One of the things that’s cool about working on the EF team and getting the chance to talk to customers about what we do and answer questions and such is that I get to hear about lots of things that folks outside the EF team do with the EF.  It’s especially neat when folks tell me about books, tools and other resources which help folks get more out of the EF or related technologies.  Unfortunately I’m often so buried under various responsibilities that I don’t always share these great resources as quickly as I should.  I also try to make sure that I give things a look over before I share them so that what I point you to are only the best, most valuable things which of course means that it takes even longer…  Sigh.

The only reason I’m wasting your time with all the apologies today, is that I have three particularly good resources which I’m way overdue sharing.  I assure you (and the creators of these resources) that the delay has nothing to do with their quality.  If you haven’t seen these things, I highly recommend you check them out.

The first one is Julie Lerman’s book, Programming Entity Framework.  Julie’s tireless efforts on behalf of the EF and its users hit a new height with the release of this book.  There’s an incredible volume of material covering all parts of the first release of the EF, and all samples are written in both C# and VB.Net.

Next is the product of the Swiss MSDN team which put together a hand’s on lab for learning about the EF and even building an n-tier application using it.  It’s all done using the first release of the EF (.net 3.5 sp1) so it doesn’t take advantage of the new features we have added in EF4 beta1, but it will help you learn the fundamentals, and if you are working on an application using the EF which must deploy before EF4 releases, then it will be an especially useful tool.

Finally, I’ve done some blogging about T4 and how you can use it to customize EF code generation in the first release.  In addition you may have heard that EF4 uses T4 not only for all the built-in code generation but also for database generation.  So learning to work with T4 is a good idea for anyone programming with the EF.  Unfortunately, though, VS doesn’t have great built-in support for editing T4 templates.  You can edit in VS, but it just treats them as a basic text file with no syntax coloring or intellisense support.  Hopefully that will be fixed in a future release of VS, but in the meantime there are two companies which have released T4 editors that plug into VS which make the experience of working with T4 much more pleasant.  Check out Clarius Consulting’s Visual T4 and Tangible Engineering’s T4 Editor.  Particularly interesting is the fact that Tangible’s editor already has a version which works with VS 2010 beta 1, and you can download and install it from the extension manager within VS 2010.

If you give these a try, I’d love to hear about your experiences with them, and if you know of something else which makes it better or easier to work with the EF, I’m always looking for information about those things as well.

- Danny