I just finished reading Brownfield Application Development in .Net by Kyle Baley and Donald Belcham and thought I’d put together a quick review some of the strengths and weaknesses the book has to offer.

It’s broken up into two sections with the first half of the book describing how to create a healthy ecosystem for you code to grow in. This gets into areas such as project structure, automated testing, automated builds, continuous integration, etc. They even get into some of the various personas you may run into when working on a Brownfield application (such as the “Ivory Tower Architect” and “The Hero Developer”) and how to effectively work with those personalities. The second half of the book discusses how to make the code itself flexible and maintainable. This includes everything from design patterns to explaining how to create an anti-corruption layer in your code to minimize the impact changes will make on your software in the future.

One of my personal favorite sections included in the book was the awesome explanation of the differences between MVP and MVC patterns. Very clear and concise. I had struggled in the past really understanding the finer points of how the two differed, but the author did a great job comparing the two (as well as their variations).

There are lot of good book available on agile development techniques and software design principles, but this has to be the best I’ve read yet that explains the nuts and bolts of how to apply these ideals to .Net development. There are a lot of great tidbits in there that can be applied to development in any language (although the book is really geared towards tools that are readily available to .Net developers).

And now for a little constructive criticism. The first few chapters, while very informative, seemed to be longer than they should have been. Those could have been reduced by about 25-30% without losing any value. I also felt a little short-changed by it’s explanation of AOP in chapter 8. It started discussing AOP and even gave a code example, but didn’t go deep enough to really explain it clearly. And to be fair, as the book stated, explaining AOP was well beyond the scope of the book, which I fully agree with. But I think that it would have been better to scale back the attempted explanation if it wasn’t going to give a thorough explanation.

All in all though, this is (by far) my favorite .Net specific development book (and I’ve read quite a few!). It offers a lot of practical advice that you can should start applying right away. It hasn’t been released yet, but is available from Manning via their Early Access program. If you’re a .Net developer, regardless of whether or not you’re working on Brownfield applications, I’d highly recommend it!