The book is divided into five parts.
Part I: Learning the VB Express User Interface
Chapter 1: Making your first program
Chapter 2: Understanding the VB user interface
Chapter 3: Working with projects
Chapter 4: Designing a user interface
Chapter 5: Using the Code window
Chapter 6: Getting help (repairing VB)
Part II: Designing a User Interface
Chapter 7: Understanding Controls and Properties
Chapter 8: Using the Appearance Properties
Chapter 9: Using the Layout and Behavior Properties
Chapter 10: Designing Windows
Part III: Getting and Displaying Data on a User Interface
Chapter 11: Writing Event Procedures
Chapter 12: Getting Commands through Buttons, Menus, and ToolStrips
Chapter 13: Offering Choices with Radio Buttons and Check Boxes
Chapter 14: Accepting and Displaying Data in Text Boxes and Labels
Chapter 15: Accepting a Range of Numeric Values
Chapter 16: Using Layout Controls
Chapter 17: Displaying Dialog Boxes
Part IV: Writing BASIC Code
Chapter 18: Variables and Constants
Chapter 19: Decision making (If-then, Case)
Chapter 20: Loops
Chapter 21: Data structures
Chapter 22: String manipulation and mathematical operators
Chapter 23: Subprograms (general procedures and functions)
Chapter 24: Object-oriented programming
Chapter 25: Error handling
Chapter 26: Debugging (comments)
Part V: Enhancing Your Visual Basic Programs
Chapter 27: Enhancing your user interface
Chapter 28: Connecting to a database
Chapter 29: Displaying Pictures and Video
Chapter 30: Playing Sounds
There are two CDs bundled with the book. One contains the Express Edition of Vb2005, the other contains:
Sample VB programs
Saving, opening file demo
RoboDemo movie tutorials for learning VB user interface
Each chapter in this book contains enough detail to take you a step further up the learning curve, but without overwhelming you with too much information.
Technical jargon is kept to an absolute minimum and author never loses touch with his target audience. He is also quite realistic, as in the Chapter on getting help, for instance:
“One way is to browse through the Help Contents, which you can use to explore and stumble across useful nuggets of information …”
Plain English throughout, e.g. “Click to make the Dialog Box go away” and includes helpful asides, “Notice that Visual Basic displays a syntax prompt to show you the proper way to use the MsgBox command.”, etc.
Topics that are not always very clearly covered in other books, get the Wally Wang treatment. Particularly good, for example, is the explanation of the various debugging options and how to use them:
Step Into, Step Over, Step Out, Watch and Breakpoints.
His sense of humour also shines through in the content of many of the screenshot examples. When you’re struggling to grasp a topic, it’s nice to be made to smile now and then!
Particularly good in my opinion is the way that beginners are encouraged to create mini-programs right from the start. The harder to digest (and potentially less stimulating) technical topics are fed in once the reader has achieved some practical success.
Movies and Demos
There is at least one Flash movie on one of the accompanying CDs for each chapter (several in some of them), each of which shows you a step by step hands-on demonstration of a technique explained in the book. These are perfect for reinforcing techniques or clearing up any misunderstandings that might otherwise cause the reader problems.
Every chapter also contains one or more code samples, and again these are available on the CD. All those that I tested out worked perfectly as advertised.
The only downside is that, as this book is aimed at complete beginners, the unwary might get caught out if they take the “What’s On CD1?” guide notes too literally : “You can load and run the sample Visual Basic programs directly from the CD, but if you want to modify them you’ll need to save them off the CD and onto your hard drive.”
Because of the Read Only access of CD based data and the way that the VB IDE runs, you will in fact need to port any of the sample projects from CD to hard drive in order for it to run at all. It’s not a big issue, but is the kind of thing that can confuse and frustrate beginners. That being said, the content of the printed code samples, the CD based demo projects and the Flash movies overall is excellent.