Book Review: Open Source .NET Development

Open Source .NET Development
by Brian Nantz
Addison-Wesley, 2004
484 pages + CD, $39.99
Code in C# and XML
ISBN 0-321-22810-3

The central premise of this book is pretty easy to sum up: .NET development and open source development do not have to be enemies. There are three senses in which this statement is true, and Brian Nantz goes into both of them. First, there are open source implementations of the core .NET classes, including Mono and Portable .NET (among others). Second, there are applications built in .NET code that are open source (that is, licensed under an open source license). Third, there are plenty of tools for .NET development (such as NDoc and NUnit) that fall into the second class. You don't need to go down all of these paths at once, of course, but there are lots of interesting synergies between them.

The book is largely a survey of the available tools, with plenty of sample code showing how to use them. Nantz's interests range from the underlying .NET implementations through editors and source code control to obfuscators, build tools, and other utilities. Some tools get a short paragraph; others get an entire chapter.

There are some areas where the book is particularly strong. The comparison of Microsoft's .NET CLR, the .NET CF, Rotor, Portable .NET, and Mono is more thorough than others I've seen. The chapters on NAnt and Log4Net also go into serious detail; the book can serve as a good tutorial on these two tools. There's also a good chapter on tools for converting C# XML documentation to various output formats that sorts through the confusing set of alternatives in this area.

Other things you'll find here include a chapter on using open source databases with .NET, one on cross-platform ASP.NET and Web Services, and a case study of the ASpell.NET open source project. There's an included CD with tools and sample code, though of course with the pace of development these days you'll want to download current versions of most everything.

Typical developers are fascinated by tools, and always looking for new ones. If you're in the .NET universe, you'll probably find at least a few tools here, and the cover price is worth it for the NAnt and Log4Net content alone if you decide to incorporate those two tools in your work.

About the Author

Mike Gunderloy has been developing software for a quarter-century now, and writing about it for nearly as long. He walked away from a .NET development career in 2006 and has been a happy Rails user ever since. Mike blogs at A Fresh Cup.

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