Introduction to ASP.NET

ASP.NET is more than the next version of Active Server Pages (ASP); it provides a unified Web development model that includes the services necessary for developers to build enterprise-class Web applications. While ASP.NET is largely syntax compatible with ASP, it also provides a new programming model and infrastructure for more scalable and stable applications that help provide greater protection. You can feel free to augment your existing ASP applications by incrementally adding ASP.NET functionality to them.

ASP.NET is a compiled, .NET-based environment; you can author applications in any .NET compatible language, including Visual Basic .NET, C#, and JScript .NET. Additionally, the entire .NET Framework is available to any ASP.NET application. Developers can easily access the benefits of these technologies, which include the managed common language runtime environment, type safety, inheritance, and so on.

ASP.NET has been designed to work seamlessly with WYSIWYG HTML editors and other programming tools, including Microsoft Visual Studio .NET. Not only does this make Web development easier, but it also provides all the benefits that these tools have to offer, including a GUI that developers can use to drop server controls onto a Web page and fully integrated debugging support.

Developers can use Web Forms or XML Web services when creating an ASP.NET application, or combine these in any way they see fit. Each is supported by the same infrastructure that allows you to use authentication schemes, cache frequently used data, or customize your application's configuration, to name only a few possibilities.

  • Web Forms allow you to build powerful forms-based Web pages. When building these pages, you can use ASP.NET server controls to create common UI elements, and program them for common tasks. These controls allow you to rapidly build a Web Form out of reusable built-in or custom components, simplifying the code of a page. For more information, see Web Forms Pages. For information on how to develop ASP.NET server controls, see Developing ASP.NET Server Controls.
  • An XML Web service provides the means to access server functionality remotely. Using XML Web services, businesses can expose programmatic interfaces to their data or business logic, which in turn can be obtained and manipulated by client and server applications. XML Web services enable the exchange of data in client-server or server-server scenarios, using standards like HTTP and XML messaging to move data across firewalls. XML Web services are not tied to a particular component technology or object-calling convention. As a result, programs written in any language, using any component model, and running on any operating system can access XML Web services. For more information, see XML Web Services Created Using ASP.NET and XML Web Service Clients.

Each of these models can take full advantage of all ASP.NET features, as well as the power of the .NET Framework and .NET Framework common language runtime. These features and how you can use them are outlined as follows:

  • If you have ASP development skills, the new ASP.NET programming model will seem very familiar to you. However, the ASP.NET object model has changed significantly from ASP, making it more structured and object-oriented. Unfortunately this means that ASP.NET is not fully backward compatible; almost all existing ASP pages will have to be modified to some extent in order to run under ASP.NET. In addition, major changes to Visual Basic .NET mean that existing ASP pages written with Visual Basic Scripting Edition typically will not port directly to ASP.NET. In most cases, though, the necessary changes will involve only a few lines of code. For more information, see Migrating from ASP to ASP.NET.
  • Accessing databases from ASP.NET applications is an often-used technique for displaying data to Web site visitors. ASP.NET makes it easier than ever to access databases for this purpose. It also allows you to manage the database from your code. For more information, see Accessing Data with ASP.NET.
  • ASP.NET provides a simple model that enables Web developers to write logic that runs at the application level. Developers can write this code in the Global.asax text file or in a compiled class deployed as an assembly. This logic can include application-level events, but developers can easily extend this model to suit the needs of their Web application. For more information, see ASP.NET Applications.
  • ASP.NET provides easy-to-use application and session-state facilities that are familiar to ASP developers and are readily compatible with all other .NET Framework APIs. For more information, see ASP.NET State Management.
  • For advanced developers who want to use APIs as powerful as the ISAPI programming interfaces that were included with previous versions of ASP, ASP.NET offers the IHttpHandler and IHttpModule interfaces. Implementing the IHttpHandler interface gives you a means of interacting with the low-level request and response services of the IIS Web server and provides functionality much like ISAPI extensions, but with a simpler programming model. Implementing the IHttpModule interface allows you to include custom events that participate in every request made to your application. For more information, see HTTP Runtime Support.
  • ASP.NET takes advantage of performance enhancements found in the .NET Framework and common language runtime. Additionally, it has been designed to offer significant performance improvements over ASP and other Web development platforms. All ASP.NET code is compiled, rather than interpreted, which allows early binding, strong typing, and just-in-time (JIT) compilation to native code, to name only a few of its benefits. ASP.NET is also easily factorable, meaning that developers can remove modules (a session module, for instance) that are not relevant to the application they are developing. ASP.NET also provides extensive caching services (both built-in services and caching APIs). ASP.NET also ships with performance counters that developers and system administrators can monitor to test new applications and gather metrics on existing applications. For more information, see ASP.NET Caching Features and ASP.NET Optimization.
  • Writing custom debug statements to your Web page can help immensely in troubleshooting your application's code. However, they can cause embarrassment if they are not removed. The problem is that removing the debug statements from your pages when your application is ready to be ported to a production server can require significant effort. ASP.NET offers the TraceContext class, which allows you to write custom debug statements to your pages as you develop them. They appear only when you have enabled tracing for a page or entire application. Enabling tracing also appends details about a request to the page, or, if you so specify, to a custom trace viewer that is stored in the root directory of your application. For more information, see ASP.NET Trace.
  • The .NET Framework and ASP.NET provide default authorization and authentication schemes for Web applications. You can easily remove, add to, or replace these schemes, depending upon the needs of your application. For more information, see Securing ASP.NET Web Applications.
  • ASP.NET configuration settings are stored in XML-based files, which are human readable and writable. Each of your applications can have a distinct configuration file and you can extend the configuration scheme to suit your requirements. For more information, see ASP.NET Configuration.
  • Applications are said to be running side by side when they are installed on the same computer but use different versions of the .NET Framework. To learn how to use different versions of ASP.NET for separate applications on your server, see Side-by-Side Support in ASP.NET.
  • IIS 6.0 uses a new process model called worker process isolation mode, which is different from the process model used in previous versions of IIS. ASP.NET uses this process model by default when running on Windows Server 2003. For information about how to migrate ASP.NET process model settings to worker process isolation mode, see IIS 6.0 Application Isolation Modes.

See Also

Creating ASP.NET Web Applications