Book Review: Professional Active Server Pages 3.0

By Alex Homer, et al

1999 by Wrox Press Ltd., Birmingham, UK
ISBN 1-861002-61-0

Reviewed by John Meade,
Web Technology Writer
Internet Information Services Documentation Team
Microsoft Corporation
March 10, 2000

The team of writers responsible for Professional Actives Server Pages 3.0 (Professional 3.0) has advanced the good work it did in the earlier edition of this book, Professional Active Server Pages 2.0. Professional 3.0 delivers excellent information on how to build dynamic Web applications using Active Server Pages (ASP) to connect customers, business partners, and internal users to your company's data.

Like its predecessor, this book includes numerous useful examples and sample applications. It covers the basics, application development issues, and new topics of interest to Web developers. However, do not try to learn the rudiments of scripting ASP pages in Professional 3.0. If you have little or no programming or scripting experience and want to learn about ASP, you will be better off first reading Beginning Active Server Pages 3.0, also published by Wrox Press.

Before moving on to more advanced topics, Professional 3.0 moves through the basic concepts of ASP in three short chapters (about 45 pages each):

  • "ASP Fundamentals," including IIS-ASP connection, setup, the ASP object model, and new features in ASP 3.0.

  • "Handling Requests and Responses," including client and server interaction, the Request and Response ASP objects, forms, the QueryString Collection, the Server Variables Collection, and cookies.

  • "ASP Applications and Sessions," including state management, a definition of Web applications, and Application and Session objects.

In Chapter 3, "ASP Applications and Sessions," there is a discussion of state management for those who previously have been able to take state issues for granted—for example, programmers who have written single-user applications but have little experience programming Web applications. The brevity of these first elementary chapters will likely be welcome if you are a professional programmer.

Chapters on more advance topics move through concepts quickly, using most of their space to describe object models, programming interfaces, and code samples. The book covers the full spectrum of ASP development: scripting objects, server processes, Active Server Components, debugging, Active Data Objects (ADO 2.5), the Component Object Model (COM) model and component development, and more.

Chapter 11, "Working with XML Data," is a timely new chapter on Extensible Markup Language (XML), an emerging global standard for giving structure and meaning to data. The chapter introduces the language, describes its relationship to other Web-oriented languages and to ASP, and discusses XML in terms of data storage and retrieval. The chapter also describes using ADO to process XML data.

Other new chapters cover evolving Microsoft technologies. Chapter 12, "Universal Data Access" (UDA), presents Microsoft's newest technology for accessing a variety of types of data using a single technique. Chapter 16, "ASP Script Components," introduces ASP components written in scripting languages. Chapter 21, "Introducing ADSI and Active Directory," introduces the Active Directory and the role the Active Directory Services Interface plays in gaining access to directory data.

Professional 3.0 provides updated material to cover COM+, ADSI and Active Directory, ASP Script Components, and more. Its greatly increased discussion of security issues is a much welcome addition to the book's depth. Like Professional 2.0, Professional 3.0 contains a wealth of useful information in appendixes, but no longer includes VBScript or Jscript references.


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