Active Server Pages/Prerequisites

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ASP (or Active Server Pages) is a scripting tool for dynamic webpages. It is a technology that can be compared to Cold Fusion, JSP, and PHP. While primarily made for the Microsoft Windows platform, there are implementations of ASP technology on other environments.

ASP is the technology that powers the dynamic websites, not the language that the pages are scripted in. There are a number of languages that can be used to script or program a dynamic website. However, most people assume that ASP and vbscript (one of the languages used) are the same.

With the release of the .Net platform, Microsoft also updated ASP to ASP.Net. There are a number of improvements to ASP that ASP.Net provides, but that would be a book unto itself. This textbook focuses on what is now called "classic" ASP. One important difference is that ASP.Net pages are named *.aspx and ASP 3.0 pages are named *.asp, and ASP 3.0 pages are interpreted and ASP.Net pages are compiled thus ASP.net pages work faster. ASP.Net uses the Microsoft .Net framework and can use any language that .Net supports. ASP 3.0 is limited to VBScript and JScript (Microsoft's version of Javascript).

Do I need to know HTML?[edit]

Yes and No... The output of ASP is usually HTML, so it is strongly recommended that you are familiar with at least HTML 4.01. While many programmers prefer visual editors like Macromedia's Dreamweaver and Ultradev, Microsoft's Frontpage and Visual InterDev, beginners will benefit more from using a plain text editor until comfortable with the basic concepts.

Do I need to know a programming language?[edit]

You should be familiar with at least one object-oriented programming language. This book will teach you how to program in ASP, but it will not teach you how to program. You should understand the following concepts:

  • variables
    • global variables, and how they differ from local variables
  • functions, and
    • how to pass parameters to functions
  • decision-making statements such as if-then and if-then-else
  • looping statements such as the for loop and the while loop

Do I need to install web server software on my computer?[edit]

There are sites such as 1asphost.com that provide free web sites with ASP capabilities. You can upload your ASP files, and the server will do all the ASP processing for you.

Find similar services by doing a Google search for "free asp hosting".

You may also install software on your computer to process ASP files locally. Internet Information Services will come in handy for users of Microsoft Windows operating system. And there are Apache webservers available for most of today's operating systems.

In order to execute ASP 3.0 locally, you will need Windows 2000 Professional or higher. All versions of Windows from 2000 include Internet Information Services with the exception of Windows XP Home. Installation is simple, just go to Add/Remove programs and then the Add/Remove Windows components section. Just keep in mind that just because you have IIS installed that does not mean that ASP files will execute.