SpotD reviews Building the SharePoint User Experience

I’ll rest my case:

spotd_review

I told you SpotD was a dog for SharePoint…

Nuff said

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Book review: Inside Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 (Ted Pattison, Daniel Larson)

Just another review of a great book. Check out the other reviews here.

Inside Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 is considered a classic. Often people talk about instant classics, but I think this is a case where the book was a classic long before it was even written.

If you have no idea who Ted Pattison is you should do a Google right away. Ted is the founder of Ted Pattison Group, the leading SharePoint training company in the world. With instructors such as Andrew Connell, Scot Hillier, and John Holliday on their payroll, TPG has become legendary for providing great training from some of the best SharePoint minds in the world.

Other SharePoint books you might want…

A long, long time ago, when I took the Windows SharePoint Services 3.0: Application Development (70-541) exam, I researched what to read by Googling. Close to every serious suggestion recommended learning what was in Inside Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services 3.0. I had the book in my shelf at that time, so I did, and I passed, with flying colors.

So, let’s break down the good parts and the bad parts.

If you have read my last review of Todd Bleeker’s "Developer’s Guide to Windows SharePoint Services", you know I complained that the book was not comprehensive enough. Inside Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 suffers a bit of the same problem, and you would think that, having fewer pages, it would be less comprehensive. That may be the case on some topics such as web parts, but at the same time Ted covers fewer topics in total, meaning there is more time to go deeper into other topics.

That being said; this is also an overview book, covering wide areas of development. For starting out with SharePoint development this is good, but if you are looking for deeper dives into a particular subject you may not find what you are looking for here.

Another thing I like about the book is the writing style itself. Both authors write in a natural and flowing style, meaning reading is a lot easier, especially for someone who is not fond of reading at all. Like me. I realize a lot of other reviewers critique the writing style; perhaps it is different for someone who does not have English as their native language.

And let’s get this straight right away; this is a developer’s book. I am a developer so I appreciate that, but there is little here to offer information to administrator, information workers, or executive. That is a good thing. I am biased.

Added kudos for including information about the site provisioning provider, by the way.

Any downright bad stuff? Well, I know Ajax is popular as an interface enhancer, and the book includes a chapter on learning Ajax. Listen, I buy a SharePoint book to learn SharePoint; not SQL, not Ajax, not Silverlight, not Photoshop. Stick to the topic! The Ajax chapter was more on Ajax than Ajax in SharePoint even, and lacking completely in both camps.

Another thing that I did not appreciate was pages long code. Code is good, especially snippets that show how a feature is implemented, but I do not need to see three pages worth at a time. Put the code online and reference it instead.

Conclusion

Great, great book. Let me a bit down on the depth in some areas, but the writing style, coverage, and selection of topics covered makes up for that. Paying 32 bucks for this on Amazon is a steal, you’ll save that in a week from the added knowledge you will have gained.

Good Bad
Comprehensive coverage… …but not deep enough
Good writing style and flow Worthless Ajax chapter
Wise choice of topics Too much code in some chapters
Pure developer book Perhaps not as advanced as advertised

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.

As you may or may not know, I am not particularly interested in certifications and titles, I take them only when a customer requests a certain certification. I am not recommending you take the 70-541 certification, I am just saying that if you do, get Ted’s book.

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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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