Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Book Review: Introducing .NET 4.0

I recently finished reading Alex Mackey’s book, “Introducing .NET 4.0 With Visual Studio 2010”.  VS2010 won’t be launched until April 12, 2010, which is still just over a month away, but I’ve been champing at the bit, ready to dive into .NET 4.0 for months now.  Mackey does a great job of whetting my appetite without drowning me in the minutiae of each new or improved feature. 

.NET 4.0 is all about improvements to pieces that have been slowly coming together over the past few years.  There have been a number of out of band releases to the .NET Framework since .NET 3.5 launched.  .NET 4.0 enhances a lot of those releases, and, in some cases, completely goes back to the drawing board.  There are a few new features that will make developers happy, but for me, the money is in the things Microsoft made better. 

Mackey assumes you have a good knowledge of .NET, as this book targets what is new since 3.5.  He includes things which were included in .NET 3.5. SP1, since not everyone may have gotten into that yet.  I was pleasantly surprised at how much of the SP1 functionality we have actually put to use here, and was able to skim those chapters.

There are parts of the book that were finished before the actual functionality of VS2010 or .NET 4 were finalized, but that’s what you’ll get when you buy a book on a product before the product is released. Caveat Emptor.

By the end of the book, I was able to make some decisions on what functionality to target for further research.  My bets are on three areas that will have the biggest payoffs for my team and my customers:

  • MEF (Managed Extensibility Framework)
  • Entity Framework 4.0
  • Windows Workflow 4

With MEF being such an integral part of Office 2010, a good working knowledge of it is essential to provide process enhancements for our customers.

We use Entity Framework 1.0 in just about every project we work on, and the leap to 4.0 should resolve a number of significant issues and code costs that we have encountered in the past year.  I expect to see a large effort reduction in application development costs due to this upgrade.

If the improvements to Windows Workflow are as good as advertised, then I believe WF will go from shunned cousin to an accepted member of the development family.  There’s a lot of power in WF, but the previous implementation was lacking.  I stopped considering the previous releases as viable last year after a few false starts, but I have much higher hopes for it going forward with V4.

I recommended Introducing .NET 4 to my colleagues as a good getting started guide, and directed some to target certain chapters to match up with the type of work they typically do, or areas where they have yet to become involved in to give them a 40,000 foot view. 

I will probably go out and buy other .NET 4 books as they become available, but will focus on the three areas above as they will have the biggest impact to my architecture choices in the coming months. 

Mackey helps to give that guidance, and gets me excited for the new features.  That’s what I want in an introductory level book.

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