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Visual Interdev 6 Bible
Richard Mansfield and Debbie Revette
IDG Books,1998

Buy it? Heck no!

Avoid this book like the plague. Visual Interdev is, like most latter-day Microsoft products, especially those aimed at developers, a complicated piece of software. The last thing you need to help you try to navigate it is a manual which does not adhere to simple, basic rules of decent technical writing—which, thanks to Northeastern U., I can now expound upon.

  • Application-centered organization. Rather than assume that you, the reader, want to DO something, and show you how to do it, the book is organized according to various sections of the program (the Edit menu, the Project menu, etc.)
  • Parallel structure. Submenus are addressed at the same heading level as main menu items, and often the connection is not noted in the text. The reader is left clicking helplessly through menus, trying to figure out which part of the program the book is talking about (MS didn't help at all, mind you, by making some menus visible only when you're in a certain one of the approximately half dozen available windows; greying out unavailable options is one thing, but making them disappear entirely?).
  • Graphics. The book is careful to show you what all the zillions of icons Interdev uses look like—in black and white, and at such a painfully low resolution that the reader is unlikely to ever make a connection between the graphic on the page and what their screen shows. On the other hand, when it comes to actually USING Interdev, pictures of what you can do and how you should do it become few and far between.
  • Editing. Don't get me started. This book has so many typos and awkward sentences I find myself courting the suspicion that it was rushed to press without ever being seen by an editor. I can't really blame the authors in that case, but I can definitely blame IDG, which should be ashamed to see this book appear amid their otherwise decent computer offerings.

    Finally, the book is tragically mislabled on its back cover as being appropriate for Beginning to Advanced readers. Give a total beginner this book and watch the confused expression spread across his or her face and prepare to stay for a LONG time.
    The book isn't a total waste. Later chapters do delve very usefully into scripting, Active Server Pages, and Dynamic HTML, but if you're a beginner in the world of Web programming you'll probably be lost in no time because they dont go into a whole lot of detail, and if you're an expert you've probably got a ton of better reference books on your shelf. And since the stuff they're talking about in those chapters is hardly confined to users of Visual Interdev, in the end it's hard to imagine what would induce someone to buy this book other than the fact that there just aren't that many books available on Visual Interdev 6 yet (in case youre wondering, my employers have signed over their souls and all of our computers to Micro$oft—I hope that by the time they regret it I'm no longer working here—and I am required to learn VI6; Im typing this review on my lunch break, on a PC running NT Server, and not my beloved Mac).

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Except where noted, all material on this site is © 1999 Rebecca J. Stevenson