Yesterday, I was talking with one of VCDJ's frequent contributors, brainstorming about the next article he ought to write. "How about something on C#?" I asked.
"Uhh," he replied, "the fact is I haven't written a single line of C# code yet."
"OK, no sweat," I said. "Want to do a piece on Managed Code?"
"Haven't gotten to that yet."
"Fine. Interested in writing about using C++ within the .NET framework?"
"Look," he finally blurted. "I'm not even thinking about .NET yet. I've got to concern myself with writing code for products that have got to ship now. Alpha and betaware are just going to have to wait."
You've probably got a lot in common with this author. That is, like him, you've got a lot of demands on your time, and almost all of them have to do with getting your product out the door. And while your employer (whether that employer is a company or yourself) realizes you've got to stay on top of new developments, that gets ?shall we say, deprioritized in the face of looming code-complete dates.
This learn-what's-coming-up-but-use-what-you've-got dilemma is hardly new to developers. It's pretty well accepted, however, that VS.NET will cause the biggest waves in the development community since ?since ?sheesh, since ever. You can't wait 'til it ships to learn about it—there's too much there. So whatcha gonna do? Here's my advice:
Talk to your boss. Grab the last few issues of this magazine and march into your boss's office. Spread the covers on the desk, point out that they all have something to do with .NET, and explain that .NET isn't just about the way you write code, it's about fundamental changes in the way applications work, as well as how they work together. Now—before it's time to start writing code to this new paradigm—is the time to think about how your applications fit into this framework.
Make it clear that both your job satisfaction and the company's relevance are on the line. Get a budget for books. Get time allocated for studying. Get the company to send you to conferences (check out http://www.vcdc.com/). Essentially, do whatever it takes to get some time and money set aside for learning about .NET. You and the company are going to have to climb the .NET curve. Start now, or you won't have momentum when it matters.
Get the preview. The technology preview (available now) is a free download at http://msdn.microsoft.com/downloads/. Get comfortable with it.
Read this magazine. I've already mentioned that the last few covers of VCDJ have emphasized .NET. That's not going to stop any time soon. And while VCDJ shouldn't be your only source of .NET knowledge, it's a mighty fine place to start. Our .NET coverage is comprehensive, without being overwhelming. Don't worry, though, we are not—repeat, not—abandoning VS6. We'll continue covering VC++ 6 as long as you keep using it.
Experiment. True to VCDJ heritage, our .NET articles focus on how-to. Starting in this issue—and continuing through January—we're walking you through creating an e-commerce site using C# and other .NET technologies. Follow the steps, then play around with the project, adding features of your own. Let me know what you come up with: e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Decide what matters to you. You know your business best. There may well be parts of VS.NET or Microsoft's .NET strategy you can safely ignore. Consider how—and whether—these new technologies might affect you and your company, then focus on learning what you need to. You'll get to the other stuff when you have time. One additional thought along this line, though: Just because you don't need to know C# in your current job doesn't mean you won't need to know it in your next. Stay up-to-date; you'll be glad you did.
Don't freak out. It'll be months before VS.NET ships; you've still got time to get your arms around it. Learn a little at a time. Before long, as you're writing your VC++ code for today's projects, you'll see how you'd do the same thing—but better—in VS.NET. And once again, you're ahead of the curve. Nice going.