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An Overview of ASP.NET

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An Overview of ASP.NET - Quicker and Easier Development

An Overview of ASP.NET

by John Peterson

Quicker and Easier Development

The one thing any development platform should do for you is provide you with a solid foundation that you can build upon. With ASP the foundation was good, but it was basically just a pile of cinder blocks. With ASP.NET you get the foundation, plumbing, heating, and electrical before you write your first line of code! Many of the repetitive and annoying tasks that you needed to do to build a good project are now done for you.

Object Oriented Model

To begin with, you now get a real event model and can control when your code runs much better then ever before. It used to be if you wanted something to run early, you put it near the top of the page and if you wanted it to run later you put it near the end. While this usually worked, it didn't make very much sense and you often had to structure your code in weird ways to obtain the desired effect. This "spaghetti-code" problem can now be fixed by using a wide variety of events such as Page_Load, which executes right before a page is loaded.

It doesn't stop with page level events either. Each object on a page can have it's own event model and expose and raise server events that can be programmed against and handled by your script. Routines like Button_Click or Listbox_Change can make doing standard form processing and much of your day-to-day tasks relatively simple. Reading the code also become possible so that when something goes wrong six months later, understanding what you did and debugging your code is actually possible.

ASP.NET Server Controls

Well with everything being an object in the new world, there's little wonder that ASP.NET provides some extremely useful ones built right in. Many things that used to be components are now ASP.NET Server Controls. For example the ad rotator has been updated and now uses XML to store its information, but they didn't stop there. There's a whole set of controls that do everything from managing your form state for you to displaying calendars and tables. In fact, for almost every HTML element there's an ASP.NET Server Control that produces it and allows you to interact with it programmatically. For instance you no longer have to do a loop with a conditional to maintain a selected option in a listbox. You can simply tell the listbox to run at the server and to manage it for you. Better yet you can programmatically tell the listbox which item to display as selected.

Perhaps one of the most interesting of these new controls is the DataGrid. It's a multi-column data-bound grid that you can easily place a data set into. It supports paging, sorting, and all the cool stuff you would expect... and you don't have to write it all! This sort of naturally leads us into what used to be called ADO...

ADO has been rewritten and is now ADO+

Let me just start this off right and scare you by saying recordsets are gone! The new central object is the data set. It's basically an in-memory copy of data and is similar to a recordset, but allows you to do so much more. We'll cover this a lot in future articles and code since it's sure to be the central point for much of your development, but for now I'll just say that it's XML friendly, relatively easy to use and helps unify and simplify things to make it easier for you to get your work done. You can still do everything that you used to... (except server-side cursors)... it's just a little bit different.

User Input Validation

Another extremely handy set of ASP.NET Server Controls are the Validator controls. Think of all the code you've written trying to validate user input. Now pretend that you had a tool that made it all easier and left you just writing the conditions the input should meet. Well that's basically what you've got and like everything else they're event driven and can be accessed programmatically or linked to other objects.

Caching

Once again we're back to caching! It's basically what I've already said about everything else... the system is in place, you just have to use it. You've been given the tools. Now you just have to use them, not invent them. (Have you figured out that I think this is really cool yet?!)

Greater Scalability | Back to the Index | Easier Manageability


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