Author: Mike McGrath
Publisher: Easy Steps, 2010
Aimed at: Beginners, including kids
Pros: Uses the form designer to introduce objects and properties
Cons: Covers some unnecessary topics
Reviewed by: Lucy Black
This is a colorful book and very short - this makes it very suitable as an introduction for the complete beginner and especially children.
Each chapter is also fairly short and contains lots of box outs with warnings and gotchas.
It starts off telling you how to download and install Visual Basic Express. Then it starts to explain what programming is all about using the form designer as a way of introducing objects and properties. This is probably the best way to make a difficult idea easy as it is clear that a button or whatever you place on a form is indeed an object. The only problem is that after this the book tends to present topics in their entirety rather than just as much as a beginner needs to know to. For example Chapter 3 deals with the use of each control in the toolbar. It would have been better to introduce each control as and when it made sense within later chapters. In particular the Timer control is quite a different thing to the others.
Chapter 4 on learning the language is a bit on the short side for a complete beginner to soak up the deep ideas of conditionals and loops. Be prepared to give this time to sink in before you move on to later chapters that assume that you have mastered the ideas.
From Chapter 4 on the book adopts a task-oriented approach and explains the ideas it needs to complete each task. Chapter 5 is about building an application and Chapter 6 is about solving problems - a general how to deal with debugging. Chapter 7 extends the user interface with menus, dialogs and images.
Chapter 8 deviates from core Visual Basic with a look at VBA and VBScript. This would probably be better left out of the book as it is simply a detour from the main task of learning VB proper. A beginner probably has enough to cope with and the book is very short. Chapter 9 is a slightly odd look at the role of data in a program and covers using text files, Excel, XML and RSS. The final chapter is on databases proper and once again it is probably a step too far for the beginner.
Overall this is quite a good book for the beginner but you need to keep in mind that it is a short book and the explanations are brief to allow it to cover a wide range of topics. If you really are a complete beginner than the pace will probably be too fast and you will have to allow some time for things to settle in your head before moving on.
The big advantage of the book is that it looks friendly, and it isn't intimidating. It might well get you started but it obviously can't teach you everything. Recommended but with some reservations about the almost off topic deviations from core VB.