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Michael Crump Microsoft MVP, INETA Community Champion and XAML Advocate.
Microsoft Silverlight 4 Step by Step

(click book logo to be taken to the Catalog Page)

Book cover of Microsoft® Silverlight® 4 Step by Step 

By: Laurence Moroney

Publisher: Microsoft Press
Pub. Date: June 30, 2010
Print ISBN-13: 978-0-7356-3887-7
Pages in Print Edition: 336

I decided to do my first review with the new Silverlight 4 Step by Step book from Microsoft Press.  I have read the entire book and completed all of the exercises. I have found several errors in the book’s code, but they were not hard to figure out.

Instead of writing a formal book review that includes an introduction, body and conclusion. I’m going to do a chapter by chapter review that points out the highs/lows and I will rate that individual chapter.

Just FYI, I am a C# Developer of mainly business applications. I have a few months of Silverlight experience and was hoping that this book would bring me up to speed with the new features of Silverlight 4. The book did help, but it wasn’t exactly what I was looking for.

Please see my chapter by chapter review below:

Chapter 1. Introducing Silverlight

Description: This chapter shows you how to download and install the components that allow you to create Silverlight and WP7 applications. It walks you through a simple Silverlight app that consisted of a button and a textbox. It was very simple and someone with a few years of working with the Microsoft stack will be bored. This is a step by step book and I expected this coming in.

Chapter Rating: 2/5

Chapter 2. Silverlight Controls

Description: This chapter walks you through several of the standard Silverlight controls such as button, textblock, textbox, listbox, image and combobox. It was helpful to actually go into the MouseWheel event as I’ve never seen that mentioned in any other book. The chapter just barely touches on the Controls available; you could definitely learn more just by playing with the controls.

Chapter Rating: 1/5

Chapter 3. Layout and Styling

Description: Grids, Canvas and StackPanel’s. It basically walks you through creating these controls manually. While, I believe its great to know how to do with straight XAML, I wouldn’t recommend doing it that way. Expression Blend 4 is way too powerful to be creating these type of layout controls by hand.

Chapter Rating: 2/5

Chapter 4. Data and RIA Services

Description: A fairly interesting chapter on RIA Services. They walked you through creating a database to retrieve data to creating the RIA services server project. I actually learned a few things about the ADO.NET Data Model that I may be able to use in the future.

Chapter Rating: 4/5

Chapter 5. Rich Imaging

Description: This chapter discusses using the power of “Deep Zoom” and Photosynth. The version of Deep Zoom that they were using is a bit outdated, but it worked for the tutorial. It's my personal opinion that most developers will never use either of these technologies in a commercial app. The famous “Hard Rock” cafe demo is cool, but I can’t find many uses for this in business applications. Photosynth could be helpful in real estate applications that need a panoramic view of a room.

Chapter Rating: 3/5

Chapter 6. Media, Webcams, and Video

Description: This chapter only talks about the MediaElement control (which is great for video) and briefly goes over using a webcam.  While everyone that is doing media with Silverlight should know MediaElement inside and out, I find the webcam part useless. I will give this chapter a 2 because it does go over the necessary parts to understand the MediaElement control.

Chapter Rating: 2/5

Chapter 7. Transformation and Animation

Description: Expression Blend, Expression Blend, Expression Blend. This chapter unfortunately does not preach that entirely. They show you how to do a majority of this with straight XAML and finally show an example of Animations in Expression Blend. As I’ve said earlier, its great to know the syntax, but just plain stupid to do animation without Blend. You wouldn’t turn off VS IntelliSense because its “better” to type would you? Do your transformation/animation work in Blend people.

Chapter Rating: 1/5

Chapter 8. Building Desktop Applications

Description: This was actually one of my favorite chapters. It was very simple to understand and hit a lot of “need-to-know” topics like: Out of Browser, Detecting Updates & Network Status, Isolated Storage, Elevates Mode, Notification Windows and even Interoperating with COM. I actually got something out of this chapter in an easy to read format. The knowledge from thie chapter would have taken a while if solely searching on the net.

Chapter Rating: 5/5

Chapter 9. Integrating with the Browser

Description: Another outstanding chapter, probably worth the price of the book. I’ve looked for a way to learn how to call Javascript from Silverlight app and vice versa and have always come up short. This book explains it in a very simple way and even explores the Bing Virtual Earth API. Very cool!

Chapter Rating: 5/5

Chapter 10. Accessing Network Services

Description: This is another helpful chapter. It discusses consuming data from services on your network and the internet. Uses the WebClient class to retrieve data and bind to a Silverlight UI. It even goes into some LINQ to XML. While I have already worked on projects similar to this, I found it useful information that the average Silverlight developer will need in his/her career. 

Chapter Rating: 5/5

Chapter 11. Windows Phone Development

Description: This chapter helps you locate the tools needed to develop WP7 applications and walks you through building a application that consumes a web service. I admit that I was not expecting the WP7 chapters in this book. I am only planning on building Silverlight for the Desktop applications and maybe the last 4 chapters of this book belong in a different book.

Chapter Rating: 3/5

Chapter 12. Windows Phone Features

Description: This was a fairly informative chapter if you wanted to work with the WP7 series. It discusses orientation, back buttons, application bars and context-appropriate keyboards.

Chapter Rating: 4/5

Chapter 13. Expression Blend for Windows Phone

Description: Very short chapter that barely touches on what you can do with Expression Blend for WP7. It walks you through a simple animation and that's it. Leaves a lot to be desired.

Chapter Rating: 1/5

Chapter 14. Getting Started with XNA Game Development for Windows Phone

Description: Here we are again building an XNA Game for Windows Phone 7 and we are reading a Silverlight 4 book. While this chapter teaches you a few cool things about such as sprite sheet, it really doesn’t belong in this book.

Chapter Rating: 2/5

Final Thoughts:

This book is great for a starter Silverlight 4 book, but that is all. I felt that it hit a few high points and left a lot to be desired. Chapters 8-10 were the best parts of the book and I would recommend reading those if you just want the ‘meat’ of the book. The book comes with a CD that has all of the source code and I had to rely on it one time to get me past a typo in the book. I would only recommend this book if you are brand new to development and want to work with the Microsoft stack. For everyone else, I would recommend reading some of the Silverlight Blogs below:

Posted on Tuesday, August 3, 2010 4:02 PM General C# , General Software , Silverlight | Back to top

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