Over the last 5 years, DotNetNuke has been blessed a large number of books being written about the platform. I was fortunate to be part of the team that co-authored a couple of the first books on the platform, and I continue to try reading every book that comes out on the platform. Some books, like Professional DotNetNuke 5: Open Source Web Application Framework for ASP.NET cover multiple aspects of the DotNetNuke platform and is a great book for Administrators, Developers and Designers, but it necessarily can’t cover every topic in depth. Other books, like DotNetNuke Module Programming, are narrowly targeted at Module developers.
Recently I had the chance to read the new DotNetNuke 5 User’s Guide from Wrox press and came away very impressed with the book. The book is written by Chris Hammond and Patrick Renner from Engage Software, who both have extensive background working with DotNetNuke. Chris is an active community and core team member, is the project lead for the DotNetNuke Wiki project and is the lead developer on the Engage:Publish module. Patrick is a project manager and trainer at Engage Software and has worked on numerous DotNetNuke implementation projects.
This book is very clear in that it is targeted specifically at DotNetNuke Administrators and it does a very good job of staying focused on the topic. You won’t find any information about developing modules or skins in this book, which is as it should be. While the book says that it is for DotNetNuke users of all experience levels, I found that the vast majority of the information is clearly targeted at people who have little or no knowledge of DotNetNuke. If you have been working with DotNetNuke for a few years, then many of the topics discussed in this book will already be familiar to you. There are a few chapters in the back of the book that target more experienced users, however I still found that much of that material is more applicable to someone with just a moderate amount of experience. While this may seem limiting, I actually found that it helped to keep the book more focused and cohesive. Often, when trying to write for multiple experience levels, authors inevitably do a poor job of bringing the new users up to the necessary level to understand the advanced content. This was not the case with the DotNetNuke 5 User’s Guide.
So what about the rest of the book? I found the rest of the book to be extremely well written. It does a good job of getting a new DotNetNuke user up to speed on basic DotNetNuke concepts. After learning the basics, the book gives a good walkthrough of the installation process. It is not an exhaustive look at installing DotNetNuke which could easily lose most readers. Instead, Chris and Patrick focus on the most common scenarios so that the reader can quickly taste success. This is a pattern that is repeated throughout the book. Keep the reader focused and engaged, and don’t get bogged down in all the little nuances and permutations of every single setting.
After bringing the reader up to speed on the basic DotNetNuke concepts and installation procedures, Chris and Patrick spend a bit of time showing how to configure DotNetNuke and associated modules for different usage scenarios; a small personal website, a sports league site, and a small business site. Each of these scenarios identifies common usages for many new DotNetNuke users and the authors do a good job of showing how to use a couple standard DotNetNuke modules to create the particular site. Like the rest of the book, these walkthroughs do a good job of showing the user the most important aspects of setting up a DotNetNuke site. By the end of these chapters, the reader should be readily able to setup simple sites.
The last couple of chapters cover more intermediate to advanced topics like multi-portal configuration, file management, page and site templates, system health and system maintenance. Once again, I think these topics are covered sufficiently so as to be useful but not so much that they become dry and boring.
All in all I think that this book is a great introduction for new users of DotNetNuke. The writing style and the focused approach of the authors makes it easy for new users to follow along without getting lost, which is fairly rare for many technical books. I really enjoyed reading this book and highly recommend it for users with little to moderate experience, though if you are an experienced user you will probably be more comfortable with the Professional DotNetNuke 5 book.