June 04, 2006
ASP.NET information resources, Part II
In this post, I try to gather up ASP.NET information resources beyond the docs. (See previous post for information on docs.) Much of what's listed here is available via the www.asp.net site, but not all. In a couple of cases, I list resources that might not be from Microsoft, mostly to illustrate genres.
The term "article" is used generically to refer to pages posted to MSDN that are not part of the documentation. Whitepapers are a kind of article. Unlike documentation, articles almost always have a named author.
In ASP.NET, we sometimes distinguish "official" blogs (hosted on http://blogs.msdn.com or http://weblogs.asp.net) from blogs created by other members of the community. Examples:Books
Hard-copy books remain a perennial favorite as a learning resource. Amazon lists 385 results when you search Books for "ASP.NET". The www.asp.net site lists a selection.
Case studies describe how third parties have used ASP.NET to solve real world problems. The ASP.NET site links to the Microsoft Global Evidence Management site, and runs a search for case studies in which ASP.NET is one of the technologies in use.
The ASP.NET Control Gallery lists controls and components created by end users. Some controls are free; others are licensed. Users can drill down into control details, which can include user ratings. The page includes a link to a wizard where you can submit your own control for listing in the gallery.
The Downloads page lists a selection of add-ins that have been created by the ASP.NET team. These include Express, Atlas, the Starter Kits, and others. Downloads for new, out-of-band features are collected in the ASP.NET Sandbox.
The ASP.NET home page lists upcoming events on the home page.
Frequently-asked questions (FAQs) are Lists of questions asked often by users, with answers. There is no defined format or structure for FAQ pages.
The ASP.NET forums enable users to post questions about working with ASP.NET. Answers are provided by other users. The forums are subdivided into 16 interest areas (e.g., General, Visual Studio, Data Access, IIS, Windows Hosting), and within each interest area, into individual forums (128 currently). There are currently about 1.2 million posts and about 227,000 registered users (who can post questions or replies).
The ASP.NET Guided Tour is a kind of tutorial. It is available directly on the ASP.NET Web site. The Guided Tour provides a set of procedures, heavily illustrated with screenshots, that show common tasks. Each page completes one procedure. The current Guided Tour contains 9 tasks total, broken down into 32 individual procedures plus some page samples.
A hands-on lab (HOL) is another kind of tutorial. Hands-on labs are generally written initially to be used as hard-copy lab manuals at events such as trade shows. They are usually written so that they can be completed in roughly an hour. The labs are also posted online as downloadable .doc files. At the moment, some ASP.NET HOLs are available on the Whidbey PDC page. We have 9 HOLs available for ASP.NET 2.0.
Examples (download .doc files):KnowledgeBase Articles (KBs)
KBs are pages written and hosted by PSS that address an issue that they see a lot. KBs can address bugs or error messages, describe a problem and resolution, announce a hotfix, or provide general background or how-to information.
Examples:PAG Content and Samples
The Practices and Patterns group creates extensive (book-length) documentation that provides definitive guidance on how to create applications with ASP.NET technology. The information is posted on the Web site as pages, can be downloaded as a .pdf file, and is available as a book.
A podast is any audio program made available as a downloadable sound file. For ASP.NET, podcasts are often structured as interviews.
The ASP.NET QuickStart Tutorials are "task-based" examples showing snippets of pages or code, each of which illustrates a particular feature or technique. The quickstarts involve comparatively little text; unlike traditional tutorials, they do not lead the user using step-by-step procedures. Each quickstart page lists a set of examples. Each example includes a short introduction, a link to a working version illustrating the feature, and a link to the source code for the example. For ASP.NET 2.0, there are several hundred individual examples.
The ASP.NET site provides lists that link to resources outside the site. The lists are provided to help users find additional information and are not intended to be endorsements.
Samples are code that users can download and run on their own computers.
The ASP.NET Sandbox is a collection of downloads for features released out of band.
The Atlas team provides a page that lists cool applications that people have created using Atlas.
Starter Kits are packaged Visual Web Developer projects (.vsi downloads) that give the user a complete application, ready to run. When users create a new project based on a Starter Kit, the new project contains all the pages, code, database tables, and configuration information they need to run the site. The idea is to provide a functioning site that users can run as a live site, customize to their liking, and deconstruct to learn about ASP.NET. The kits include simple documentation that tells users how to tweak the site (if required) and suggests ways that users can customize the site.
A tutorial is a step-by-step guide that walks a user through a task. The resources tutorial, walkthrough (see previous post), hands-on lab, and GuidedTour are all roughly the same thing in that they use a step-by-step approach. They each differ a little in scope, length, and sometimes in granularity.
The ASP.NET site links directly to some videos and indirectly to others. Videos come in two basic styles:
1) Interview "talking head" style videos. Examples:2) Tutorial/demo-style videos that show screenshots and coding. Sometimes referred to as Webcasts (on MSDN), sometimes as screencasts (on Channel9). Some (like the MSDN Webcasts) are interactive and can take questions from viewers. Examples:Some of these are packaged-up versions of talks from PDC or other shows. Examples:Whitepapers
Whitepapers are articles published on MSDN, typically to describe a feature in depth in a way (for example, using a real-world case) that is not practical or beyond the scope of documentation. The ASP.NET team also uses whitepapers to document new features.