Mastering Delphi 3|
by Marco Cantù
This book review was first published in the Aug/Sept 1997 UK-BUG newsletter
Mastering Delphi 3 by Marco Cantù is the third edition of his Mastering Delphi book (and not the second, as the cover mentions in error).
The first edition was a whopping 1500 pages, and has even won the true unofficial Manhattan-phonebook-look-alike contest.
This book was one of the best intermediate Delphi books around, mainly because of the completeness of Marco: both in the number of topics and the ways to solve a certain problem or dilemma (which also explains the size of the first edition, by the way).
The second edition, for Delphi 2 and Win95/WinNT, was trimmed down to 1040 pages, mainly because Marco took out a lot of the examples.
Personally, I didn't like that, as I always learn best by example.
Fortunately, the third edition brings us the original number of pages and more examples again; specifically for the new Delphi 3 topics.
All chapters in the book are updated to contain Delphi 3 specific information, while some chapters are entirely new (such as the OLE and COM, ActiveX and internet programming chapters).
In short, where Mastering Delphi (the first book) may still have a role for 16-bits Delphi users, I believe Mastering Delphi 3 has totally eliminated the need for Mastering Delphi 2, like Delphi 3 may have totally eliminated the need for Delphi 2 (right?).
The book is divided into four parts: Delphi and Object Pascal, Using Components, Components and Libraries and Advanced Delphi Programming.
The first part is a detailed introduction in Delphi 3, Object Pascal, OOP and the Visual Component Library.
You may want to skip these first 330 pages if you think you already know Delphi 3.
The second part shows how to use the Delphi 3 VCL components, from a tour of the basic components to the new 32-bits and Delphi 3 specific components, and finally database and data-aware components.
These 550 pages are the core of the book, aimed at the intermediate Delphi programmer.
The third part of the book, called Components and Libraries, contains 225 pages of information that is already somewhat more advanced.
Topics like creating components, the OpenTools API (for property and component editors) and DLLs, but also Delphi 3 related new topics such as OLE, COM and ActiveX and internet programming.
These are the chapters that are most new compared to the previous edition of the book, and in my view the most interesting parts of the book.
The final part of the book contains 275 pages about Advanced Delphi Programmer, and contains some "high-level" information, especially useful for bigger projects, i.e.
for things we no longer call a program but a true application (there's a difference, right?).
Topics include the use of resources, printing capabilities, file support, exchanging data, etc.
Then there are two appendices about OOPS concepts and an introduction to SQL.
The index of almost 90 pages is good, but could have been using a somewhat smaller font (to bring it back to about 50 pages).
Mastering Delphi 3 is not for people who think they can learn how to program from it.
In fact, you should have the basic programming knowledge (and Windows knowledge doesn't hurt as well), although the Delphi specific issues are covered in detail, so you don't need to be an experienced Delphi user.
That certainly doesn't mean that experienced Delphi users won't learn anything from the book, since the coverage of topics is very broad.
There are only two issues that I personally find the coverage a little bit lacking.
First one is Client/Server programming, but that may be an advanced topic better suited for an entire book, like Ken Henderson's Database Programming with Delphi (version for Delphi 3 C/S should be available).
The second topic that I find lacking is internet.
There are three ways in Delphi to handle the internet programming: the NetManage ActiveX controls (no coverage), the ActiveForms (little coverage) and Delphi 3 C/S-only Web Modules (little coverage).
In total no more than 30 pages, while I feel that the recent Borland move to InfoNets means the net is an important market, for Borland and it's customers.
But I guess that only means there may be a market for specialised Delphi-internet books as well...
The fact that both Delphi 3 Unleashed and Delphi 3 Developer's Guide have been cancelled for publication by SAMS means only good things for the sales of Mastering Delphi 3.
People who have bought either Delphi Unleashed or Delphi Developer's Guide in the past, and are disappointed by the lack of a Delphi 3 edition of these books should just buy Mastering Delphi 3.
I can fully recommend it.
It seems I'm not the only one thinking this way, as Mastering Delphi 3 is about to have its third print run and already sold more copies than the previous edition in an entire year!
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