Thursday, May 6, 2021

ASP Primer: Getting Started

Use these bookmarks
to jump around the tutorial:

[What Do I Need?]

[How Does It Work?]

[Making Your First Page]

[What’s Next?]

Well, now that you know the different ways that ASP can be used in the real world how about learning some practical stuff?

What Do I Need?

As you learned in the ASP introduction primer,
ASP is a server-side technology which means that the server for your website is
the sole controller of whether or not ASP is available to you. ASP is also a
product of Microsoft which means it will only run on Microsoft operating
systems, however, there is a third party package that will help you get around
this problem. We’ll talk about that later.

If you are using a
hosting service or getting some free personal web space with your ISP you will
want to check with them to see if ASP is available to you. You can also write a simple test page to verify whether ASP works on your server if you don’t want to take the time to contact your web host.

Here is a simple page
for you to enter and test for ASP:

  <%@
Language="VBScript" %>
  <% Option
Explicit %>

 <!— This page should display "ASP is working!" —>

  <!— if ASP is
available to you. —>

  <HTML>
    <HEAD>
      <TITLE>ASP Test Page</TITLE>
    </HEAD>

    <BODY>

     
<% Dim TestString %>
      <% TestString = "ASP is Working!" %>

     
<H1>

       
<% Response.Write TestString %>

     
</H1>
    </BODY>
  </HTML>

Don’t worry about how the code works for now. We’ll get to all of that soon enough. Be sure to save the page with the .asp extension instead of the .html extension or you will not get the desired result. The .asp extension simply let’s the server know that the page is an ASP page and it should be processed accordingly. If you forget and leave the
.html extension on the end then the server will just send the page on its merry way to the browser and it will never get processed. Also, ASP pages are uploaded to your websites the same way that your HTML pages are, nothing different.

Now, if you are running
your own server at home or work then you will have some configuring ahead of
you. First of all, you will need to have IIS up and running. IIS is available
to you in various forms on any Microsoft operating system from Windows 95 on.

For those of you that
are just wanting to learn and test ASP on your home computer you can install and
configure Personal Web Server (PWS) and run your ASP pages locally. PWS comes with your Windows operating system. To
learn how to install and configure PWS go to the Microsoft site by

clicking here
. This will get you started finding the right installation and
set-up instructions for your particular operating system. Unfortunately, I will
have to let Microsoft walk you through the installation and set-up of PWS
because I simply wouldn’t be able to cover all of the different operating
systems in these short articles.

If you don’t use a
Microsoft operating system but still want to learn how to use ASP, there is a
third party product out there called Chili!Soft ASP which allows you to run ASP
applications on some non-Microsoft operating systems. If you are interested you
can check out Chili!Soft ASP at
http://www.chilisoft.com.

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top

How
Does It Work?

Now that you have a
platform for running your ASP pages, hopefully, I’ll bet you would like to know
how the pages are actually processed. Well, it’s pretty simple actually.

Each time a request is
made from a browser for an ASP page the server takes a look at that ASP page to
see what it (the server) needs to do. This process is referred to as
interpreting. In other words, the server reads each ASP page as it is requested,
interprets the code in the page and then spits out the desired result to the
browser. Because of this fact, you will be the only one that can see your code
on your ASP pages since only the HTML gets sent to the browser. No worries about
someone "stealing" your ASP code.

While you might think
that the whole process would result in a big pause while the pages are processed
it really doesn’t. As long as you keep your ASP pages to a reasonable length you
will probably not notice any difference between an ASP page and a simple HTML
page.

So, what exactly gets
sent to the browser? Nothing but simple HTML. Since the browser is not a very
worldly piece of software it generally only speaks a few languages, HTML and
JavaScript. Therefore, ASP sends each page to the browser in HTML.

Does this mean I can’t
use JavaScript with ASP? No, not at all. As a matter of fact you can even use
JavaScript instead of VBScript to write your ASP pages. We’ll discuss that
later, though.

Now, don’t worry if this
doesn’t make perfect sense to you right now. As we move on and you get a chance
to create some ASP pages of your own the whole process will become much more
clear to you.

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top


Make Your First ASP Page

Well, actually you
already did. The test page code listed above is a fully functional ASP page. So,
let’s take a closer look at it and see what it is doing.

The first thing you
probably noticed were the goofy looking <% and %> tags. Those
little guys are ASP’s way of telling the server that inside here is some code
that needs to be looked at and processed. Also, did you notice that the ASP tags
are sprinkled in and amongst the standard HTML that you are already familiar
with? You’ll find that most of your ASP pages will be a mixture of ASP and HTML.

You also probably
noticed the <% Option Explicit %> at the top of the page. Memorize this.
As a matter of practice you should always put it at the top of every ASP page
that you create. It forces you to declare all of the variables in your
application (we’ll talk about that in greater detail later). It will save you a
great deal of headache when you begin to debug you pages.

Next there is <%@
Language="VBScript" %>
. This simply tells the server what language you have
chosen for your ASP pages. For the purposes of this series we will be using
VBScript but if you are more familiar with JavaScript please feel free to use
that instead.

The next part of the
page uses the Dim statement and the Response object. These are two
items that we will be discussing in the next part of this series, so we’ll skip
them for now. If you want to play around with the page, however, feel free to
put anything you want within the quotes instead of "ASP is Working!".

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What’s Next?

And next begins the fun
part, actually learning the stuff necessary to make really cool ASP pages. In
the next part of this series we will explore some of the basic elements of
VBScript.

In the next part of this series
we will:

  • Learn about Dim
    and variables

  • Learn about the If
    .. Then statement

  • Learn about the
    Case
    statement

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