Introduction to ASP

What is ASP, and what can it do? The basic concepts explained.

ASP stands for Active Server Pages. ASP "pages" are actually scripts that are run, or executed, on the web server. The script is interpreted from top to bottom to create HTML pages that are sent to the browser for display.

ASP architecture
ASP architecture

ASP is a Microsoft technology and so is usually run on Microsoft Web servers - Personal Web Server (PWS) or the industry standard, Internet Information Server (IIS). However, there are products available, such as Sun Java System ASP, which let you run ASP code on other platforms.

When should I use ASP?

ASP is appropriate whenever you want your pages to be created dynamically when the browser requests the page. For example, displaying data that is relevant on a certain date, or storing user data collected from a form. Often, the ASP scripts will query a database and format the data retrieved for display in a HTML page.

ASP is an alternative to CGI programming and it owes much of its popularity to the fact that it is pretty easy to learn, and that once learned it's quick to develop pages using ASP.

What languages can I use to program in ASP?

ASP is a scripting environment rather than a language in itself. Usually ASP pages are written using Microsoft's VBScript, or less often JScript (Microsoft's version of JavaScript), but they can also be written in Perl, with the addition of a Perl scripting engine, or even a combination of different scripting languages.

In these tutorials we'll use VBScript when writing our ASP pages. VBScript is a Microsoft scripting language based on Visual Basic. Basic is one of the easiest programming languages to learn and usually the first that people try - you might even have done some already!

So when do we start?

When developing your HTML pages you can open them in your browser to view them. ASP development is not quite as straightforward as this, because the page has to be run on a Web server to create the HTML. Our next tutorial will describe how to set up a Web server on your PC to develop ASP pages at home.

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