Windows Power Tools is a collection of brief tutorials and overviews of freeware and open source .NET development tools. What kind of rating you might give this book depends largely upon what type of background that you’re coming from. If you’re the kind who has stuck religiously to the Microsoft Press series of books and acknowledge only the old testament, than this book will be either an epiphany (5 stars) or outright blasphemy (1 star). If continuous integration, test-driven development, and object relational mapping (new testament type stuff) are terms that you are fairly conversant with, then this book will probably land somewhere in the 2-4 star range.
Since I put myself in the 2-4 star group, I’ll start by mentioning that there are great online tomes of knowledge that contain most of the tools listed in this book and a bunch others not listed here. One of the most respected and well linked lists belongs to the author of this book’s forward, Scott Hanselman. His Ultimate Developer and Power Users Tool List for Windows has been dutifully updated on an annual basis. Despite the fact that there are free, decent resources out there that fill some of the same purposes as this book, I enjoyed thumbing through the book and picking out tools I hadn’t heard of to fill in some knowledge gaps.
The main reason that I landed on a 3 star rating instead of a 4 star rating is that the brief tutorial format that worked so well for James when describing Visual Studio functionality is his previous book, Visual Studio Hacks, just doesn’t do justice to tools that represent significant pieces of an application or support infrastructure. I would have preferred to see less tools and deeper coverage in certain areas. Understandably, since not everyone would want to see the same tools as me; a broader, shallower approach trades off depth and detail for marketability. I’ve included my complete list of pros and cons below so that you can see how I came to my rating:
- Great reference book with enough of an introduction to get you started with a broad array of tools
- If you’re an O’Reilly Safari subscriber, this book is included in your subscription
- The authors aspire to keep materials current on the book’s companion Web site. At the time of this review, the site is little more than a list of tools in the book
- Lots of this material is available for free on the Web, if you have the time and inclination to find it
- Introductions to tools are not sufficiently in depth to communicate any more than the most rudimentary of use cases