WebRef Update: Featured Article: The Path to ASP | WebReference

WebRef Update: Featured Article: The Path to ASP


The Path to ASP

Learning ASP

Some time ago I wrote an article for WebReference called "10 Reasons To Develop in ASP". After publication I received several e-mails from people telling me that I've convinced them to give ASP a try, but they didn't know where to start. So now in this article, I will try to give some paths to learning ASP.

Let's start with explanation of what ASP is all about. ASP (Active Server Pages) is a server-side scripting technology, enabling developers to generate dynamic content for their Web sites. You just embed ASP code into your HTML pages, name them with ".asp" extension and place on the server. Sounds simple - and it really is, but some background knowledge will help you develop ASPs faster and more efficiently.

Starting Points

Starting with new technology is always easier if you have experience with something similar. It took me 1-2 days to start developing in ASP, because I've previously developed with Netscape Server-Side JavaScript and other related languages. I knew the ideology and rules, which are generally the same for all Web- scripting engines. But previous experience in the same field is not always a common thing among people trying to learn ASP. For many of you, ASP is your first technology in this area.

There are 4 common paths preceding your move to ASP development:
1) You are HTML developer;
2) You are old-school application programmer;
3) You are developing with some other server-side engine;
4) You are completely new.

In the first three paths, you'll have some prior experience that will help you jump onto the ASP wagon faster than those who know nothing about development. HTML coders will definitely have no problems determining where to insert the pieces of code; programmers will have no problems with application logic; and other Web developers will need to learn only the syntax and some ASP- specific functionality. To start developing in ASP, it's useful to know at least the basics of HTML, HTTP, VBScript or JavaScript/ JScript, and SQL.

Although ASP is designed so that different languages could be implemented, there are 2 natively implemented languages. These are VBScript and JScript. You may choose which language is more convenient to you, but I would recommend VBScript, unless you have a very strong reason to do otherwise. The reason for this recommendation is very simple - the vast majority of ASP articles, tips and books are written using VBScript for examples and explanations. I will also use VBScript in this article.

Whether you are familiar with the languages and technologies mentioned above, or you've decided to just jump right in, it's time to start learning ASP. First off, let's look at the setting up a testing environment for your code.

What's Needed

To run ASP, you need something to process the code you write. To get access to all the ASP features and to the same management console as will be on the deployment server, you'll need access to Windows NT 4.0 Server (with Option Pack) or Windows 2000 Server. This is the best solution in terms of features and functionality but is definitely quite expensive. You can also run ASP on a Windows95/98 machine; you just need to install Personal Web Server (PWS), which is available for free from Microsoft's Web site. There are also solutions enabling ASP to run on non-Microsoft operating systems and Web servers, but I don't think you'll need it on the learning stage. To write ASP code, all you need is a general text editor - Notepad will be fine.

Next: The Basics onto Advanced Topics

This article originally appeared in the March 16, 2000 edition of the WebReference Update Newsletter.

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Comments are welcome
Written by Alan Mendelevich and

Revised: May 9, 2000

URL: http://webreference.com/new/asp.html