Book review: Developer’s Guide to Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 (Todd Bleeker, Ph.D)

I spend far to much time writing the best SharePoint book ever and have very little time tending to my blog these days. That bothers me, so I thought I at least could give you gals and guys something to reward your patience. And, since I spend several hours every day with my head deep down in virtually every SharePoint book there is, why not combine both worlds and review the books I use?

Just a disclaimer first: I don’t copy other people’s work, at least not to my knowledge. I use books as part of my research, but largely to avoid writing what has already been written, and to elaborate where others are vague or incomplete.

The first book I am going to review is Todd C. Bleeker’s "Developer’s Guide to Windows SharePoint Services 3.0", and there is a very good reason why I am reviewing that book first. In short, it is the best and most comprehensive book I have, so I have gotten to know it quite well during the last few months of research for my own book.

Other SharePoint books you might like…

As you may or may not know, I rarely read at all. For reasons I don’t know I read very slowly so I need to read only what gives me the most information in the shortest amount of time. Todd’s book is just one such work. There is a massive amount of information, but it is organized in such a way as to convey the important stuff fast.

Todd also has a very nice mix of content. Being a slow reader means I like pictures and easily accessible information in tables. showing code that actually implement what you explain is also a great idea; for some reason reading code on paper is a lot easier than reading text for me. Throughout the book there is a nice balance of types of content which makes reading and understanding a lot easier.

Every chapter focuses completely on a single topic, such as WSS Features, site definitions, custom field types, and workflow. Keeping that focus makes the book a great reference work; you can quickly find what you need without having to search through entire chapters or sections of the book, or even worse, use the index. Also, it means you can skip stuff that is either too basic or too uninteresting.

And that brings me nicely over to a ‘good news/bad news’ of the book. The good news is that the book is very comprehensive. A ton of topics get covered. That was also the bad news. At times I find myself wanting more from each topic, especially towards the end of each chapter. Just as I start getting really hungry, the food of knowledge gets snapped away from my plate. The book is simply not deep enough because it tries to cover too much.

Don’t get me wrong, if you learn what is in "Developer’s Guide to Windows SharePoint Services 3.0" you will be a very good SharePoint developer, especially if you add some experience to the mix. However, I still think that there is not enough information on each topic.

I will give you an example, on list forms. Todd explains what list forms are, including how form templates work, all in the matter of a whooping 2 pages. I think that list forms hold potential far beyond cold fusion. In "Building the SharePoint User Experience" I have 10 pages on list forms alone, and that is only because I have left a large section for the content types chapter, and removed most of the screenshots.

I am not saying the section on list forms is bad, I am just saying that I want more.

Another issue is with implicit trust on official documentation. I have read enough documentation and tried implementing what’s documented to know I trust documentation about as far as I can throw it with my arms tied to my back. Some information in Todd’s book seems to indicate that he has explained what is written in the documentation rather than testing to see what actually happens when you do something. That means that there is information here that may not be entirely accurate, or at least that a feature may behave differently in real life. Granted, I have only found this to be the case for some rather obscure features, but still…

Conclusion

I have far more positive than negative things to say about this book, and the negative points I have made are actually not that important. I highly recommend the book to any developer, and use it myself on a daily basis. In fact, when writing my own book I set this book as the standard I want to beat.

In short:

Good Bad
Very comprehensive… …but not comprehensive enough
Very well organized… …but not comprehensive enough
Balanced content and good writing style… …but not comprehensive enough
Detailed descriptions… …which may behave differently in real life

I also have a complete list of my recommended SharePoint books, conveniently gathered in a single store. These will be reviewed as time permits, but if you have specific requests, let me know, either by comment or by email to furuknap<[at]>gmail.com.

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Bjørn Furuknap

I previously did SharePoint. These days, I try new things to see where I can find the passion. If you have great ideas, cool projects, or is in general an awesome person, get in touch and we might find out together.

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