Hot Skills: ASP.net eases move to web for Windows developers

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Hot Skills: ASP.net eases move to web for Windows developers

Nick Langley

What is it?

ASP.net (ASP stands for Active Server Pages) is a set of web application development technologies that can be used to build dynamic websites, web applications and XML web services.

Microsoft's flagship web application development technologies were re-engineered when Active Server Pages was replaced by ASP.net, part of the .net Framework.

Because ASP.net is built on the Common Language Runtime, applications can be built in most .net-compatible languages, including Visual Basic, C#, and J#.

The .net Framework can be downloaded for free. The entire .net Framework class library is available to any ASP.net application, and ASP.net pages can be built out of re-usable components.

Where did it originate?

ASP.net 1.0 was released with Visual Studio .net in 2002, but it did not comply with many industry standards, such as HTML and Javascript, and only performed reliably when the requesting browser was Microsoft's IIS. These problems were put right when the radically different ASP.net 2.0 came out with the "Whidby" release of Visual Studio 2005, Visual Web Developer Express and SQL Server 2005 - although ASP.net 2.0 does not ensure XHTML compatibility.

What's it for?

ASP.net is used for web development. ASP.net sites and pages can be developed using Notepad or any text editor, but it is better to use an integrated development environment such as Visual Studio 2005 or Visual Web Developer 2005 Express Edition. Non-Microsoft integrated development environments supporting ASP.net include Dreamweaver and Borland C# Builder.

Each page can be written in a different programming language, even within the same application. Once compiled, they perform identically: Visual Basic runs as fast as C#, since they produce the same object code.

ASP.net automatically detects the type of browser making requests and renders the appropriate mark-up, so it is not necessary to use a special set of pages or controls for mobile devices, for example.

What makes it special?

Microsoft says ASP.net combines the ease of development of scripting languages with the performance of a compiled binary.

It can be used to develop rich user interfaces of the kind familiar from Windows desktop applications.

How difficult is it to master?

It should be relatively easy to move from Windows desktop application development to web development, because the controls function similarly in both. Developers can also stick with the language they are familiar with.

Where is it used?

As well as most Microsoft user organisations, ASP.net is used by independent software suppliers, large management consultancies and services companies, such as Accenture and EDS.

What systems does it run on?

Windows Server 2000, Windows Server 2003, XP Professional and Vista. Windows XP Home is supported only when using Visual Web Developer Express Edition or Visual Studio 2005.

What's coming up?

More functionality. Earlier this year Microsoft released ASP.net Ajax, a set of extensions to ASP.net for implementing Ajax interactive web functionality.

Training

Links to tutorials and resources can be found on the ASP.net 2.0 website.

Microsoft's Developer Network offers ASP.net Visual Web Developer Starter Kits, sample applications with source code, and documentation. The site also offers a guided tour of Visual Web Developer 2005 Express Edition, and an ASP.net 2.0 Quickstart Tutorial. There is a list of books, but this is restricted to Microsoft's own.

There are plenty of free independent tutorials available on the internet, both for newcomers and those familiar with classic ASP.

Rates of pay

ASP.net developers can earn between £25,000 and £35,000.

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