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ASP.NET is the name Microsoft has given to the combination of its two web development technologies: Web Forms and web services. Using ASP.NET, it is easier than ever to create web applications that are dynamic and data-driven, that scale well, and that work well across a broad range of browsers without any custom coding by the developer.

Used in conjunction with Visual Studio .NET, Web Forms allow you to apply Rapid Application Development techniques to building web applications. Simply drag and drop controls onto your form, double-click on a control, and write the code to respond to the associated event.

Generally speaking, web services are web applications without a user interface that allow you to provide services to other web sites or applications. As you'll see in later chapters, ASP.NET allows you to create web services using a simple text editor or facilitate the process by using Visual Studio .NET.

1.2.1 ASP.NET Versus ASP

The key differences between ASP.NET and ASP are:

  • ASP.NET is much more event-driven, with the event handlers running on the server.

  • ASP.NET separates code from HTML.

  • The code in ASP.NET is compiled, not interpreted.

  • Configuration and deployment are greatly simplified.

There are many other minor differences, but these four are the key changes, and they change everything. The event-driven model in ASP.NET is very powerful and is explored in detail in Chapter 3. The separation of HTML from code, and the fact that the code is compiled rather than interpreted, allows for the creation of larger, easier-to-scale, easier-to-maintain web sites. The configuration and deployment simplifications make working with ASP.NET web sites, both large and small, much easier.

1.2.2 Languages: C# and VB.NET

You can program ASP.NET in any language that supports the .NET CLS. This book provides examples in both C# and VB.NET. It is a theme of this book that C# and VB.NET are sufficiently similar, at least as used in ASP.NET, so if you know one you will have no problem with examples shown in the other. That said, we do offer the examples in both languages to simplify the process of learning the technology.

1.2.3 Visual Studio .NET

Since all the ASP.NET source files are plain text, you can develop all your web applications using your favorite text editor. In fact, many of the examples in this book are presented just that way. However, Visual Studio .NET, the integrated development environment released in conjunction with the .NET Framework, offers many advantages and productivity gains. These include:

  • Visual development of web pages

  • Drag-and-drop web form design

  • IntelliSense and automatic code completion

  • Integrated debugging

  • Automated build and compile

  • Integration with the Visual SourceSafe source control program

  • Fully-integrated, dynamic help

Chapter 2 discusses Visual Studio .NET fully.

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