HomeAuthor InterviewsInterview with Alvin Ashcraft

Interview with Alvin Ashcraft

Alvin Ashcraft is the author of Learn WinUI 3.0, we got the chance to sit down with him and find out more about his experience of writing with Packt.

Q: What is/are your specialist tech area(s)?

Alvin: C#, WPF, UWP, WinUI, .NET, Angular, ASP.NET Core

Q: How did you become an author for Packt? Tell us about your journey. What was your motivation for writing this book?

Alvin: I tech reviewed a number of .NET related titles for Packt over the last several years. I had been approached about writing a book a couple of times before, but when I heard that the subject of this book was WinUI, I felt that it would be a great fit for my WPF/XAML/.NET skills. I also enjoy working with new, cutting-edge technologies, and WinUI is brand new.

Q: What kind of research did you do, and how long did you spend researching before beginning the book?

Alvin: I read quite a bit about WinUI 2.x and 3.0 on Microsoft Docs and blog posts. There aren’t a lot of other resources available for WinUI today. I also installed the early alpha release for WinUI 3 to try it myself. I did not have long to research the project. The outline had to be submitted within a couple of weeks of agreeing to write the book, and the first draft of chapter one was completed just over a month later.

Q: Did you face any challenges during the writing process? How did you overcome them?

Alvin: I faced several challenges while writing the book. The biggest challenge is that WinUI is still in preview. Even after the first stable release is made available this month, many parts of the product will still be in preview. Working on the book throughout the alpha and preview releases meant that I had to make changes to the projects with each new release. There were new workarounds or issues presented with each. The other major limitation when working with WinUI is the the lack of documentation and other learning resources for an unreleased product. Microsoft Docs has some good content, and much of what is documented for UWP applications also works with WinUI. That is how I overcame that hurdle.

Q: What’s your take on the technologies discussed in the book? Where do you see these technologies heading in the future?

Alvin: I am a big proponent of XAML-based frameworks. I have worked with WPF for almost 15 years. WinUI appeals to me as the best chance to unify Windows development going forward. WinUI is just a part of Microsoft’s larger Project Reunion effort. This effort is their latest attempt to present Windows developers with a single vision for building and delivering apps to Windows users. That vision is still unfolding, and I’m excited to learn more when they deliver the first release this spring.

Q. Why should readers choose this book over others already on the market? How would you differentiate your book from its competition?

Alvin: Well, my book as the advantage of, to my knowledge, being the only WinUI 3 book on the market. If you want to learn WinUI, this is your best resource in book form. If other WinUI books are released, I think this one would have the advantage of working through the evolution of the preview releases and really understanding how the library has evolved as it moved toward release.

Q. What are the key takeaways you want readers to come away from the book with?

Alvin: They should come away with a good understanding of the basics of coding, building and deploying a WinUI application. WinUI and Project Reunion are going to evolve quite a bit in the months and years ahead. Getting a good grasp of the basics now will get you a fantastic head-start on this journey.

Q. What advice would you give to readers learning tech? Do you have any top tips?

Alvin: The best tip for getting started is knowing how you learn best. There are so many resources out there: books, videos, in-person and virtual learning, hands-on labs online. Figure out what works best for you, and talk to others in your industry to find out what resources they use for that particular learning style.

Q. Do you have a blog that readers can follow?

Alvin: I have several blogs, actually:
www.alvinashcraft.com – My daily link blog for .NET, Windows, and web developers
www.winui.tips – My WinUI tips blog
www.wpf.tips – My WPF tips blog
www.msteams.tips – My Microsoft Teams tips blog

Q. Can you share any blogs, websites and forums to help readers gain a holistic view of the tech they are learning?

Alvin: If you are learning anything on the Microsoft tech stack, the go-to resource for me is docs.microsoft.com. It has API references, articles documenting all of their languages & frameworks, and interactive learning resources (Microsoft Learn).
In my opinion, the best Q&A forum is Stack Overflow – www.stackoverflow.com. Most of my code-related web searches end up on Stack Overflow or Microsoft Docs.

Q. How would you describe your author journey with Packt? Would you recommend Packt to aspiring authors?

Alvin: I think becoming a tech reviewer is a great step toward authoring a tech book. It helps you understand the effort that an author puts into the book, one chapter at a time. It also helps prepare you for a process of iterating over the chapters and how the feedback cycle works. That was my journey, and I think it worked out perfectly.

Q. Do you belong to any tech community groups?

Alvin: I am a member of the .NET Foundation, I’m a Microsoft MVP in Windows Development, and I also frequent the Philly .NET user group. In addition to that, I am a board member of the TechBash Foundation and help organize the annual TechBash developer conference.

Q. What are your favorite tech journals? How do you keep yourself up to date on tech?

Alvin: I think CODE Magazine might be the only paper .NET magazine remaining. MSDN Magazine and Visual Studio Magazine are both gone from mailboxes, although Visual Studio Magazine lives on online. I read a lot of blogs. Scott Hanselman and Nick Randolph are two of my favorite bloggers. In fact, Nick is the tech reviewer for this book and writes about WinUI often on his blog.

Q. How did you organize, plan, and prioritize your work and write the book?

Alvin: Creating the outline up front was a huge benefit. If you don’t have an outline to guide the project, you won’t be productive. It’s overwhelming to look at the entire project. Focus on the section you need to write next and break it down in the the smallest possible pieces. I also found it helpful to write and test the code for each section before writing the text. Understanding which parts of the coding are most challenging can help guide where more details are needed in the text.

Q. What is that one writing tip that you found most crucial and would like to share with aspiring authors?

Alvin: The best tip I have found while writing the book is to work on it as frequently as possible. It’s good to walk away if you get stuck, but taking long breaks from writing can make it hard to get into a good rhythm again. You should also understand what time of day is best for your writing. For me, I am most productive early in the morning. I get most of my writing done before lunch on weekends.

You can find Alvin’s book on Amazon by following this link: Please click here

Learn WinUI 3.0 – Available on Amazon.com