily become very confusing, the book’s voice is written
very easy, which makes it quite easy to follow.
It discusses both client-side and server-side presentation of XML data, and
there’s lots of content on how ASP.NET incorporates XML, specifically with the
use of application configuration through the web.config file, and the <asp:xml>
server control. While the book handles some very advanced topics, it does so in
easy-to-read fashion, as is evident in the chapter describing the construction
The book contains one of the better discussions of how the .NET Framework
handles XML serialization, and how this important topic can be integrated into
system-to-system communications. The book also spends a good deal of time
deconstructing SOAP. The book’s code examples are both written in Visual Basic
.NET and C# (but the majority appears in C#).
However, one chapter I found particularly helpful was the discussion of SQL
Server 2000’s enhancements for handling XML. This is a valuable discussion that
sadly is lacking in many publications. Proper attention is given to the fact
that SQL Server 2000 allows a developer to build custom XML structures by using
additional arguments in a T-SQL query, and has some degree of flexibility to
change the structure of a derived XML document, as opposed to being forced to
deal with a single element per DB record, with each field as an XML attribute,
as was frequently the case in ASP classic.
The book doesn’t necessarily bind the reader to have to use Visual Studio
.NET outright to replicate the code samples. Rather, it’s written in the voice
of pre-RTM .NET, when nearly everyone was writing code with NotePad. This is a
raw-code approach. And I like it. Nevertheless, the book doesn’t neglect the
importance and ubiquity of VS.NET, and has a great chapter on using XML from
within the IDE. A case in point is the book’s excellent discussion of building
schema both from scratch, and then with VS.NET.
This book is a great addition to one’s library. While New Riders doesn’t
classify their titles as being “Beginner,” “Intermediate” or “Advanced”, it
should be noted that this book is best suited for experienced developers looking
to expand their apps…but it can also be picked up by daring beginners looking
for an empowering challenge. Since the book deals with so many topics, it’s a
bargain at US$49.99, letting the reader get the equivalent of two or three books
at once, all in one convenient title.
WHAT I LIKE ABOUT THE BOOK
- The authors really give a comprehensively tour of the .NET Framework’s
System.Xml namespace, the MSXML parser, of database communications with XML
through ADO.NET, and an outstanding discussion of writing web.config files to
manage ASP.NET applications.
- The book’s appendixes are outstanding, being the ASP.NET object model, an
MSXML reference, and a decent XSLT programming reference. They’re very well
laid-out and very helpful. It’s almost like a free additional book in itself.
- There’s lots of code to play around with, and almost every single concept,
XML technology, or strategy mentioned in the book is followed by a practical
- The proofreading was excellent. Sure, there are some minor typographical
snafus, but it’s been a concern of mine with New Riders that their titles
aren’t treated with an appropriate amount of quality control. Happily, this
book addressed that concern and is easy to read, and very accurate.
- Physically, the book is well-bound and sturdy. The dimensions of the book
are compact and nicely portable. It should be able to take a pounding or hours
of being left open mid-way through on your desk without the spine breaking,
and the pages won’t easily tear when you flip through them frantically when
working on a project. However, this latter point makes the book a bit heavy.
- Included was a discussion of mobile applications development, using WAP,
WML, and XHTML Basic. While arguably outside the scope of the book, it was
helpful and should provide to be of use to the reader for the next couple of
years, as .NET’s impact on mobile computing continues.
- The address book XML Web service built in the latter portion of the book
is very cool. While I read through the majority of the book not trying out the
code samples the first time around, I had to replicate this application. It’s
very practical, and very useful.
WHAT I FEEL NEEDS IMPROVEMENT
- The book again took into consideration both VB .NET and C# for code
examples, but inconsistently split the amount of examples. Most are in C#,
some are in VB .NET. To really make this a valuable learning tool, it would be
great if all the examples were presented in both languages; but this is my
major gripe with mostly all .NET books. Either use both all the way, or only
use one language, and write two versions of the book.
- It’s not a major criticism of mine, but I felt that the chapters on
integration with SAX2 and MSXML interfaces needed a bit more of a lead-in, to
describe exactly when and where such integration would be best. There’s a good
discussion of what SAX (Simple API for XML) is from a historical perspective,
but more practical application of the technology would have made this better.
- I would have a liked a little bit more information on the using XML on the
client-side in applications. The book touched very briefly on data islands as
an example, but more would have been great.