During an interesting conversation with a publisher of technical books, they expressed their dismay at the lack of success for titles focused on the Microsoft .NET platform. I was surprised by their thoughts behind the poor sales; they cited the abundance of freely available information (especially from Microsoft) as the main issue.
The publisher’s observation made me think about how I utilize the variety of resource materials available to developers, and how my consumption habits have changed over the years. When I was starting out as a developer, you’d often find me with my nose in a resource text. However, as I’ve gained more experience, I usually go straight to the Web. (Microsoft even provides its patterns & practices titles online.) Check out the Microsoft online links that I highlight as essential bookmarks for .NET developers.
Weekly .NET tips in your inbox
TechRepublic’s free .NET newsletter, delivered each Wednesday, contains useful tips and coding examples on topics such as Web services, ASP.NET, ADO.NET, and Visual Studio .NET.
Automatically sign up today!
Bookmark these Microsoft resources
Staying informed about one or more items within the Microsoft stable can be daunting, but the software giant simplifies the chore by providing a wealth of development information online. The following Microsoft-operated Web sites provide valuable information:
* Microsoft .NET Framework Developer Center: This site includes everything related to developing with the .NET platform. Technical how-to articles, product and technology downloads, online discussion forums, and more are available. Site content is available via an RSS feed as well. Also, developer centers are available for other Microsoft technologies like ASP.NET and SQL Server.
* Microsoft .NET home page: This site provides more general information that is more appropriate for management and business professionals that may be involved in the decision-making process or sales.
* Microsoft .NET Framework Forums: Online discussion forums allow users to share valuation information within a community environment. The forums range from general comments to more specialized forums for products like C# and Visual Studio.
* Blogs: The Microsoft community has not ignored the blog revolution. There are numerous valuable blogs from those involved in the development of Microsoft technologies.
* RSS feeds: This page provides links to the overwhelming number of .NET-related (as well as other Microsoft technologies and products) blogs available. There are feeds available for many of the online forums, development sites, and blogs already discussed.
* Newsgroups and list servers: I know many developers that look down on newsgroups and list servers, but these are useful technologies that have been around for years. A newsgroup reader such as Outlook Express can be used to peruse a variety of items by topic. Also, you can easily help others within the community or post your own question or comments. Likewise, list servers can easily deliver information to your inbox on a scheduled basis.
Microsoft describes the MSDN (Microsoft Solution Developer Network) as a set of online and offline services designed to help developers write applications using Microsoft products and technologies. Articles covering all aspects of development as well as product information are freely available. These articles often originate in the MSDN Magazine.
Find answers to technical questions
While the Web sites, forums, and other resources covered so far can provide valuable information, it is often necessary to search for issues within Microsoft’s information store. For instance, you may need to know if an issue is a known product bug and what (if any) fix is available. The Microsoft Support Knowledge Base provides an interface for locating such information within the company’s very own knowledgebase. The Knowledge Base may also be searched (in conjunction with other resources) from the MSDN site as well.
I often find myself using the .NET reference freely available via MSDN. It also allows me to easily locate class usage information, as well as valuable code samples. It provides an easy to use table of contents as well as a simple search interface. Another good resource is Channel 9.
Beware of information overload
While everything you need is seemingly available with a few clicks of the mouse, it is important to choose your information wisely. That is, it is easy to become overwhelmed when you’re looking at so many excellent sources. You don’t want to use so many resources that you ending up wasting valuable time going from site to site. For instance, I have a few blogs and discussion groups I follow closely. In addition, I subscribe to some RSS feeds; I survey the entries and read only what I deem pertinent.
Now that I’ve listed some of my favorite .NET resources, I’d love to hear what sites or other types of resources you find most useful in your development work. Please share your favorite .NET resources in the article discussion.