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Interview with Mary Delamater, Author of Murach's ASP.NET 4.5 Web Programming with C# 2012

Posted by Anand Narayanaswamy on Sep 10, 2013 |

ASP.NET 4.5 is one of the popular programming frameworks for the web that enables developers to build applications using either VB or C#. Murach ASP.NET 4.5 web programming with C# 2012 consists of 23 chapters divided into 5 sections. The chapters in section 1 provide a basic introduction to ASP.NET web programming including the steps required to develop both single and multi-page web applications. This section also examines the procedure to test and debug an ASP.NET application including coverage of HTML5 and CSS5.

While Section 2 examines the usage of standard server and validation controls, master pages, state management, cookies, URL encoding, themes, site navigation in addition to ASP.NET routing, Section 3 examines database programming in detail including the usage of SQL data sources and various controls such as GridView, DetailsView, FormView, ListView, DataPager and object data sources. I hope the coverage in this section will help developers a lot as they can not only learn the usage but also apply them in a real world scenario.

Section 4 examines the steps required to secure a web site in addition to usage of email, custom error pages and back-button control. The authors also provide a comprehensive coverage of various aspects involved with authentication and authorization of users in addition to configuration and deployment of ASP.NET 4.5 applications.

The final section examines the usage of Ajax and the steps related to the development of WCF and Web API services. The final chapter provides a comprehensive coverage of ASP.NET MVC.

Murach ASP.NET 4.5 web programming with C# 2012 will be useful for computer training centres since they can make use of the book as a material for a web development course spanning 3-6 months. The publisher provides first two chapters in downloadable format along with the required tools that needs to be installed to leverage the contents of the book on the official page. I would suggest the publisher to include relevant links as well so that readers can easily download them rather than locating themselves on the web.

The publisher also provides an instructor CD upon request which contains PowerPoint slides for classroom presentations, test banks, project ideas and code downloads including a second set of exercises with their solutions which are not available on the book.

InfoQ recently got in touch with Mary Delamater, one of the co-authors of the book to know more about the effort, she along with Anne Boehm has taken to write the book.

InfoQ: What prompted you to write the book?

Mary: A lot has changed in ASP.NET and in web development in general, so it was time to update the book to incorporate HTML5, ASP.NET MVC, the updates to WCF services, REST web services like Web API, and many other changes from Visual Studio 2010 to Visual Studio 2012.

For me personally, I've been building ASP.NET applications for clients for years now, and I read a lot of technical books and articles to stay current. I've always enjoyed writing, and so while reading these books would often wonder if it would be fun to write one. Luckily for me, Murach Books was kind enough to offer me the chance to help revise their ASP.NET book, which let me discover that it is fun to write one! Everyone at Murach has been great, and I feel honoured to be associated with such a quality product.

InfoQ: Can you share with us the difference between other ASP.NET 4.5 books and that of your book?

Mary: There are a few things that make our ASP.NET 4.5 books different from other books. First, we try to focus on real world examples. We don't do the traditional “Hello World”, because we don't think that it's very useful to someone trying to learn programming. Instead, we try to include examples that a reader might actually use in a real application.

For instance, the first example in the ASP.NET 4.5 book is an application that calculates a future value based on values input by the user. This example is simple enough that it doesn't overwhelm the reader, but practical enough that the reader might have a use for it.

Along the same lines, we provide complete application examples so that readers can see how all the parts interact. We think that this provides a better grounding in the material than the stray snippets of code you see in other books.

Another difference between our books and other books is that we try to take a more focused approach to the material. What this means is that, rather than try to explain every possible way to do something, we try to focus on what we consider to be the best or most efficient way to do something. This has the benefit of reducing information overload for the reader, and of providing the reader with some information about best practices.

And, of course, our facing pages format is vastly different from other books. This format requires that we organize the material in a coherent manner and present only the most pertinent information, and leads to a better didactic experience for readers.

InfoQ: I can see that you have provided lot of content in each section. Do you think readers will devote time to read them?

Mary: The beauty of the facing pages format and the structure of the book in general, is that the reader doesn't have to devote themselves to reading it all. A reader could go through the entire book reading just the figures (the information on the right-hand side of the facing pages), skipping the text (the information on the left-hand side) entirely, and learn enough to build fairly sophisticated web applications.

Or, a reader could read just the first two sections, and then pick and choose what they're interested in from the remaining sections. In fact, if a reader read nothing but the first section, they'd still learn enough to build and test basic web applications.

This means that a reader doesn't need to read the entire book to find it useful. A reader can start slow, build up practical experience, and then learn more as they progress. Or a reader can go through all the sections and exercises at once. The structure of the book lends itself to all sorts of learning styles and levels of time investment.

InfoQ: You have devoted one complete chapter for MVC. Is it a demanding topic among developers?

Mary: It depends on what you mean by demanding topic. If you mean is it demanding for developers to learn, the answer is yes, it can be. Especially for developers, like me, who have more of a desktop and ASP.NET Web Forms background, an MVC application is alien territory.

I remember the first article I read about ASP.NET MVC when it came out - I experienced actual shock when I saw the code! For people with more of a classic ASP background, the code might look more familiar, particularly the inline data binding. But with the MVC structure being so modular, and so different from that of either classic ASP or ASP.NET, there's still a pretty good learning curve.

If you mean is there a lot of demand for ASP.NET MVC, that's a little less clear. As far as we can tell, most enterprise applications are still being built with ASP.NET Web Forms. But ASP.NET MVC is gaining ground, and seems to be about 30% of ASP.NET development now.

And, increasingly, online articles and examples use ASP.NET MVC instead of Web Forms. This is particularly true at the MSDN web site. So, even if you aren't going to build ASP.NET MVC applications yourself, it's a good idea to have at least some familiarity with MVC just so that you can understand code examples you may find online.

One thing to keep in mind about our ASP.NET MVC chapter is that it's only an introduction. It really just scratches the surface, and doesn't cover important MVC concepts like unit testing and dependency injection. But it should get readers off to a nice start.

InfoQ: Can you share with us the importance of covering web services?

Mary:  With the rise of mobile computing, web services are becoming more important. This is because people want to be able to access their applications across multiple devices, and the best way to do that is to provide the basic functionality of an application in a web service. Then you can have a web site, a mobile app, and even a desktop application all accessing the service.

The book uses an example of a web service that updates a store's product categories. Since it's an ASP.NET book, the example uses a web site to consume the service, but you can just as easily consume either a WCF or a Web API service from a desktop application or a mobile app. This provides a lot of flexibility in dealing with our multiple device world.

InfoQ: Do you have any plan to update the book with Visual Studio 2013 Preview?

Mary: Right now we don't have any plans to update the book with the Visual Studio 2013 Preview. From what we can tell, it looks like the release is a minor one and we don't think it will materially affect the book. Of course, if it turns out that the release is more major than we think, we might consider adding a chapter download addressing the relevant changes.

About the Book Authors

Mary Delamater has a BA with high honors from Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho. Mary came to TechKnowSolve via work as a mental health counselor and then as a trainer at the Portland Dept of Veterans Affairs regional office. Mary brings to TechKnowSolve excellent communication and problem-solving skills. Mary holds several Microsoft Certifications, including Microsoft Certified Professional, Microsoft Certified Technical Specialist, and Microsoft Certified Professional Developer, and is also proficient in non-Microsoft technologies such as PHP and MySQL. Mary focuses on web programming and query design. Recently Mary partnered with Murach, publisher of professional programming books, to revise their ASP.NET offerings. ASP.NET 4.5 with C# is out now, and the Visual Basic version is coming soon!

Anne Boehm has over 30 years of experience as an enterprise programmer. She got started with Visual Basic in the days of VB5, and has been programming on .NET since its inception. In the past 5 years, she's added C# to her programming repertoire, and she's authored or co-authored books on Visual Basic, C#, ADO.NET, and ASP.NET.

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