Book review: IronPython in Action

IronPython is the first dynamic language developed for the .Net plateform. At first, .Net didn’t support this kind of language. This is something that keeps on coming back througout the book: you have to use some additional tricks to unleash the power of .Net dynamic and static languages.

Content and opinions

The book starts with a general introduction to IronPython. A quick review of the language itself is followed by the use of the .Net assemblies. At the end of this part, one is comfortable enough to do some small IronPython programs.

The next part is dedicated to what IronPython offers thanks to Python and to its .Net affiliation. The authors go through standard Python (battery included) and the somewhat associated .Net assemblies (some arguments on using one or the other could have been a big plus to the explanations), depending on what must be done. Because or (or thanks to) .Net, several pages are dedicated to XML, as it is needed to simplify the description of UIs. Also several useful designed patterns are presented with the .Net approach.

The next part starts with WPF, the official graphical interface, with several ways of using it (bridge from C#, XAML, …). Then WMI (used for system administration) is handled, but from my point of view, it is the weirdest part. WMI has its own language which does not seem like C# or Python. Besides, PowerShell, presented as well as a way of doing system administration, has its own language. There is a book dedicated to PowerShell, so only the communication between IronPython and PowerShell is handled. So two additional languages in this chapter, perhaps too many (they are limited to this chapter).

IronPython is a .Net language, so it is possible to do ASP with it. A chapter deals with this approach, chapter well written but it needs to follow the associated example in your favorite IDE if you want to follow what’s happening. Web means also web services and databases, handled in one chapter. The basis of SQL tools addressed, as well as basic webservces (mainly REST). I have to say that there are some mistakes there, as SOAP is not only used with POST HTTP requests but also with GET requests (it can be seen in the official w3c specification) and also with other transport protocols than HTTP. Perhaps these are .Net implementation’s limitation, in which case it should have been mentioned Finally Silverlight integration allows developping light clients that can interact with other langages as well as the web page.

Throughout the book, complete interaction with other .Net languages was not addressed. It is the goal of the last part to show how assemblies can be used in IronPython and how IronPython scripts can be used from .Net static languages. As I’ve said, the interaction does not go completely smoothly, there are several solutions to accomplish it. At least, the book does not only speak about the upcoming .Net 4.0 that will help this interaction.

Conclusion

As a conclusion, those who need a dynamic language (to script an application) can go for IronPython, th first dynamic language for the .Net framework, compatible with the langage Python 2.5, and in that case, go for this book that will help you for anything.

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