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Book Review: Professional Windows Workflow Foundation by Todd Kitta


 Earlier, I said I don't like to do book reviews. That's because I always had to buy the book, and spend time to do. It was too much like work. But then Wrox asked MVP's if they would like to book reviews in exchange for review copies.

Find the book here.

I am a sucker for books, so I said why not. I picked four books to start with, and they arrived quite quickly. I chose to start with the WF book, because of all of the new .NET 3.0 stuff, it is what I would be able to related to the best, considering by depth with BizTalk.

Let me also say that several of my friends are authors, and I know how MUCH work it is to put together a good book. My hat is off to any author. I have a goal to do at least one book, just for the experience. I have been approached for a title before, but I didn't want to start a book if I didn't know I had the time to finish it. Which I don't.

I have liked Wrox titles in the past, only because they were often first to market, which is important for people on the bleeding edge (or recklessly adopting new technologies). They aren't usually going to end up being the seminal work on the subject, but they are Just in Time on the topic.

Anyway. On to the book.

As I started reading it, I was immediately grabbed by the book. The initial chapter on why workflow was nice, but could of done a better job selling the need. I agree with the author, and think almost every app has workflow in it, and could use WF to one degree or another.

The next few chapters (until eight or so) were really hard for me to get through. I don't know if it is because I have been learning WF for a while now, or what. As I reflect, I think that section was too much like a slog through documentation. It was very reference oriented, and didn't really explain the classes and settings in depth, there was no 'grok' in it. Just definitions. I really struggled to keep going through the book at this point. I whined, I cried.

But I have a rule about finishing books that I start. I have this rule because I know deep down in my mind, I will always wonder if the book turns around, assuming it would be on the page after I stopped. I have a similar rules about games as well.

Chapter five was filled with production issues. The type, and the diagrams had problems with them. This probably isn't the authors fault, but I do expect better quality from a major publisher.

And, just then, in chapter 9, it got interesting. I could tell the author was writing. The insight I need from these books was there. The understanding. The grok. The book got real interesting from there.

The later chapters talk about hosting workflows in ASP.NET, and about other advanced topics. I really liked the section where he builds a controller for a MVC using WF to control the page flow. The code was deep and represented a good example of what WF can do.

It gave me the idea to start with his thoughts, and build out a new version of the UIP. But I have a feeling that MSFT has something like that in the works. It wouldn't be the first time I think I had a great idea for something to build, only to see MSFT announce it a few months later. This happened with the BizTalk solution designer, amongst other things. That's fine. Saves me a lot of work. :)


The book has a slow start, and could use better sample code. Around chapter 9, the book hits its stride, and gets it's second wind. The ending is very nice. I would recommend this for someone who hasn't started learning WF at all.


One down, three to go. Next up, WCF.

Shane said...
6/13/2008 04:29:00 PM  

hey there Brian,

thanks for posting the review - I'm looking for another book on WF since buying Essential Windows Workflow Foundation (Addison-Wesley). I find that book repetetive, and it builds too much on an initial example.

Having looked at the contents of this book on amazon.co.uk, it seems to develop things in a much more logical order.

Thanks for your review.

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