Microsoft Windows Workflow Foundation Step by Step
Prices for book: Microsoft Windows Workflow Foundation Step by Step
Book ISBN: 9780735623354
Author(s): Kenn Scribner
Document type: Trade Paper
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I also ask, "Where's the beef"
Because upcoming projects require workflow, I decided to give this book a shot. As with most books, it started out with a simple "let's do a simple project real quick" chapter which got me excited. However, by chapter 6, I had to force myself to continue reading. I am still asking, "Why should I care about workflow and what does it do for me?" and the book just outright refuses to answer that question. Maybe I should have googled that question before starting. The author does little to provide real world scenarios where workflow would apply and/or be beneficial.
The book quickly becomes repetitive, boring and tedious as the author walks you through trivial steps such as creating a new project in every chapter. For advanced developers who just want to dive in and get all the facts and real world examples, this is NOT the book.
The author did a fair job of adding humor to the monotony, but it just doesn't keep me motivated enough to even finish the book. What a shame.
Dustin Davis (Amazon.com)
Excruciating opposite of terse
The author of this book has chosen to engage in extreme fluffing practices to increase the size of his book in order to create the illusion that it contains a lot of material. This is not the case.
The author repeatedly drags the reader through coding exercises that span pages but typically only contain 1 or two nuggets of actual knowledge gain. The reader is forced to look through the pages to ensure that he/she is not missing anything (this is a certification toolkit). The author knew what he was doing inasmuch as this book is a fraud. Padding to this extent could only be intentional. For instance, the text "From the start menu, select visual studio 2008 from within the Visual Studio Menu" appears about 400 times. It outlines how to create a connection string about 50 times. And it treats the reader like they're a moron.
I guess "step-by-step" is in the name so how can I complain. But these authors make keeping up with technology 3 times as painful as it should be. I'm angry and don't recommend this book at all.
J. Kosharsky (Amazon.com)
Lacks a lot details
I have just taken and passed the 70-504 certification. This book was a little bit of a let down. The first six chapters are very easy. After chapter six the author relies on very complex samples to demonstrate various topics and features about WF. This book will get you about 30 to 40 percent there if you are using it to learn WF for the certification. It lacks a lot of detail and explanation that you will have to reference other sources to understand. It takes big leaps in faith especially when it comes to communication with Workflow and external applications using the External Data Exchange service. The biggest draw back to this book is that WF is complex and has a very large object model with many activities and is not something that is easily covered in a Step by Step book.
Scott Ames (Amazon.com)
Nothing short of a Masterpiece
I have been pretty heavy into WF for almost 2 years now and really thought I had it mastered. So when I bought a Step by Step book, I really just wanted it to help me teach the concepts. B/c workflow is a new way of thinking about programming, I'm always looking for new/better ways to teach it.
What I got instead of a beginner's book teaching worfklow foundation was a big slice of humble pie. Why do I say that? B/c this book is nothing short of amazing. It's unbelievably well written. There is no stone unturned, and I mean no stone unturned whatsoever. The examples are compelling and are very real world. In fact, they show beyond any shadow of a doubt that Workflow foundation can be used all over the place - essentially anywhere you need a workflow. While that last statement may seem strange, it really isn't. THe hardest thing I've seen most people wrestle with learning WF is realizing that's it's not just applicable in some external rare/specific circumstances. You can (and should) use it anywhere you have a series of steps that must be executed together.
One critic knocked the book b/c the author takes off on so many digressions code wise. How anyone could level this charge against the author is beyond me - in fact, it's borderline heresy. The digressions (if you want to call them that - I think they're better described as "Real World" uses) are what makes this book shine.
One application shows a mock stock trading system that runs Monte-Carlo simulations on the stocks. It allows you to add/remove stocks and run the simulations repeatedly. This is something that most folks would never think to do with WF, yet his presentation of it is so elegant and intuitive that I challenge anyone who's honestly worked through his examples to say that it didn't change the way they thought of WF afterward.
In another case, to show State Machines, he walks through a sample Soda Machine. Not only is it a clever way of implementing a State Machine, it is as perfect of an example as I think you could come up with.
Although I'm hard pressed to say I had a favorite chapter, I'd have to cite Chapter 13 as a favorite just b/c, well, it really explains in depth how Microsoft uses Workflow Actvities all over the place in products like Microsoft Speech Server, SSIS or Biztalk. He doesn't talk about those per se, but if you've used them, you no doubt are familiar with the workflow designers. Each of them has its own set of custom activities. He walks throug buidling a FTP component that is reminiscent of the one that SSIS uses. If he just stopped at building the activity itself, no one could say he skimped on the lesson. But he continues, walking you through building a ActivityValidator and then building full UI support for it as a Toolbox item. When you're done, you'll see something that looks and feels almost identical to the FTP component in SSIS from start to finish. No detail is left uncovered. And at that point, every activity you've used in any one of those products will look different to you - in the sense that you'll probably be able to reverse engineer them in your head. If not, I think you'd definitely be able to build one of your own for any given activity you've used in those products.
It's really hard to fathom how much thought the author put into coming up with the examples. But he was dead set on making sure that you understood exactly what you can do with workflow and how many different scenarios it is applicable to. Throw in some really in-depth coverage, a really compelling writing style and an uncanny ability to cover the tiniest of nuances all the while being appropriate to both beginners and experts and you have exactly what I described at the onset - a Masterpiece.
I really don't think there's a single thing in this book I could take issue with or say could be done better. And that's coming from someone who teaches WF and pretty much has lived and breathed it since it's earliest bits were released. I wanted something to help me teach WF and I got way more than I bargained for.
William G. Ryan (Amazon.com)
What's so "step by step" about it?
You know it's not good when you're reading a technical book like this and the whole time you're scratching your head, asking yourself, "What's going on here?" I'm not referring to the sentence-by-paragraph writing style. I'm talking about the overall organization of the book. It's called "step-by-step", but it really isn't unless you are a 2-year-old who can't yet count straight from 1 to 10.
For instance, it seems reasonable, especially in a self-proclaimed "step-by-step" book, that a chapter called "Basic Activity Operations" would be Chapter 1 or 2, maybe 3 if there's a lot of intro material. But no. In this book, that chapter is Chapter 7. Meanwhile, the first 6 chapters deal with all kinds of things from writing code that you don't actually need "in real life" to things I would consider advanced topics (or at least intermediate), like persisting Workflow processes on a hard drive in case of loss of power to the machine doing the processing. And here I am, especially on the persistence chapter, thinking, "Why on this green earth do I need to know about persistence yet, when I don't even know about 'basic activity operations' yet???"
The author also has a habit of going off on tangents for a couple of paragraphs and then cutting himself off with, "But enough of that. We'll get to it again in a later chapter." Or, in reverse, sometimes he leads into a tangent with, "We're not going to discuss this in detail for another 10 chapters, but here's what I want to say about it now..." Dude! STAY ON THE TOPIC AT HAND!!!
The irony is that I just advised someone else to stay away from books published by Microsoft Press. But this was an emergency purchase made at a local bookstore (sorry Amazon), and this was the only book available on the topic of Workflow on the store's shelves. Suffice it to say, I've had to relearn the lesson that Microsoft Press publishes CRAP, because they're too close to their own products.
I DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS BOOK. Go with something published by Apress or anyone else, but not Microsoft Press!
Graeme P. Swallow (Amazon.com)
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