Introduction to ASP.NET Web Forms for SCS students

What is ASP.NET Web Forms? How can I get and use it? How do I get started learning it?


ASP.NET is a web application development technology, created by Microsoft in 1998 by Scott Guthrie and Mark Anders. With their teams and colleagues (including Nikhil KothariBrad Abrams, and others), it was released as “version 1” in January 2002. It is the successor technology of “ASP”, Active Server Pages, which was basically the original server-side web application scripting solution.

A profile of Scott Guthrie, from The Architecture Journalcan be found here.


Developing ASP.NET web apps

The ASP.NET technology enables developers to use either of two web application development frameworks for building applications:

  • ASP.NET Web Forms, which is the original framework
  • ASP.NET MVC, which was introduced in 2009

In this BTI420 course, for Winter 2010, we will be using the ASP.NET Web Forms framework.


ASP.NET and development tool availability

ASP.NET is a free (from cost) technology. ASP.NET web applications typically run on IIS (which is free), on a server version of Windows. (There’s also an implementation on Linux.)

OK, you’ve got me there. It typically costs money to acquire a Windows server license. Linux, including the Apache web server, is free. However, in real life (i.e. outside of college or dogma-land), UNIX or Linux implementers end up paying someone – IBM, Novell (SuSE), Red Hat, Sun – for packaging and support services, making the Windows vs. *nix comparison pretty well cost-neutral. Yes, really. Don’t believe me? Do the research.

Developing ASP.NET applications is also free (from cost). As a Computer Studies student, you have access to Visual Studio 2008, the gold standard of IDE’s. However, anyone worldwide has access to Visual Web Developer 2008 Express. And, you can also use Notepad, vi, or your favourite text editor.

ASP.NET web sites span the range from small personal web sites through to the largest and busiest sites in the world today. (Typically, in the monthly statistics published by a number of organizations who measure these sorts of things, ASP.NET sites power half or more of the world’s largest and busiest sites, based on a top-10, top-25, or top-100 list.)


Getting started learning ASP.NET

For the new learner, who has had some experience with internet client programming (i.e. in XHTML, CSS, JavaScript) and server-side programming on *nix (i.e. in Perl or PHP via Apache), there are a number of notable ASP.NET characteristics:

  • Developers focus on server-side development, but can also do full-featured client-side development
  • Software can be created in any of the 20+ languages that target the .NET Framework
  • An application’s “business logic” is developed separate from its “presentation” to the end user
  • The run-time environment uses extensive code generation to send high-function code tailored to standards-compliant browser clients
  • Full-featured integrated development environments enable developers to enjoy high productivity and quality levels


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