Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Windows Presentation Foundation Unleashed

I promised myself I wouldn't buy a Windows Presentation Foundation book until it was fully baked into Visual Studio - with a real designer and freedom from angle-brackets. I know how I am - I was mutzing around with DataGrams before they became DataSets, and ObjectSpaces before they became, well, nothing. I'm an early adopter, and sometimes that's a Bad Thing when it comes to real-world projects and timelines. But then Surface came out, and I just couldn't wait. I downloaded Expression Blend May 2 Preview and on Scott Guthrie's recommendation, bought Windows Presentation Foundation Unleashed and Essential Windows Presentation Foundation. The short review: WPF Unleashed rocks, get it. Essential WPF is decent, but not as good as Unleashed. The longer version: Unleashed is full color- including the code samples- and this makes it much more readable. It does a good job balancing samples and content, and explaining why things in WPF work the way they do. I read Essential WPF second, and so maybe had higher expectations. I do like this Microsoft Development series (Framework Design Guidelines is a must-read for all .NET developers), but this just paled next to Unleashed, and didn't really add or explain much more. The one criticism I have for both books is that I'd like to see more of the whiz-bang examples that makes WPF shine. Unleashed includes a sample Photo Browser app that comes close, but still lacks the 'Wow' that Surface and Silverlight demos are bringing. Some of that is a matter of design principals that fall out of the scope of a technical overview, but this raises my main fear with WPF. Putting this sort of thing in the hands of developers will often lead to trouble. I still cringe when I have to install a video card CD, since I know they've come up with their own goofy UI that will be slower and uglier than a plain WinForms UI. Some effort in these early books to urge restraint and introduce usability and design concerns could help some of us early adopters.

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