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Title: Master C++

Author: Rex Woolard

Date; 1996
Pub: Waite Group Press
ISBN: 1- 57169-000- x
Price £ 29.99
Disk Included

When I requested Master C++ by the Waite Group I was expecting a heavy tome packed full of accurate technical information. What I received was a small 400 page book with a disk in the back. At first glance the book appeared to do very little other than list the ANSI C++ function calls. However this package is not realy a book at all it is an interactive course based around an on screen tutor. When this had sunk in I loaded the tutor and re-assessed the situation.

What one gets is a full screen tutor containing 15 sections each subdivided into topics. Each topic proceeds like a series of (animated) OHP slides in a lecture. There is good use of color (this is a US book), but no hypertext links. Information appears line by line or paragraph as appropriate also pop up notes and asides. There are questions to be answered along the way which are scored. There is a reasonable amount of built in “intelligence” used in interpreting the free text one types for an answer ie one does not have to give a word for word answer. If one has trouble in a particular area based on the time/score the program will, at the end of the section, ask if you wish do re read the section. There are rcommended times for each section.

Unfortunately my enthusiasm (for what is the equivalent of courses costing much more than this book) was diminished by the small but significant flaws that began to show up. The interface is a little on the basic side. It is not possible to print or cut and paste any text or more importantly the source code (other than using print screen as a graphics dump). The main program help files can be printed from the viewer. In order to change user or reset the score one must manually edit a config file. I noticed an empty “sound” directory on the disk. obviously enhancements are planned.

Whilst there are 50 pages of source code exercises in the book they are not on disk, one must type them in. Good practice it may be but they should be on disk. All the source and indeed the whole book assumes that you will be using Borland or Turbo C++ 4.5. There is a superfluous chapter on installing and using the Borland compiler system, there is a much better one in the Borland manuals, but there is no attempt at integration between the tutor and the compiler.

The authors constantly refer to ANSI, there is no mention of ISO. There are some gaps, exceptions are mentioned in the book but not on the disk but to be fair C++ is still evolving. It would be a nice touch if one could obtain upgrades to the “chapters” on disk. Perhaps a virtual school?

CONCLUSION: Whilst this is their first windows offering I would expect better of a company that has produced this sort of training aid before. It is a very good idea let down by the detail. It is a very good idea that will help many but I would wait for the second edition. I hope there will be one as this could be a good system..

FOOT NOTE to publishers: I think that the disk based tutor idea is very good and with time this method will mature into an extremely good teaching method. If a CD is used video and sound can make a student at home feel far less isolated than trying to work from a book alone. It has been a long held belief of mine that many publishers are mentally printers. It is now time for the publishing community to publish on the appropriate medium not just paper.