Introducing the ASP.NET Ajax Frameworks | WebReference

Introducing the ASP.NET Ajax Frameworks

By Joydip Kanjilal

Ajax is a popular technology that is used in many different ways on the World Wide Web. It has become a technology of choice for building fast and responsive user interfaces. This article takes a brief look at the features of some of the more widely used ASP.NET Ajax frameworks.

The What and Why of Ajax

Before we delve deep into the Ajax frameworks, let's have a quick recap of what Ajax is and why it is so popular. The word Ajax is an acronym for Asynchronous JavaScript and XML. It is a combination of different technologies, used for building rich and responsive user interfaces. The benefits of using Ajax include:

  • faster page renderings and support for partial page updates
  • rich and, responsive user interface
  • reduced consumption of server resources

Common ASP.NET Ajax Frameworks

The most common Ajax frameworks that can be used with ASP.NET are:

  • Atlas
  • MagicAJAX.NET
  • Anthem.NET
  • ASP.NET Ajax

The Atlas Framework

The Atlas Framework is actually an extension to ASP.NET. Atlas is actually a set of technologies that provide support for asynchronous operations in ASP.NET. It comprises of a client-side script library and a collection of server controls.

To work with Atlas, you should add the following assemblies as references to your project:

  • Microsoft.AtlasControlExtender.dll
  • AtlasControlToolkit.dll

You should also specify the following in your application's web.config file:

Here is a markup code snippet that illustrates how you can use the Atlas UpdatePanel:

The following code snippet illustrates how the Atlas ScriptManager controls can be used:

The AJAXPro.NET Framework

AJAX.NET Professional (AjaxPro) is a popular open-source Ajax library for use with ASP.NET that can be used for designing and implementing Ajax-enabled Web applications. The best part is that it works with both ASP.NET 1.1 and ASP.NET 2.0 versions.


ASP.NET Ajax is a free framework that comes from Microsoft and can be used to design and implement the next generation of cross- browser Web applications with rich and responsive user interfaces.

ASP.NET 2.0 included support for Ajax using a separate add-on in the name of ASP.NET 2.0 Ajax Extensions. Later, this became a part of the ASP.NERT release. The Microsoft Developer Network states, "ASP.NET AJAX is a set of technologies to add AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) support to ASP.NET. It consists of a client-side script framework, server controls, and more". Although Ajax is essentially a client-side technique, most of its real-world deployments call for server-side processing. The ASP.NET Ajax Control Toolkit from Microsoft includes a rich a set of sample controls and extenders that can be used to Ajax-enable your ASP.NET applications.

To achieve partial page updates in your ASP.NET web pages through ASP.NET Ajax, you can make use of the UpdatePanel control. Here is an example:

The MagicAJAX.NET Framework

MagicAjax, a freely available and flexible Ajax framework, was started as an article at CodeProject by Argiris Kirtzidis. It has been improved a lot since then and is available as a free download at the Repository

You can use MagicAjax in your code to Ajax-enable your applications by using this method:

The Anthem.NET Framework

Anthem.NET is a free, easy-to-use, cross-browser, open source Ajax framework, written by Jason Diamond. It is compliant with both ASP.NET 1.0 and 2.0 versions. The Anthem.NET framework is comprised of a rich set of Ajax-enabled controls that you can use to Ajax-enable Web applications developed using Microsoft ASP.NET technology. The Anthem.NET framework internally uses the XMLHttpRequest object. Here is a sample code that illustrates how you can use this framework to Ajax-enable your application:


According to Enrich Peterson, "Ajax-enabled pages provide a slick, responsive user experience, making Web-based applications function more like desktop-based ones". In this article, we have taken a quick look at some of the most popular Ajax frameworks available today. This should help to give you a start in using ASP.NET Ajax frameworks.

About the Author

Joydip Kanjilal is a Microsoft MVP in ASP.NET. He has over 12 years of industry experience in IT with more than 6 years in Microsoft .NET and its related technologies, about which he has authored many articles. He has also written several books on the subject.

Original: February 9, 2009