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Visual Basic 2005: Where to get started

Author Sean Campbell discusses VB2005 and key areas of interest for developers ready to roll with the new tools set.

Microsoft has gone to lengths to improve upon Visual Basic 2005, the first .NET-Framework-ready version of VB, which met less than universal acclaim when it appeared in 2003. Now, changes to the .NET Framework, the language and the Visual Basic 2005 IDE itself should help experienced VB. NET developers working with VB 2005 to produce applications more quickly.

Where should you focus your first efforts in learning Visual Basic 2005? Along with getting your hands on a version of the software -- and there is a free version called Visual Basic 2005 Express -- a book entitled Introducing Microsoft Visual Basic 2005 for Developers (Microsoft Press, 2004) is a good place to start. The book is available in downloadable form from the Microsoft site, as well as from Microsoft Press. [An updated edition should be available not too long after the November launch of Microsoft Visual Studio.] spoke recently with one of the book's authors, Sean Campbell, CEO and President, 3leaf, an educational and application development company.

 A lot of the time people struggled with the fact that the .NET framework is broad and deep, and there wasn't a speed dial for it. 
Sean Campbell

In Introducing Microsoft Visual Basic 2005 for Developers, there were a few areas of advice that seemed especially resonant. We drilled down a bit on these areas in our conversation with Sean.

First of all, how is Visual Basic 2005 as a development environment? "It's a good tool," said Campbell, "it brings a lot to the table. There is a wealth of functionality here."

Adding more functionality can make software too difficult to learn, as some developers have discovered in the past. But, said Campbell, richness in VB 2005 is not a drawback. Improvements to the new edition specifically try to address the problem of making richness easy to administer, and those improvements center to a great extent around the "My" classes.

"A lot of the time people struggled with the fact that the .NET Framework is broad and deep, and there wasn't a speed dial for it," said Campbell. "'My' helps with that."

Of course, some developers refrain from shortcuts. But the VB community has historically been focused more on results, less on means to achieve those results.

"Some people don't like shortcuts -- I do. As a professional developer, you are paid to be efficient and right, not just right," Campbell said.

So 'speed dials' find a more friendly audience in the Visual Basic domain. The first rev of VB was criticized as lacking in those dial-ups. That has been a center of attention for Microsoft as it brings out the new product.

"It is more friendly to VB people," said Campbell, describing the new tools set.

Before starting on Visual Basic 2005, you might make sure you make a thorough perusal of the base class library.

More on Visual Basic 2005

Reference: Visual Basic 2005 learning guide

News: FutureVB version may integrate queries, programs

Tip: 'My'  extensions turbo charge new VB tool set

Visual Basic 2005 and My.Settings 

Says Campbell: "Sometime people think the base class library is more daunting than it really is."

There is a "ton of functionality" in there, he notes, and you don't want to build by hand a lot that is already built into the libraries, and, in turn, the tools.

"They are making the right pointers in helping people efficiently find those things," Campbell said. MyObject, the wizards, and controls are "easy to work with," he said. Like others, Campbell notes that there are many cases where the "My" technology allows you to replace extensive sections of coding with a single line of code.

"And that is the VB way," notes Campbell, "where less lines of code is good."

Meanwhile, the new IDE itself also embeds more simplicity. "Some of the enhancements get more to the heart of what VB has historically been in terms of providing [an interface] for RAD [rapid application development]," he said. Among new wizards in the IDE are data wizards that help implement DataConnector classes and DataNavigator components.

Bits and pieces can be taken out of context. The important thing is the overall view. And the overall view on Visual Basic 2005 is favorable, contends Campbell.

"The reality is that what is important is whether the language as a whole makes you more productive. I think Visual Basic 2005 is a more productive language." It is firmly in the .NET camp, but "it is VB in a lot of ways," said Campbell.


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