A Preview of Active Server Pages+

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Microsoft's Active Server Pages technology is still a relatively new way to create dynamic web sites and application. It has, however, evolved quickly to become the foremost tool in the Windows-oriented Web programmer's toolbox. Microsoft is currently working on the next generation of ASP, provisionally called ASP+ and part of the .NET strategy for web development. This is not just an update to ASP as we know it but instead an ...

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Overview

Book overview

Microsoft's Active Server Pages technology is still a relatively new way to create dynamic web sites and application. It has, however, evolved quickly to become the foremost tool in the Windows-oriented Web programmer's toolbox. Microsoft is currently working on the next generation of ASP, provisionally called ASP+ and part of the .NET strategy for web development. This is not just an update to ASP as we know it but instead an evolutionary leap in the whole concept of how ASP can provide a dynamic Web development environment.

This book was written as Microsoft was about to release the first preview version of ASP+. This release is almost feature complete, and stable enough for developers to begin learning about and using. While we can't guarantee that the final release version will be identical, you can be sure that almost all of the concepts, examples and explanations we provide are accurate within the timeframe of the first full version of ASP+.

What does this book cover?

  • Explains what ASP+ is, and how it makes building applications even easier
  • Shows how easy it is to work with ASP+ pages and server-side controls
  • Shows how to access data of all kinds in our ASP+ pages, and introduces ADO+
  • How to use Web Services to provide asynchronous background services to applications
  • Introduces and demonstrates the ASP+ application framework
  • Shows how easy it is to build and deploy custom ASP+ controls
  • Combines the concepts discussed in the book into an ASP+ application
  • Discusses how it is possible to migrate from ASP to ASP+
Who is this book for?

This book covers a product that is still under development, and as such it is aimed at experienced ASP developers who are working at the leading edge, rather than the casual ASP developer or beginner. To make the most of this book, you should be experienced with ASP. You should also understand the general principles of using components, and have knowledge of Visual Basic (or VBScript).

Other resources

The book comes complete with a supporting web site documenting new features, changes and updates to ASP+ through the product development lifecycle.

Alex Homer and Dave Sussman offer code, tips and tricks covering the latest technologies on their own website, www.daveandal.com.

Wrox provides on-line discussion for the above title and surrounding technologies on P2P.


'A Preview of ASP+' covers a product that is still under development, and as such it is aimed at experienced ASP developers who are working at the leading edge - rather than the casual ASP developer or beginner. However, the fact that the product is still a preview version does not mean that you can ignore it, the first public beta will be available for download from July 2000 and so any ASP programmer who needs to be one step ahead of the competition should start investigating this new version as soon as possible.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
The electrons are barely dry on ASP 3, and here comes ASP+, Active Server Pages for Microsoft's .NET platform. Yes, you can port ASP apps to ASP+, but the real advantages are elsewhere. ASP+ offers new server-side controls to automate state management. It provides server-based rich controls for outputting more sophisticated HTML elements. It lets you create classes that provide services to clients in the background. It simplifies configuration and deployment. It's more scalable, with more flexible security. It'll even fetch your slippers. (Just kidding.)

A Preview of ASP+ covers all these goodies, and then some. You'll master tomorrow's data binding techniques, learn how to build custom ASP+ controls, even plan your migration. There's a detailed ASP+ object model reference, and a complete application case study. Excellent stuff.(Bill Camarda)

Bill Camarda is a consultant and writer with nearly 20 years' experience in helping technology companies deploy and market advanced software, computing, and networking products and services. His 15 books include Special Edition Using Word 2000 and Upgrading & Fixing Networks For Dummies®, Second Edition.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781861004758
  • Publisher: Wrox Press, Inc.
  • Publication date: 7/1/2000
  • Pages: 361
  • Product dimensions: 7.30 (w) x 9.16 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard Anderson is a professional software developer who has over 10 years experience of Microsoft Technologies. He is a recognized authority in many areas, and has written material for several books as well as technically reviewing many others. Richard spends his daytime as senior systems architect for a medium sized electronic commerce company, and spends his spare time living the COM lifestyle, keeping his wife Sam happy, and eating curries.

Alex Homer is a software consultant and developer, who lives and works in the idyllic surroundings of Derbyshire UK. His company, Stonebroom Software, specializes in office integration and Internet-related development, and produces a range of vertical application software.

Robert Howard is a Technical Evangelist for Microsoft's Developer Relations Group. He advises organizations on how best to implement Microsoft products, and he writes and reviews code and provides technical support to said organizations.

David Sussman gained experience in BASIC, Pascal, COBOL and OCCAM, before joining a UNIX system house where he stayed for 4 years, becoming the chief UNIX/C guru. For the last 3 years he has been working for a Microsoft Solution Provider, specializing in Access, VB and SQL Server, as well as playing extensively with every Beta product that comes his way.

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Read an Excerpt


1 Introducing ASP+

Even though the ink is barely dry on the documentation for Active Server Pages 3.0, Microsoft is already hard at work on the next generation of their core server-side programming technology. In this chapter, we introduce this new product, and look at what it is all about. Currently called ASP+ Next Generation Web Services (though this name might yet change) we'll see why we need a new version of ASP, and explore the concepts behind its design and implementation. While this book is aimed predominantly at experienced developers who have used ASP before, we start out in this chapter by examining some of the core issues involved when you decide to migrate to ASP+.

ASP+ is designed to be backwards-compatible with earlier versions of ASP, with only minor changes required in some circumstances (we explore these further in the appendices). However, more to the point, you can install ASP+ on an existing Windows 2000 server alongside ASP 3.0. This allows you to experiment with the new version, without requiring a separate 'test bed' server. You can continue using existing ASP applications, and migrate them ASP+ when you are ready, so your investment in ASP is not lost.

But simply porting your applications to ASP+ will only give you a few of the benefits the new version offers. ASP+ has many new features that provide far greater ease of use, more power and better runtime efficiency, but to take advantage of them you will need to understand more about the way that ASP+ works.

As we are writing this book using a preview version of ASP+, we can't be exactly sure of all the features of the final release. But thanks to the information andassistance provided by the ASP+ team at Microsoft, we can be pretty sure that the content of the book will be reliable and useful with the final version. We'll also be maintaining a special Web site that is accessible from http://www.wrox.com/beta, where we'll document changes as the beta and final release versions appear, and provide some detailed information as well.

So, in this first chapter, we'll cover:

  • How Active Server Pages has evolved since its inception
  • What the new runtime framework is
  • How ASP+ is different to ASP, and why
  • A brief guide to getting started with ASP+
  • Some of the changes expected in the final release version

We start with a look at the way that ASP and ASP+ have evolved, as this will help to set the background for understanding and working with the new product. For more information about working with COM+ and previous versions of ASP, check out Professional ASP 3.0, (ISBN 1-861002-61-0) from Wrox.

The Evolution of Active Server Pages

Although it seems to have been around forever, Active Server Pages is only some three-and-a-bit years old. Since its inception in late 1996, it has grown rapidly to become the major technique for server-side Web programming in the Windows environment (and on some other platforms using other implementations that accept the same or similar syntax, such as ChilliASP). But it didn't come from nowhere - the foundations lie much further back than that.

Dynamic Server-side Web Programming

Traditionally, dynamic Web pages have been created using server-side executable programs. A standardized Web server inte Interface (CGI) allows an executable program to access all the information within incoming requests from clients. The program can then generate all the output required to make up the return page (the HTML, script code, text, etc.), and send it back to the client via the Web server.

To make the programmer's life easier, and save having to create executable programs, languages such as Perl use an application that accepts text-based script files. The programmer simply writes the script, and the Web server executes it using a Perl interpreter.

Microsoft ISAPI Technologies

Microsoft introduced another Web server interface with their Web server, Internet Information Server. This is the Internet Server Application Programming Interface (ISAPI), and differs from the CGI in that it allows compiled code within a dynamic link library (DLL) to be executed directly by the Web server. As with the CGI, the code can access all the information in the client request, and it generates the entire output for the returned page.

Most developments in Microsoft's Web arena have been based on the ISAPI interface. One early and short-lived product was dbWeb, a data access technology that provided a range of searching, filtering and formatting capabilities for accessing data stored on the server, and for interacting with the client.

A second development was the Internet Database Connector (IDC). This proved a big hit with developers - not only because it was fast and efficient (unlike dbWeb), but also because it was a lot more generic and easier to program. IDC introduced the concept of templates, allowing programmers to easily adapt existing HTML pages to use its features and quickly build new applications around it.

IDC uses two text files for each 'page'. The first is a simple script that defines the way that the datashould be collected from the server-based database. In essence, it is just a SQL statement plus some configuration information:


{this is the query file named getuserlist.idc}
Datasource: GlobalExampleData
Username: examples
Password: secret
Template: getuserlist.htx
SQLStatement:
+ SELECT DISTINCT UserName
+ FROM Person ORDER BY UserName;


The server executes this file to obtain the results recordset, then loads a template file:


(this is an extract from the template file named getuserlist.htx)
...
<TABLE>
<TR>
<TD>User name:</TD>
<TD>
<SELECT NAME=selUserName>
<$BeginDetail%>
<OPTION VALUE="<%UserName%>"><%UserName%>
<%EndDetail%>
</SELECT>
</TD>
</TR>
</TABLE>
The template is just an ordinary Web page, including HTML, text and other objects, but with one or more specially delimited placeholders inserted. And the syntax for these placeholders, and the other simple program code constructs that are supported, is eerily like ASP. Of course, it was from this that ASP actually evolved:

The Versions of ASP

So, it was in early 1996 that Denali (the codename for ASP) was released as a beta version 0.9 product, and it took the Web-development world by storm. The ability to execute code inline within a Web page was so simple and yet so powerful. With the provision of a series of components that could perform advanced features, most notably ActiveX Data Objects (ADO), it was almost child's play to create all kinds of dynamic pages.

The final release version of Active Server Pages 1.0, available as an add-on for IIS 3.0, was soon in use on Windows platforms all over the place. The combination of ASP with ADO enabled developers to easily create and open recordsets from a database. There's no doubt that this was one of the main factors for its rapid ac and manipulate and output any values, in any order, almost any way you wanted.

In 1998, Microsoft introduced ASP 2.0 as part of the free Windows NT4 Option Pack. The major difference between this release of ASP and version 1.0 was in the way that external components could be instantiated. With ASP 2.0 and IIS 4.0, it is possible to create an ASP application, and within it run components in their own separate memory space (i.e. out of process). The provision of Microsoft Transaction Server (MTS) also made it easy to build components that can partake in transactions.

Windows 2000, COM+, and ASP 3.0

Early this year (2000), Windows 2000 arrived. This contains version 5.0 of IIS, and version 3.0 of ASP. Other than some minor additions to ASP, the core difference here is actually more to do with COM+. In Windows 2000, Microsoft combined NITS with the core COM runtime to create COM+. This provides a host of new features that make the use of components easier, as well as giving a much more stable, scalable and efficient execution platform.

Other than a few minor changes to the management interface, IIS has not changed a great deal on the surface. However, underneath, it now uses COM+ Component Services to provide a better environment for components to be executed within, including out of process execution as the default and the option to run each component in its own isolated process if required.

ASP+ and the Next Generation Web Services Framework

All this brings us to the present, with ASP+. The underlying structure of ASP+ is very different to that of previous versions, although from the 'outside' (as far as the developer is concerned) it does appear to offer a very similar interface. ASP+ is almost entirely component-based and modularized, and every page, object, and HTML element you use can be a runtime component object.

For this to perform efficiently, and provide a scalable solution, the management of these objects is a very necessary prerequisite. The new runtime environment carries out this management automatically, allowing ASP+ to become far more object-oriented in nature. This lets developers build more powerful applications by accessing these component objects in a far more granular and controlled manner.

On top of that, the object orientation of ASP+ provides extensibility for the environment as a whole. Developers can add to and extend the environment, both by creating new components or inheriting from the base classes that create them, and by over-riding selected behavior as required. Under the hood, the COM+ runtime manages the instantiation, pooling, and allocation of the objects automatically.

The Next Generation Web Services Framework

So, COM+ provides a framework of operating system services. But that's not the whole story. ASP+ is actually a part of a brand new runtime framework that provides support for all kinds of applications in Windows. The framework is a key part of of Microsoft's Next Generation Web Services or NGWS. When you install this, you get ASP+ as part of the package. The NGWS framework supports all other server-side programming techniques as well, such as a new managed component service, support for building executable applications and Windows Services, access to performance counter APIs and Event Log APIs, etc.

The NGWS framework extends the Component Object Model (COM) architecture that we use to create re-usable and interoperable software components by adding new and enhanced services for scalable distributed applications:

  • A unified, rich set of programming libraries
  • A secure, multi-language runtime engine
  • Simplified application creation, deployment and maintenance
  • Increased scalability for distributed applications
  • Protection of existing software and training investments

We'll look at how it does all these things next...

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Table of Contents

Foreword

Introduction

Chapter 1: Introducing ASP+

Chapter 2: ASP+ Pages

Chapter 3: Data and Data Binding

Chapter 4: Advanced ASP+ Page Techniques

Chapter 5: Web Services

Chapter 6: Application Framework and Services

Chapter 7: Building Custom ASP+ Controls

Chapter 8: A Simple E-Commerce Application

Appendix A: Moving from ASP to ASP+

Appendix B: Moving from VBScript or VB6 to VB7

Appendix C: The ASP+ Object Model Reference

Appendix D: Using Classic COM components in ASP+

Index
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Introduction

The book comes complete with a supporting web site documenting new features, changes and updates to ASP+ through the product development lifecycle.

About the Technology

Microsoft's Active Server Pages technology is still a relatively new way to create dynamic web sites and application. It has, however, evolved quickly to become the foremost tool in the Windows-oriented Web programmer's toolbox. Microsoft is currently working on the next generation of ASP, provisionally called ASP+ and part of the .NET strategy for web development. This is not just an update to ASP as we know it but instead an evolutionary leap in the whole concept of how ASP can provide a dynamic Web development environment.

Who is this book for?

This book covers a product that is still under development, and as such it is aimed at experienced ASP developers who are working at the leading edge, rather than the casual ASP developer or beginner. To make the most of this book, you should be experienced with ASP. You should also understand the general principles of using components, and have knowledge of Visual Basic (or VBScript).

This book was written as Microsoft was about to release the first preview version of ASP+. This release is almost feature complete, and stable enough for developers to begin learning about and using. While we can't guarantee that the final release version will be identical, you can be sure that almost all of the concepts, examples and explanations we provide are accurate within the timeframe of the first full version of ASP+. The book also comes complete with a supporting web site documenting new features, changes and updates to ASP+ through the product development lifecycle.

Read More Show Less

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 4, 2000

    Good Coverage of .NET framework

    Again it's still a preview but overall the points are made clear of the whole .NET framework technology. It's about time to leverage the power of WIN2K Server with ASP+. Definitely worth the money.

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