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The ACCU passes on review copies of computer books to its members for them to review. The result is a large, high quality collection of book reviews by programmers, for programmers. Currently there are 1918 reviews in the database and more every month.
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Title:
Understanding ActiveX and OLE - A Guide for Developers and Managers
Author:
David Chappell
ISBN:
1 57231 216 5
Publisher:
Microsoft Press
Pages:
328pp
Price:
£20-99
Reviewer:
Richard Blundell
Subject:
microsoft; MS Windows; CORBA and COM
Appeared in:
10-3
Right from the start this book rates highly because it has an accurate title! This is not a book full of code samples and low-level OS calls, but a book that gives a well-presented overview of COM, marshalling, type information and type libraries, automation, persistence, monikers, uniform data transfer, compound documents, distributed COM (DCOM) and OLE/ActiveX controls in 250 fairly short pages. In this much space it is only possible to give an overview of each area and this is exactly what the book does.

The coverage is at a level where the author describes the purpose of a particular facility, lists the main interfaces defined to accomplish a particular task and gives a brief description of what each of the crucial methods in that interface do and how they work together to achieve the end result. As the chapter on compound documents approaches, the number and size of these interfaces increases. I must admit to losing some interest in the detail around this point, because around a dozen interfaces are required to get compound documents working, each with at least a handful of methods.

This is where the book's 'fast track' margin notes come to the rescue. I was a little cynical about these to start off with, but I actually found them very handy. They let you preview a chapter in a few minutes, review a chapter you have just read to aid learning and they help you to locate particular paragraphs and arguments very easily. They are also a testament to the writing style of the author, because they demonstrate how little repetition or waffle there is in the text - pretty much each paragraph contains clearly written salient details worthy of a one-line margin note. I also found very few typos. I sometimes felt a little more detail on a given topic would have been nice, but then that is not what the book is for and I was rightly expected to look elsewhere if I was intrigued by something. Objects and COM are fast moving areas and a few references or terms were slightly out of date already, although the author notes quite prominently that the text was compiled mid-1996.

All in all, I found this a great overview of the subject of COM in all its many forms and I would recommend it if you need to get to grips with the all of the concepts pretty quickly.