Building Websites with DotNetNuke 5 (a review)

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Several weeks ago I was approached by Packt Publishing to review the latest DotNetNuke book, Building Websites with DotNetNuke 5 by Michael Washington and Ian Lackey, which I agreed to do.

What I intend to do in this review is to give you an idea of what is inside this book, compare what I read to what the outside cover of the book says you will get, and finally end with a few comments of my own that are completely opinion based.

Just so you know, this isn’t an “I skimmed through the book so I could write an intelligent review” review.  I actually read the entire book except for the code printouts.

What’s Inside

The book is divided into two main parts.  The first half of the book is an overview of what DotNetNuke is, what modules are available, and how to administer a DotNetNuke installation.  The second half of the book is how to program a DotNetNuke module.

As a programmer, you will probably be more interested in reading the second half of the book than the first, but I can tell you from experience that it will be difficult to grasp the concepts in the half of the book that deals with the programming if you don’t have any idea how to administer a DotNetNuke site.

If you have already been administering DotNetNuke sites for a while, you might want to just speed read this section to see if you’ve missed anything.

According to the copy on the back of the book, this book was written for both the beginner wanting to set up a website and also ASP.NET developers who want a deeper understanding of how to work with DotNetNuke.

That sounds to me like the book might be something I could give to an end user who would be administering a DotNetNuke site.  Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s the case.  This book is more for programmers who will be administering DotNetNuke sites.  While I was going through the first half of the book I kept asking myself, “Would the end users I’ve worked with in the past be able to understand this well enough to use it?”  I can’t honestly say that they would.  Unfortunately, I’ve yet to find a book I can suggest as an alternative.

What you’ll learn from this book:

Again, according to the back cover, you’ll learn to:

  • Install and configure DotNetNuke
  • Master the standard modules
  • Understand the core architecture of DotNetNuke
  • Explore the inner workings of DotNetNuke modules
  • Customize and enhance your site with custom modules
  • Module development using Silverlight and LINQ to SQL
  • Create and use Portal Templates
  • Complete coverage of setup, administration, and development

Mostly it’s true.  What I really got hung up on is that the “complete coverage of… development” falls short.  Here’s my issue.

In the chapter “Connecting to the Database” where they explain how to have your module talk to your database, they briefly describe using the DAL, which is the primary way of creating DotNetNuke modules.  They also briefly describe DAL+, which is a slightly less portable version of DAL.  I was actually looking forward to learning DAL+ since it was described as easier to code than using the DAL.  So imagine my surprise when they spent the entire chapter describing how to use LINQ to SQL as the way of connecting your module to the database!

Yes, they did only mention LINQ to SQL on the back cover.  They never explicitly said they’d tell me how to do it right.  But come on!  How much work would it be to provide a couple of links to someplace that does describe how to use DAL and DAL+?

Conclusion

Mostly, I’d say the book delivers on its promises.  If you are looking for something that will give you a good introduction to DotNetNuke 5 in the shortest amount of time, I think you’ll be happy with this book.  However, I would strongly suggest that you supplement the material in this book with other resources that teach you how to use the DAL as your method of accessing the database.  I have a post or two on this blog explaining why I don’t believe LINQ to SQL is a valid method of accessing the database for any ASP.NET project, including DotNetNuke.


DAL Resources

LINQ2SQL

Other Reviews of Building Website with DotNetNuke 5

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