Five Steps to Getting Started with ASP.NET


Rob Howard
Microsoft Corporation

November 12, 2000

Welcome to the Nothin' but ASP.NET column! I'm going to use this space to explain, in depth, some of the great new features found in ASP.NET, as well as some of the other .NET Framework technologies.

In this first column we're going to walk through the five steps to getting started with ASP.NET. In later columns we will explore some of the cool features found in ASP.NET, such as: changes in deployment, state management, process model, controls, security, and so forth.

Step 1: Download and Install the .NET SDK

ASP.NET is provided as part of the .NET SDK, which is a collection of all the technologies necessary to create, build, and test .NET Framework-based applications. Download and install the .NET SDK. The download is about 111 MB; there is, however, an option to download the SDK as a series of smaller files.

Before you install ASP.NET, you need to install Internet Explorer 5.5, which you can download at

Note Although the technology preview of the SDK supported only Windows 2000 Server versions with Internet Information Services (IIS) 5.0, the Beta 1 release supports Windows NT 4.0 and IIS 4.0.

Step 2: Install the .NET Framework Quickstart Samples

Once you've installed the SDK, you should also install the .NET Framework Quickstart Samples. Included within the .NET SDK, the Quickstart samples contain detailed examples of various ASP.NET features and other .NET technologies.

To install the Quickstart samples:

  1. Open the SDK Overview link (".NET Framework SDK Overview"), which is added to your desktop during the SDK installation.
  2. Once this HTML page is open, follow the "The .NET Framework Samples" link.
  3. Follow the installation steps to install the samples.
  4. After installation is complete you can access the samples at http://localhost/quickstart/default.htm.
  5. Finally, once you navigate to the default document, you can select the ASP.NET link at the top of the page. This link contains a listing of the ASP.NET samples.

Step 3: Join the ASPNG Discussion List

Charles Carroll, one of a growing group of ASP.NET community leaders, is graciously hosting an e-mail-based discussion list for ASP.NET; in fact, it has been available since day 1 of the Professional Developers Conference (PDC), back in early July.

This discussion list is one of the best places to learn and contribute to the growing pool of developer knowledge surrounding ASP.NET. Charles monitors and filters all messages to ensure that posted topics are relevant to the list, so you'll never get any spam or off-topic discussions.

In addition to the community aspects of the list, the Microsoft .NET Framework team regularly participates in the discussions and posts sample code. Most recently, Scott Guthrie posted a dynamic image-generation ASP.NET sample.

To join the discussion list simply visit On this page you will find a complete listing of ASP.NET related e-mail discussion lists on a variety of topics. The most active list, and the one that I suggest joining, is ASPNGBeta. Select ASPNGBeta from the list. You can even visit directly and select the options for how you wish to receive the e-mail distribution.

Step 4: Frequently Asked Questions

Will my existing ASP application break if I install the SDK and use ASP.NET?

No, ASP.NET applications can run side-by-side with existing ASP applications.

The file extensions used by ASP (.asp, .asa) and those used by ASP.NET (.aspx, .asax, .ascx, .asmx, etc.) are completely separate and do not override each other. Furthermore, a separate ISAPI extension handles the processing of ASP.NET applications.

One caveat: Although ASP and ASP.NET applications can run side-by-side, even within the same directory, they share no application information. For example, settings made within global.asa will not apply to ASP.NET applications; settings made in global.asax will not apply to ASP applications. Similarly, Application and Session state information is not shared. Session data added for a user in an ASP.NET application is not available for that same user in an ASP application unless it is re-created.

Is Visual Studio or some other tool required to create ASP.NET pages?

No. Although Visual Studio .NET will provide an amazing design, coding, and debugging environment, it is not required to build ASP.NET applications. ASP.NET follows the same "just hit save" design principle of ASP: Any text-based editing application may be used to create ASP.NET applications. When an ASP.NET page is first accessed, it is compiled automatically, and future requests will access the compiled resource.

Does ASP.NET run on Windows 95, Windows 98 and Windows Me?

No. You can certainly use one of these platforms as your development machine, but your ASP.NET application must run on a Web server, either Windows 2000 or Windows NT 4.0, with IIS installed.

Step 5: Learn more

In this step I've attempted to outline some of the great resources already available online, in print, and in person. I will continue to list new resources and upcoming events as I learn about them.

IBuySpy Microsoft ASP.NET Sample Application

IBuySpy is a full-feature, e-commerce application that provides an excellent introduction to building high-performance, scalable Web applications by using ASP.NET. You can browse the sample application online, including full source code and documentation, or you can download a complete C# or Visual Basic .NET version of the application.

ASP.NET Hosting

Brinkster Inc., the largest free ASP Web host, is now offering free ASP.NET hosting. Members get 5 MB of space to test and learn ASP.NET. The membership is for testing and learning purposes, and will give developers an opportunity to explore this new technology. Brinkster has been offering free ASP hosting for more than a year and is a leader in the ASP/ASP.NET hosting market.

Community Sites and Distribution Lists

The community (people, events, discussion lists, newsgroups, etc.) forming for ASP.NET is fantastic, not to mention one of the best places to get questions answered and problems solved. A few of the sites are hosting Quickstart samples online—which means that you can try ASP.NET, but never install it!

  •—This is one of the more comprehensive ASP.NET community sites, run by Steve Schofield. Here you can find a dozen articles on ASP.NET, along with the ASP.NET Quickstart samples online; a great alternative for learning ASP.NET if you can't install the .NET SDK. As a bonus, Chapter 1 from the Wrox Press book, A Preview of ASP.NET, is available online as well.
  •—Another of the more comprehensive ASP.NET related sites. ASPNG includes links to ASP.NET classes hosted by Charles Carroll and ASP.NET workshops hosted by Stephen Walther. Finally, ASPNG hosts one of the more active e-mail discussion lists (see
  •—A couple of ASP.NET related articles and an ASP.NET forum for threaded, Web-based discussions.
  •—Wrox Press's online magazine already has 10 articles written on ASP.NET, ranging from ADO+ to building server controls.
  •—4GuysFromRolla has a bunch of articles and other related resources, including some articles on ADO+, as well as a detailed overview article of ASP.NET itself.
  •—Finally, contains one of the more comprehensive listings of ASP.NET and .NET-related resources available. From books to Web sites to events, you'll find something of interest here.


There are currently three books available that address .NET:

  • Presenting C# provides a condensed overview of the new language C#, one of the many languages ASP.NET supports. If you would like a quick, easy read on C#, you'll probably want this book.
  • A Preview of ASP.NET takes the reader from Introducing ASP.NET to creating ASP.NET pages, through Web Services, data, and controls. In addition it covers topics related to moving from ASP to ASP.NET, the ASP.NET object model, and how to use COM components in .NET. This book pre-dates the Beta 1 release.
  • A Programmer's Introduction to C#, written by Eric Gunnerson, a member of the C# team, takes a deep look into the .NET language C#.


If you would rather attend a conference and see some presentations about ASP.NET and the .NET Framework, I suggest the following:

  • Wrox—The Wrox European Developer's Conference, which begins November 29 in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, will cover a variety of topics related to ASP.NET and .NET in general. Members of the .NET Framework team will attend and present at the conference. We look forward to seeing you there.
  • ASPConnections— ASP Connections, April 1 through 4, in New Orleans, LA, features more than 60 ASP.NET and ASP sessions presented by Microsoft and other companies. The conference will cover everything you needed to know about ASP.NET or boosting the performance of existing ASP sites. Registration includes free admission to more than 40 leading-edge XML sessions at XML Connections.
  • ASP.NET CrashCourse—These intensive, four-day workshops focus on how to build complex, interactive HTML forms with ASP.NET server controls. You are also introduced to ADO+, Microsoft's newest version of ADO. See the Web site for times and locations.


As you can see, getting up and running on ASP.NET is easy. Already there are some great resources to help you learn the technology, and I hope you join the growing ranks of community contributors. In next month's article, we're going to look at the changes to session state management in ASP.NET —which is quite a change from ASP.

If you have an idea for a column, please send mail to

Rob Howard is a program manager for ASP.NET on the .NET Frameworks team. He spends whatever spare time he has either with his family or fly fishing in Eastern Washington.