Review of 'Wrox Silverlight 3 Programmers Reference'

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I read the Wrox Professional Silverlight 2 for ASP.NET Developers book about six months ago as my first in-depth introduction to the world of Silverlight, so was looking for a book that could get me up to speed quickly on the new features of Siverlight 3. Having read plenty of Wrox books in the past I looked for their latest and happily found Wrox Silverlight 3 Programmers Reference which looked like it could help me catch up with the latest release.

When the book arrived two things struck me immediately, one it was a bigger book that I was expecting (see more about this later) and two it was in FULL colour. Now you may be saying "full colour, so what?" but believe me, having all the code samples look exactly like they do in Visual Studio, and full colour screenshots of Blend make a massive difference. Every developer I have shown the book to has immediately been impressed by the change and I can only hope this is the future for all technical books.

The book is written by five authors, which to be honest is something I try and avoid if possible when choosing a book as there always seems to be some consistency issues. However, I can appreciate the world of Silverlight requires a lot of skills and finding one person who has all these would be a tough call. I was impressed, however, to see the authors are all developers at Infragistics and it's great to see such a high profile company committed to helping the developer community. I did notice a reasonable amount of what seems unnecessary repetition in different sections (for example two almost identical sections of Isolated Storage) but it’s always good to have concepts reinforced in a book this big.

There are a few notable chapters in the book that try to widen the understanding of developers about the roles and processes involved in a typical Silverlight development team; especially how designers, developers and integrators work together. There is also a great section on paper prototyping of Silverlight applications including the initial evolution of the design. However, it was strange to see no mention of the new Sketchflow features in Blend 3 and I can only assume these were not known about at the time of writing. Hopefully any future editions will rectify this.

Of course there are a few things, as in every book, I’d think about changing. Firstly the title “Wrox Silverlight 3 Programmers Reference” personally I think the name implies a relatively short book that can be used to dip in and out of when required. Now, it is possible to use the book in that way but really it is a complete guide to Silverlight from the basics to example applications, for someone with existing .net / c# skills. The other feature that was disappointingly missing from the book was any highlighting of the new Siverlight Features. I was hoping to be able to flick through the book, brush up on a few things and read up on the new features but there is no visual highlighting and sometimes even no mention that particular features have been introduced in Silverlight 3.

Overall, this is a really solid book for learning Silverlight development in c# and some basic skills in Blend. There are a few parts of the book that could do with more editing to make a more consolidated read and a few missing features (like Sketchflow and highlight new Silverlight 3 features) that could be added in future versions but none of these change the fact that if you are looking to learn Silverlight this is a great book to start with.

Get yourself a copy at Amazon