ASP Primer: An Introduction

By Joe Burns

Use these bookmarks to jump around the tutorial:

[What Is ASP?]

[How Can I Use ASP?]

[What Will I Learn In This Series?]

[What's Next?]

So, you want to know more about ASP, huh? Well, you've picked a good place to start. This Primer Series should give you a good basic understanding of what ASP is all about and get you started on your way to creating your own dynamic web sites.

What Is ASP?

ASP is an acronym for Microsoft's Active Server Pages. Now, ASP may seem like a bit of an odd name but, believe it or not, some real thought went into coming up with the name.

The reason that Microsoft named the technology Active Server Pages is because it very basically describes what the technology is all about:

  1. The Active refers to the fact that the HTML is created dynamically by your ASP pages.

  2. The Server refers to the fact that this process is done on the server-side and not the client-side. An example of a client-side technology would be JavaScript which is a language that actually runs in the browser. Server-side technologies like ASP run on the server and send out simple HTML to the browser.

  3. Then there is Pages. I don't think this one needs any explaining.

ASP is referred to as a server technology. This means that it is technically not a programming language, however, you will probably hear ASP referred to as a language from time to time. When working in ASP you will actually write ASP in cooperation with either JavaScript or VBScript, which are the actual programming languages that are available to you. The distinction between a server technology and a programming language can be very confusing, especially to beginning developers. So, for now, don't worry about the distinction too much. It will become more apparent as you learn about ASP.

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How Can I Use ASP?

There are probably a million and one uses that you could come up with for ASP. ASP is great for creating almost any kind of dynamic web content from discussion groups to shopping carts. Here are some examples of common ASP applications:

Personal uses:

  • A randomized thought of the day on your home page.

  • A dynamically generated calendar of events for your kids.

  • A web based movie exchange application for you and your friends.

  • A guestbook form that stores your guests' information in a database.

  • A personal greeting for your visitors.

Business Uses:

  • Shopping Carts

  • Discussion Groups

  • Personal Greetings

  • Client account information

  • Secured sections of your site

  • Web-based cost estimate configuration applications

These are obviously only a small portion of the applications that are possible. ASP is ideal for simplifying tasks that would otherwise be very cumbersome or impossible in HTML. It also makes possible the ability to design pages that can easily be maintained by you or your clients.

Be creative. Think of as many ways as you can to improve your website and see if ASP can bring your ideas to life.

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What Will I Learn In This Series?

In this series we will cover most of the building blocks you will need to get comfortable and be productive with ASP. Along the way we'll give you ideas for projects to try on your personal site that will help you practice what you have learned. We will also recommend some books that might be helpful reference pieces.

Here are just some of the topics that we will be covering in future editions of this ASP Primer series:

  • What you need to get started

  • Choosing a language

  • Outputting HTML from your ASP page

  • Connecting to a database

  • Getting stuff out of a database

  • Putting stuff in a database

  • Using forms with ASP

  • Including other pages and/or files in your pages

  • Using cookies

  • Randomizing your content

  • Where to take your new found knowledge

Now, this is the short list for the series. I actually expect the series to total about 14 segments. I sincerely hope that what you learn here will make your web life much better and your web sites much more exciting.

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What's Next?

Now that you know what this Primer Series is all about we'll try to get you up and running with your first ASP page in the next segment.

In the next part of this series we will:

  • Show you what you need to create an ASP page

  • Learn how an ASP page actually works

  • Create your first ASP page

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