Ready for Some ASP.NET?

ASP.NET is the latest incarnation of Microsoft's Active Server Pages and is the engine that executes ASP.NET web pages. An ASP.NET web page is the program that you create to generate a dynamic web page. For now we'll take a few moments to introduce the concept of an ASP.NET web page.

Two sets of instructions must be executed in order for a visitor to view a dynamic web page. The first set is executed on the web server. Developers call this the server side. The second set is executed on the visitor's computer. Developers call this the client side.

Both sets of instructions are written in an ASPNET web page. The ASP.NET web page is organized into two sections that correspond to the two sets of instructions. These are the HTML markup code section and the controls section.

The HTML markup code section contains HTML markup code that forms the dynamic web page sent to the visitor's computer by the ASP.NET engine. These instructions are executed on the client side by the browser.

The controls section contains instructions that tell the ASP.NET engine how to generate the dynamic web page. These instructions are executed on the server side by the ASPNET engine. The controls section is divided into two subsections called HTML controls and web controls.

The ASP.NET engine that executes the ASPNET web page needs to run within the .NET Framework. This simply means that the ASPNET engine needs help from a group of programs and related files that are collectively called the .NET Framework.

There are two key elements of the .NET Framework: .NET programming languages and Framework classes. A .NET programming language is a language developers use to write instructions telling the ASP.NET engine what to do. VB.NET and C# are each a .NET prograrnming language. Framework classes are like building blocks used to write ASPNET web pages.

An ASPNET web page can be built using an editor such as Microsoft's Notepad that comes with Windows. All that's needed is for you to write the HTML markup code section and the control sections using VB.NET or C#, and then save the page to a file that has the .aspx file extension.

The next step is to execute your ASPNET web page. This is the tricky part because to do this, you need a web server that has access to the ASP.NET engine, and chances are you don't have these on your computer. Don't be too concerned, because you have three options available, depending on which operating system you have running on your computer.

ASP.NET Web Matrix is your best option if you are running Windows NT, Windows XP Professional, Windows XP Home, or Windows Server 2003 (unlikely unless your computer is also running a web server) on your computer because it is a free, all-in-one development tool and web server.

It'll take you about five minutes to download this tool, and ASPNET Web Matrix installs in no time. You'll also need to download and install the .NET Framework if you don't already have it installed on your computer. (.NET Framework is already installed if you are running Microsoft Windows Server 2003, Windows 2000, or Windows XP.)

The .NET Framework is also free. You can download it from or The greatest benefit of using the ASP.NET Web Matrix is that you can build your ASP.NET web page using WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) by dragging and dropping components from a toolbox onto the page.

And you can test your ASP.NET web page with a click of a button, since the ASP.NET Web Matrix has the Web Matrix Web Server built in. ASP.NET Web Matrix has its drawbacks.

First, it doesn't run on Windows 98 or Windows ME, and besides, the ASP.NET Web Matrix Web Server is limited to requests coming from the computer running it. This means that you cannot access the ASP.NET Web Matrix Web Server from outside your computer even if your computer is connected to the Internet, because the ASP.NET Web Matrix web server is not designed as a product web server.

If you're running Windows 98 or Windows ME or simply don't want to download the ASPNET Web Matrix to your computer, then you'll need to make arrangements with a web hosting company to run your ASP.NET web page. A web hosting company provides space on its web server for your web site, usually for a nominal monthly charge.

The company will also help you register your own domain name (e.g., and link your domain to your web site. TIP: GO to web hosting directory find out what domains are still available.

There are thousands of web hosting companies. Visit web site hosting or web hosting rating for a listing of web hosting companies and their offerings. When selecting a web hosting company, make sure that the company supports ASP.NET. If it doesn't, then their web servers cannot handle your ASP.NET web pages.