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An upclose and personal look at Visual Studio and ASP.

ASP... Sometimes this technology gives me a nothing but a headache, and at other times, it solves and lays bare all of my problems at my feet. One thing for sure, ASP is a powerful web technology that is becoming fast the defacto standard for all high end web development.

I personally have mixed emotions for this technology; sometimes I feel that I will never go back to ASP development; this generally occurs during the late nights trying in vain to get something simple done. After hours of sheer frustration, I would sleep on the problem, (usually having something to do with concatenation), and dream of all of the little ways I could solve it by using ColdFusion. After little sleep and much thought, I would come back to the computer, remove a double quoutation around an ASP variable, and viola! Problem solved! Time to move on...

ASP is a scripting langauge that is accessible to any text editor. ASP does not have a native coding environment; most ASP programmers choose Notepad to code their ASP applications. There is no context senstive help, debugging tools, or any other helpful tools to assist the coder. ASP is not a rapid application development tool. It is true that MS Visual InterDev can be used to create ASP applications on the fly, and InterDev 6.0 has slick design time controls for ASP, but it is still not a true ASP editor- it is an integrated MS programming environment to mix different langauges and functions together. ASP is programmed, and tested, line after line. I can recognize ASP immediatly not by looking at any code, but by little indented comments after each block saying "'Testing: Response.Write SQL". ASP has complicated issues, such as concatenation, that require constant debugging and care. It is good practice to test the functionality of the code throughout the page. Although ASP is quite powerful, it would be nice if MS would release a better programming environment for ASP in the near future. Even with this in mind, learning ASP and VBScript will open doors and enhance your web skills greatly.

No one can call Mr. Gates dumb... some may not like the company, nor its tactics, but Microsoft has made enough right choices and have made their technologies stand apart. With ASP, Microsoft has again done what they do best; leveraging a key Microsoft technology, and making it common and widespread. VisualBasic, once thought of as a inferior langauge only to be used to learn basic programming techniques, is steadily become quite robust and can be used with multiple application environments. Many programmers have started out, and quite a few have stayed with VB, making it one of the most popular computing langauges of our time. Microsoft has also leveraged this extensive expertise by taking the core principles and logic of VisualBasic to create VBScript: the native langauge for ASP*.

Even if a web developer has extensive epertise in other non-Microsoft web technologies, there is great value in keeping abreast in knowledge of VB and VBScript. VBScript is a web technology standard on all NT web servers. I have applied the same techniques learned with ASP to program other back end technologies on NT. For an example, Microsoft's high end database, SQL Server, can be manipulated using VBScript. COM Objects and stored procedures, snippets of code optimizing server web performance, also can be coded using the same language and techniques learned with ASP. VBScript is becoming an all around web langauge that you will not want to ignore. Certainly on NT servers, knowledge of VBScript, ASP, and ADO is an essential knowledge set for any serious web developer.

ASP is the most widely used technology in dynamic web development and the same techniques learned can be applied to other MS technologies. If you have existing skills in VB, or committed to a MS platform, ASP will naturally compliment and hone your existing skill sets, your transition into the web will be seamless. If you are not familiar with Visual Basic, mastering the complications of VB and ASP will take time. But eventually you will be able to build sophisticated and powerful dynamic sites with ASP; and your time spent will be well worth the effort.

*By putting the web into traditional programmers hands, Microsoft has contributed to create a ripple effect affecting the entire nature of the web. The title of 'webmaster", once thought of being a informational multimedia / web designer / programer, is now being passed into the hands of the pure programmer. Since the introduction of ASP and other back-end specialties, the web has taken a simpler look and feel that values function over form (take a look at the difference between the Altavista of old and the Altavista of today).

Updated on October 7 2018