When this book turned up on my desk for review, I groaned at the thought of another Beginning VB book to read. "For absolute beginners", "no experience needed", "real-world context", "hands-on examples". Yeah, yeah, I thought. That's what they all say. But after a quick flick through, I began to realise that this book was different. It was full of conversations for a start, so this book had got to be something a little different.
The author, John Smiley, is a university lecturer. His introduction sums up the thinking behind the book:
"Imagine yourself back at school. OK, so maybe without gym class, mystery meat, and the sweet guy or girl who sat across from you in Chemistry 101 (sigh!). Put yourself in a class of people just like you, who really want to learn about programming. You don't just learn from the teacher; you learn from the questions the other people ask too."
The book basically follows a class of students learning Visual Basic, starting off with only a basic knowledge of computers. The first few chapters are fairly heavy on theory, getting you used to planning a program and how Windows works. Although it is quite hard to get into, it has a lot to teach programmers, beginners and experienced alike. The SDLC is introduced on the first page. No, it's not something out of a sci-fi movie, but is a methodology that ensures that projects are built in a logical and controlled fashion.
SDLC splits the design and implementation of an application into six phases:
- The Preliminary Investigation
- The Analysis Phase
- The Design Phase
- The Development Phase
- The Implementation Phase
- The Maintenance Phase
The SDLC is central to the book and it is stressed how important planning is - something that we can all learn from! Anyway, enough singing about the SDLC, what about the rest of the book?Code samples and their results are interspersed throughout the ongoing learning conversations to John Smiley's class. These code samples are not just useless code that has no use whatsoever; there is an ongoing project through the book for the owner of a china shop. The class is building a customer information terminal for use in the shop by absolute beginners. This project encapsulates many things necessary for being a proficient VB programmer including databases, files, printing and error handling.
Overall this book is a great way to learn VB. The idea of learning in a class of other beginners works very well adding to the entertainment value if nothing else. It teaches some very good practices, including the SDLC, and will provide any beginner with a thorough and practical understanding of the workings Visual Basic and Windows. I would very much recommend this book to any beginner wanting to get started in VB.