April 16, 2007 spout writing

My Foreword To ChrisAn’s Essential WPF

Now that Chris Anderson’s most excellent Essential Windows Presentation Foundation has transitioned to the physical world, I thought I’d share my foreword:

Thank God there weren’t more people like Chris Anderson when I was making my living outside of Microsoft.

I work at Microsoft now (two doors down from Chris, in fact), but not all that long ago, I was an instructor at a Windows developer training company. My brethren and I were led by a deep-thinking PhD candidate that applied the same rigor he applied to a scholarly pursuit that had to stand up to the crush or be crushed” mentality of academia. We learned how to think clearly as a defense mechanism and to communicate clearly as a survival technique. If we didn’t do it to his exacting standards, he’d sweep us aside and redo our work before our eyes (we learned to call it swooping” and you worked hard to avoid the phenomenon).

In a similar fashion, we learned to ignore the tutorial and reference materials produced by our vendor of choice, because it was clear that however clearly they may or may not be thinking inside their hallowed walls, it was certain that they weren’t up to communicating it with the rest of us. Arguably, our whole job for close to a decade was swooping” Microsoft itself, redoing their materials in the form of short course, conference talks, magazine articles and books. We called it the Microsoft Continuing Employment Act,” treating it like a pork barrel entitlement program that kept us in the style to which we had grown accustomed.

In fact, we made a nice living traveling the country saying things like, remember to call Release,” avoid round-trips” and ignore aggregation” because these were clear guidelines that distilled for developers what Microsoft couldn’t manage to say for itself. That’s not to say that there weren’t clear thinkers inside of Microsoft (Tony Williams and Crispin Goswell being two of my very favorites), but the gap between the beginner and the reader of such advanced writings was largely unfilled in those days.

With this book, that gravy train has run right off the track. Chris Anderson was one of the chief architects of the next-generation GUI stack, the Windows Presentation Framework, which is the subject of the book you’re now holding in your hands. You’d have thought that the very nature of the architecture job, that is, to make sure that the issues deep, deep inside were solved properly so that others could come along and build the trappings that made it into plain sight, would disqualify him from leading the developer from go” to whoa,” but that’s not the case. Chris’s insight allow him to shine a light from the internals of WPF to those standing at the entrance, guiding you through the concepts that form the foundation of his creation (and the creation of more than 300 other people, too, let’s not forget).

As the author of a competing book from another publisher, I can’t say that this is the only book you’ll ever need on WPF (or they’d have me in front of a firing squad), but I can say this with certainty: it belongs on your shelf within an easy reach. I know that’s where my copy will be.