WinForms Book Recommendations
One common question I get is, “When I’m done with this book, I want to go on and learn X. What book (or otherwise) would you recommend as a next step?”
Today (and several times in the past) I got that question where X was Windows Forms.
I spent a while doing some research and writing up an answer. I didn’t want it to get lost in Discord, so I’m making it a blog post instead.
We’ll start with a TL;DR: I don’t have any books on my shelf that I have read that I can wholeheartedly recommend. I’d start with the online docs and go from there, but there are a few books that I have not personally read that might be of interest.
Honestly, when it comes to this question, I don’t know that you’ll find another book like this. The C# Player’s Guide is unique. I’m not aware of any other book quite like it.
I will say, though, that there are plenty of other interesting technical books, but they just aren’t in the same vein as this one. (But trust me when I say that it is hard to make technical material something other than a complete and total bore. Any author who can explain technical content in any way that is not completely dry and boring has my deepest respect.)
I think the online docs are a reasonable place to begin. It is mostly API documentation, which I find better suited to people at the journeyman stage of expertise, not for beginners. But it does have some content for getting started (https://learn.microsoft.com/en-us/dotnet/desktop/winforms/get-started/create-app-visual-studio?view=netdesktop-6.0), and that would be Step #1 for most people, I think, even if your really want a book.
Sadly, I can’t name a good Windows Forms book. The only WinForms book on my shelf is one called Windows Forms in a Nutshell, and it is dry. I didn’t feel like it added much beyond what the online documentation had, and it bothered me that a book title ending in “in a Nutshell” was still 900+ pages long. It was an okay book, but I’m not sure it buys you a whole lot beyond the online documentation these days. (It was published in like 2003, when the Internet was much younger.)
Alas, that’s the only WinForms book I have direct, personal experience with.
However, I did a search and some analysis on Amazon to see what else is out there.
You could do such a search yourself–and should–but sometimes, it is still nice to have a trained eye do so as well, to give you more perspective.
The list below is four books that I think could be reasonable.
Keep in mind, I have not read any of these. This is based wholly on reviews, the book’s “Look Inside” material, and description, as well as what I know of the publishers and authors. All of this could be wildly wrong, because I haven’t read any of them myself.
(To that end, if you purchase and read one or more of these books, I’d love to hear how they went. I can guarantee other C# Player’s Guide readers are a few months behind you, and would love to hear from somebody like them. If I get specific feedback from my readers about these books, I’ll add that here as well.)
This list is mostly in the order that I think I’d recommend them, though 2 and 3 seem interchangeable to me.
1. Pro .NET 2.0 Windows Forms and Custom Controls in C#, 3rd printing edition. Matthew MacDonald. 4.5 stars, 34 ratings. $50 new. 1100 pages. Apress books tend to be extremely big, but not necessarily all that great. My feeling has always been that you have to struggle to glean the valuable stuff out of it, because it isn’t just there ready to go. I don’t consider the length a benefit here, but it does have good reviews, and one of the few that has a “Look Inside” and it seems to cover what I’d hope for such a book to cover. And I like what I see in the reviews as well. https://www.amazon.com/NET-Windows-Forms-Custom-Controls/dp/1590594398/ 2. Programming Microsoft Windows Forms. Charles Petzold. 4.5 stars, 13 ratings. $20. 400 pages. I can’t “Look Inside” this one on Amazon, so it is hard to get a feel for what it covers. Most of the reviews say it is great for beginners, but not for advanced WinForms programmers. I recognize the author’s name, but I can’t put my finger on where I’ve heard it. I looked at his other published books and I do not own any of them, so I have not read anything from him, other than maybe some stuff online? https://www.amazon.com/Programming-Microsoft%C2%AE-Windows%C2%AE-Developer-Reference/dp/0735621535/ 3. Windows Forms 2.0 Programming. Chris Sells and Michael Weinhardt. 4.5 stars, 54 ratings. $15. 1000 pages. Another one that doesn’t have a “Look Inside,” so it is hard to know what it covers, once again. Looking over the reviews, I can respect these comments: “WinForms is something you learn by doing. Though I consider the information [in the book] useful… the author fails to challenge the user to integrate principles that have been presented.” And, “…a mixture of reference and in depth overview… but it does not walk the user through an entire application.” And, “Not good but the only book around.” Note that I’ve managed to quote some of the negative reviews on accident. It is mostly 5- and 4-star reviews to hit that 4.5-star mark. https://www.amazon.com/Windows-Forms-Programming-Microsoft-Development/dp/0321267966/ 4. Data Binding with Windows Forms 2.0. Brian Noyes. 4.5 stars, 31 ratings. $47. 700 pages. This one is specifically about data binding, and looking at the contents, that really is the entirety of the focus. So probably not a great book for getting started. But data binding is a useful thing, and this could be a reasonable second book. A comment I appreciate from the reviews: “one of the greatest aspects of this book is how the author teaches you how to develop data bound applications the right way.” That’s a promising line, hinting that it is more than just the mechanical parts of building such an application. But not every application needs intensive data binding, and so this book drops down on my list. https://www.amazon.com/Data-Binding-Windows-Forms-2-0/dp/032126892X/
Once again, I have not read any of these myself. These just seem to bubble to the surface as possibilities.