Book Review: Building Websites with
VB.NET and DotNetNuke 3.0

by Peter A. Bromberg, Ph.D.

Peter Bromberg

I don't normally write about or review books focusing on VB.NET, as it's not my preferred programming language. In fact, I could probably be blamed for contributing my two cents to the flame wars about VB.NET vs. C#. However, the fact of the matter is that if used properly, VB.NET is a pretty much full-fledged member of the .NET Framework programming language family. As a side note, when I say "used properly", what I mean specifically is to have Option Strict and Option Explicit "ON" at all times, and preferably, remove any and all references to namespaces with "VisualBasic" in their names so as to be able to write CLS-compliant assemblies.

In the case of "Building Websites with VB.NET and DotNetNuke 3.0" I digress from my normal programming "posture" because I believe this is a truly excellent book, no matter what your preferred programming language.



 

In order to understand more fully the impact of this book and DotNetNuke, I think its important to have a little history lesson. When ASP.NET first came out in 2000, one of the sample "Best Practices" applications that were made available was the "IBuySpy" portal solution kit. Earliest versions of this didn't even use the codebehind programming model. Over the past few years, developers built on this reference application and the results came to be known as "DotnetNuke" - patterned after the PHPNuke portal that was available for PHP developers. There was also the "Rainbow Project" - a similar app built with Visual C#. DotNetNuke 1.0 was originally released by Shaun Walker as an open -source project in December, 2002 -- and has grown dramatically since, to over 90,000 lines of managed code, and with a host of features that were not present in the original version.
Why is DotNetNuke so popular?

The reason DotNetNuke became so popular with ASP.NET developers is because it provides a templatized, pre-made framework for developing database-driven portal web sites with all the features one would ever expect to have, already built-in. It's easily customizable, "skinnable", and extensible. In fact, a whole control development community has sprung up around it. One of the interesting things I've seen with DotNetNuke is that some smart developers have even been able to make a full time job out of it. What they do is use DotNetNuke to set up a complete portal site for a customer for a fixed fee, and then they charge by the hour for further customization. In this way, they can pick up a quick $250.00 for setting up the basics, which can easily turn into $1,000 to $5,000 additional fees for the customization.

In addition to the fact that it is open source and well supported by a community of developers, DotNetNuke uses the ASP.NET 2.0 Provider model, which is highly extensible. It also comes pre-packaged with modules for discussions, events, news feeds, links, contact, FAQ, announcements and others. It also separates page layout, page content, and application logic in a very OOP - oriented manner, supports custom "Skins", and multiple portals with a single database. It's also been recognized by the Microsoft team as a "best practices" application. That means it uses quality coding techniques, some of which include the little tidbits I alluded to in my first paragraph above.

Who should read this book?

If you work with ASP.NET and VB.NET, and want an interactive website, with forums, news and image management, where visitors can register, participate and contribute to your site, then DotNetNuke is for you. This book is a complete guide to creating content-rich websites with DotNetNuke 3.0, as quickly as possible.

The first part of this book gives you a thorough understanding of working with basic DotNetNuke sites, guiding you through the features and giving you the confidence to create and manage your own site. After that, you will get to the heart of DotNetNuke, and learn about its core architecture. From there, you will learn how to customize DotNetNuke sites through skinning and creating custom modules.


The subjects of enhancing your site with forums and ecommerce functionality, creating multiple sites, and deploying your site round off the book. Each of these topics is covered in detail as you step through the development of a DotNetNuke 3.0 site.


What can I expect to learn from this book?
This book will give you the skills to create and manage DotNetNuke websites as quickly as possible. You will:
  • Install and configure DotNetNuke
  • Use the standard modules
  • Understand the core architecture of DotNetNuke
  • Explore the inner workings of DotNetNuke modules
  • Extend DotNetNuke by creating powerful custom modules
  • Create your own skin using a HTML Editor
  • Learn about the new Whidbey style Provider Model
  • Find out about where and how to host and deploy your site


Developers can use this book to help you set up and administer a DotNetNuke portal, even if you have a limited knowledge of ASP.NET. You will learn how to setup and administer an example site, stepping through all the tasks to ease your learning.

This book will help you extend the DotNetNuke portal by first helping you understand how the core framework works and then show you how to create custom modules and skins. A rudimentary knowledge of VB.NET programming is assumed; however the emphasis is not on becoming a better VB.NET programmer but on taming DotNetNuke. No prior knowledge of DotNetNuke is assumed.

The new features of DotNetNuke 3.0 are discussed extensively, so even if you have worked with previous versions of DotNetNuke, you will find something new.

I give this one a hearty "Thumbs Up" -- not only does it cover the subject extensively, it also promotes best-practices programming methodology. Pick up a copy of "Building Websites with VB.NET and DotNetNuke 3.0", by Dan Egan from Packt Publishing (list price $39.95 US) from your favorite bookseller or online store such as Amazon.com or BookPool.com.

Buy this book: http://www.packtpub.com/dotnetnuke/book


Peter Bromberg is a C# MVP, MCP, and .NET consultant who has worked in the banking and financial industry for 20 years. He has architected and developed web - based corporate distributed application solutions since 1995, and focuses exclusively on the .NET Platform.