What is it?
ASP.net is Microsoft’s technology for creating web applications.
The technology has evolved massively since the .net suffix was added. Instead of HTML coding, you can write ASP.net applications in most .net compatible languages, although Visual C# and Visual Basic 2005 are the most often used. ASP.net pages are compiled, overcoming the unimpressive performance limitation of “classic” ASP.
There is much more off-the-peg functionality for the routine parts of applications, and a large and growing community providing code, either commercial or freely shared.
Where did it originate?
ASP 1.0 was distributed with IIS 3.0 in 1996. ASP.net replaced version 3.0 of “classic” ASP in 2002, and ASP.net 2.0 was released in November last year.
You no longer need to have IIS on the server while you are developing with ASP.net.
What’s it for?
An ASP application is essentially a set of pages containing controls. Most code processing is done on the server rather than the user’s machine, and the HTML produced will work with any browser. The ASP.net runtime takes care of state management, reducing the need to write code as in classic ASP.
Master pages are used to create a common look and feel: changes to the master page are automatically reflected in all pages. Other ASP.net innovations include control-specific “skins” and “themes”, which are collections of stylesheets and other files.
What makes it special?
With the emphasis on ease of development, some older skills are on their way out of everyday use. A new set of data source controls in ASP.net means developers no longer need an in-depth knowledge of ADO.net. The controls include AccessDataSource and SqlDataSource. Others for XML, object data, Excel and Exchange are available or promised.
The need for coding has been further reduced with the inclusion of ASP.net membership services, which provide the basis for managing users, access and personalisation. Improved security against the more common forms of attack from hackers is now built in. Mobile support is built into all controls in ASP.net 2.0, so there is no further use for the Microsoft Mobile Internet Toolkit.ASP.net represented a huge increase in performance, ease of use and choice of supported technology over classic ASP. ASP.net 2.0 comes with more built-in functionality to save coding.
How difficult is it to master?
Many of Microsoft’s tools support development with ASP.net. Pages can be created with a text editor such as Notepad, Visual Web Developer 2005 Express Edition (which can be downloaded free), or Visual Studio 2005.
There are a number of ASP.net starter kits, and Microsoft also offers Quickstart tutorials and video guides. Many community sites also offer code, tutorials and support.
What systems does it run on?ASP.net runs only on recent Microsoft servers, although there are plenty of ports to other platforms, including the Apache Web Server. ASP.net pages work in all browsers, including Firefox, Opera and Safari as well as Internet Explorer.
See Microsoft’s dedicated ASP.net site for tutorials, webcasts, news and downloads and other getting started material, including guides to building applications using a combination of ASP.net, Atlas and Visual Web Developer.
The Microsoft Developer Network is less up to date. There are books on ASP.net from Microsoft Press, O’Reilly, Wrox and Wiley.
Rates of pay
Junior ASP.net developers can expect to start on £23,000, rising to more than £30,000 with ASP.net 2.0 experience.