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Programming for Technology Students Using Visual Basic (2nd Edition)

Spasov, Peter Author

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For one-semester courses in Introduction to Programming and Introduction to Visual Basic. Ideal for those who have never programmed before or who have only rudimentary programming experience, this introduction to Visual Basic begins with the problem-solving and programming concepts that are fundamental to all programming-to help students master the fundamentals required to create programs from scratch. The first four chapters use a template to emphasize fundamentals without having to deal with many Windows environment considerations. The remainder continues to build on fundamentals with additional Windows object-oriented features. Along the way, students develop a solid understanding of program analysis, design, language elements, documentation, control structures, testing, algorithms, input/output processing, file processing, and data structures.

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From the Back Cover:

Visual Basic is a powerful, industry-standard language used to develop a wide range of applications. Business and industry use it for developing stand-alone programs, front ends to large-scale database systems, Internet interactivity (VB Script), office automation enhancements (such as Microsoft™ Office), and other types of software.

The fundamentals of programming require understanding various elements such as statements, variables, data types, and. expressions. However, a programmer also needs to understand a bigger picture: to analyze, design, document, and test the program under development. In addition, analytical and troubleshooting skills are critical. This book covers each of these key activities in program development, emphasizing the problem solving and programming concepts fundamental to all programming tasks.

If you have never programmed before, or have limited programming experience, this book is for you. Programming for Technology Students Using Visual Basic can help you master the fundamentals required to create programs. With the use of a fictitious small manufacturing company, the author provides a unique case study approach to add interest and context for programming in the real world.

New features to this edition include:

  • Integrated hands-on exercises throughout each chapter.
  • An updated design, using color to emphasize important topics and useful information.
  • A Microsoft™ Visual Basic 6.0 Working Model CD.
  • Additional troubleshooting sections and many new and updated diagrams.

Instructors who are using this book for a course may obtain the accompanying Instructor's Manual (ISBN 0-13-041208-2) free of charge.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Several thousand years ago, Sappho saw some workers loading a ship at the dock. She asked one worker what he was doing. He replied, "I am carrying this crate to the boat." Sappho wasn't satisfied because she was looking for the answer. She asked another worker, and he replied, "We are preparing to undertake a voyage to discover new things:" Sappho asked no more because she had found the answer. A computer program is a set of instructions to control the operation of a computer. It is important to understand the instructions; however, the aim is to write instructions to do something useful.

This is a foundation resource for learning computer programming. It so happens that we use the Visual Basic® language to do this. The book covers the fundamentals: program analysis, design, language elements, documentation, control structures, testing, algorithms, input/output processing, file processing, data structures, multimedia, object components, databases, and some under-the-hood insights about what makes a computer program tick. Acquiring all of these skills is necessary before one can undertake software development of the industrial-strength programs for which Visual Basic is typically used.

WHY USE THIS BOOK?

If you are already an accomplished programmer, this is not the book for you; but if you have never programmed before or have only rudimentary programming experience, read on. We can help you master the fundamentals required to create programs from scratch. This book emphasizes the problem-solving and programming concepts that are fundamental to all programming. Case studies for a small, fictitious manufacturing company provide context for programming in the real world. We introduce new material when it is needed in terms of solving a problem, so you can immediately use the knowledge for both business and technical applications as related to that small company, Cougar Canoe Company.

Since Visual Basic is rich with features, beginners may find it difficult to learn vital concepts using off-the-shelf Visual Basic. We start with Visual Basic templates that contain little or no code. You will simply add code to a template; thus, we only introduce a few features about event-driven programming in the early chapters. By the end of Chapter 4, we discard templates so that you can create the complete program including the visual design part. By then you will be in a good position to learn the advanced programming techniques that take full advantage of Visual Basic and third-party add-on resources.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

To begin this book, you must have a basic proficiency in Windows. We recommend Windows 95 or later versions. For details about the requirements, see the section "Read Me Before Attempting the Hands-On Exercises" (p. 1). These exercises assume that you can perform operations common to typical Windows applications. Ironically, after learning Visual Basic, you will have a better understanding of Windows itself.

BRIEF NOTE ABOUT VISUAL BASIC

Visual Basic is a powerful language that is used to develop a wide range of applications. It is virtually an industry-standard language. Business and industry use it for developing stand-alone programs, front ends to large-scale database systems, Internet interactivity (VB Script), office automation enhancements (such as Microsoft™ Office), and other types of software.

Since the introduction of Visual Basic, Microsoft has released Versions 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. As this book neared completion, Microsoft released pre-production copies of VB.NET (version 7) for testing. VB.NET and subsequent versions will have new language features and new tool features. Because this book covers fundamentals, these changes won't affect the operation of most program examples. There may be some changes in recommended practice and how to use some of the tools within the Visual Basic Integrated Development Environment (IDE).

PROGRAMMING FUNDAMENTALS

The fundamentals of programming require one to understand elements such as statements, variables, data types, and expressions. Programmers also need to understand a bigger picture. They must analyze, design, document, and test the program under development. We cover each of these key activities in program development. Most programming examples use an application context. This emphasizes that software exists for solving problems and that the application and the software are intimately related (although some write software as a hobby). A case study approach with Cougar Canoe Company illustrates why certain program elements are used and explains why it is necessary to initially analyze the problem away from the computer prior to entering code at the computer. We provide sample problems with solutions, and then we pose additional problems. These become progressively more challenging as fewer hints are provided.

With off-the-shelf Visual Basic, there are abstract concepts such as events, objects, properties, and project files to understand before one can even begin to program in a Windows environment. To get started in the early chapters, we reduce exposure to these concepts by employing templates. With a template, you can concentrate on the fundamentals without worrying about the Windows environment and visual design considerations. These templates are pre-built forms with required buttons and boxes. You will just need to write the code to interact with these buttons and boxes. At the end of Chapter 4 we fully expose the Visual Programming aspect of Visual Basic programming. This is when you will build your own forms—adding buttons, boxes, sliders, and other elements. At this point, you are fully exposed to objects, properties, events, and methods. Later, we include other features such as object classes, which include custom properties, methods, and events. Throughout the book we also cover Visual Basic's Help system and debugging tools so that you can actually create programs. Otherwise you could be stuck with only the ability to code by following paint-by-numbers-style instructions.

Note: The first edition used an Introduction Template for early chapters to implement a procedural programming methodology. We no longer use the Introduction Template, nor do we refer to procedural programming. Right from the beginning, we start with event-driven programming. What differs from most programming books is the immediate emphasis on coding by providing pre-built graphic interfaces for the early chapters. However, the CD-ROM includes the Introduction Template for anyone interested in using it.

Troubleshooting and Error Trapping. Early on we add exercises that use Visual Basic debugging tools such as single stepping, breakpoints, watch expressions, calls stack, and the immediate window. These tools are essential for industrial-strength software development. Just as important, these tools help you learn how programs operate by diving into the specifics of program operation. For example, you can see program branching in action, or the point where an error occurs. We reinforce the need and methods for detecting errors. Throughout the book, we highlight potential sources for error by category: syntax, logical, and runtime. The book covers techniques for detecting and handling errors. This includes errors resulting from a user making a mistake, also known as input validation. This is real-life programming, which is why troubleshooting exercises using the debugging tools are included. Commercial software is rarely 100 percent error-free.

BOOK ORGANIZATION

Each chapter has the following:

  • Objectives to explain what you will learn.
  • The scenario of an application requirement that illustrates why the content is covered.
  • Topics to explain the content.
  • Hands-on exercises to provide practice with the content.
  • Questions.
  • Additional problem solving to check your mastery.

The topics typically include these:

  • Examples.
  • Sample problems with solutions.
  • Documentation.
  • Troubleshooting: Debugging and testing.
  • Highlights to indicate key points.

The appendices provide useful reference to topics and language elements. Appendix D can be a starting point for going beyond this book. The CD-ROM included with this text contains the program files and supplemental information used in the exercises. It also contains answers to the questions and solutions to most problems. There is a simplified online help system that can be accessed using a web browser. The CD contains the Visual Basic 6 Working Model.

INSTRUCTOR RESOURCES

The Instructor's Manual includes some additional questions with solutions as well as the solutions to the Additional Problem Solving exercises in each chapter.

THE CHAPTERS

Chapter 1 describes the relationship between the computer and programming languages. It introduces the programming requirements for Cougar Canoe Company, the case study company. We cover language translation in relation to the operating environment and introduce our first program, the Hello World program. We progressively extend Hello while beginning discussions of syntax, documentation, and debugging.

Chapter 2 is a guide to solving problems without regard to the actual language, although some program templates are used for concrete examples. The Hands-On Exercises include some interactive examples to graphically illustrate problem solving.

Chapter 3 explains elements that are typical to all languages. It uses the Introduction Template to concentrate on fundamental elements. The Hands-On Exercises include the use of Help and Debug tools to monitor program execution.

Chapter 4 explains the concept of reusable modules (also known as program partitioning) and how they communicate with each other. The end of Chapter 4 introduces Visual programming and covers more Windows-style even...

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