ASP Basics

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This introduction is to explain what ASP is, it’s uses and how you as a developer can use it to spice up your static HTML pages.

First let me tell you a bit about the kind of person writing this tutorial. I have been developing HTML web sites for a couple of years and just within the last year have delved into ASP. I’m not a techie person, so I need explanations that are in plain english. If that’s the kind of person you are, then you’ll fit right in with these tutorials.

What is ASP?

ASP is a pseudo-programming language aimed at HTML development. It allows web pages to do more than contain just static content. By placing ASP tags in with your HTML tags, you can have a page that interacts with the user. The page can make decisions based on logic and user input. If you’re familiar with HTML, then you know that an HTML tag uses around it’s tags. For example this text will be bold would make this text will be bold. ASP is similar in that it uses delimiter tags like HTML. However, the tags differ slightly. An ASP delimiter tag starts with .

ASP was developed by Microsoft and it’s core language is based off of Microsoft’s Visual Basic. The language ASP uses is VBScript. However, you can change this if you are familiar with another language that you would like to use instead. At the top of an ASP page, before the first tag, you would put . If you wanted to use another language, you would make the change in this tag. There is a reason for this. ASP is not like HTML in certain ways. ASP is interpreted at the server instead of by the browser. This is what makes ASP dynamic. By taking user input, connecting to a database or whatever, ASP is translated on the server and outputs pure HTML. Because ASP was designed for Microsoft’s NT servers, it’s default language is VBScript. However, it is good coding practice to always include the specified language of your code at the top of the page, so the server knows how to interpret it. ASP can also run on a UNIX server, but the UNIX server must be running ChiliSoft. To develop ASP on your own computer, you must be running either an NT server product, or Win95/98 Personal Web Server. You can usually find PWS on your Windows CD. Just run a find>files or folders on your Windows CD and search for PWS. After running the installation for PWS, you must open all ASP pages by typing into the address bar http://localhost/nameofmypage.asp. You cannot simply open an ASP page like you normally would open an HTML page.

What’s ASP used for?

ASP’s primary use today seems to be geared towards database work. However, there are many other uses for ASP. Companies use ASP to create virtual storefronts and shopping carts. You can use ASP to password protect pages on your website (a tutorial on this is coming:), to create a messageboard system and many other uses. If you scour the web, you’re sure to find tutorials for almost anything with ASP. By tying your ASP pages into a database, you can have a very dynamic site based on user interaction with your database files. This is very fun to do and tutorials on database interaction will be coming soon!

How can I use ASP for my website?

I’ll give you 2 coding examples for now to show some very basic uses of ASP on your website. The first example displays the date and time on your page.

The first thing we did above was tell the server that this ASP page was written in VBScript. Secondly, we declared Option Explicit to make sure that if the page contains bugs, it will show the bugs. Next, we declared our variables using the Dim keyword followed by our variables. Then we set our variables equal to the values we wanted them to hold. Finally, we displayed the values of our variables by including them in our regular HTML but by using the delimiters. ASP has many built in functions like the Date, Time and Now functions. We will explore those more as our tutorials progress. Notice the use of the ‘ before a comment. This apostrophe tells the server that anything that follows is a comment and not to try to interpret it as a script.

Our second script will give you a brief introduction to the request object in ASP. We will not get into a full tutorial on the request object here, but it’s enough to say that it’s a built in object of ASP that allows information to be passed from one page to the next. We are also using an if then statement which we will not be covering fully. Just realize that this allows the page to make a logical decision based on whether certain criteria have been met.

This script is a little more complicated than the first, but a challenge is always fun, right? You can do it! Okay, first thing we did was, again, tell the server that we were using VBScript for our language and then declare Option Explicit to catch bugs. Then we declared our variables using the Dim keyword. The next part is the new part. We used the request object to “request” the contents of the form. See how it is followed by a .form? That tells the page to get the contents from the form input field called name and give the value to the variable called name. The age variable does the same thing, only requests the value from the input field called age. We use the trim function to “trim” off any extra spaces before or after the string. Later in the page, we use what’s called an if then statement to make our page do some basic logic. It should be pretty easy to follow, but in case you’re lost, here’s the explanation. The first line says “If name “” and age “” then” do this…. This is telling the server that if the variables name and age both are equal to nothing, then do what follows (which is to print out a string including the name and age that was submitted on the form). This keeps the page from displaying an empty value if only one field was filled in and then submitted (You can always change the “and” keyword to “or” if you don’t mind having only one value passed). Then the if statement continues by saying “else…do this”. So, if the form was submitted without any fields being filled out, or if you just came to this page, then it would print a different message asking you to complete and submit the form above. If you copy this code, make sure to save the page as intro.asp so the form submits to itself.

As you can see, ASP can be a great language to learn to develop web pages with. It enables you, the HTML developer/designer to create more interactive pages that respond to user input. I hope you’ve enjoyed the introduction to ASP and I look forward to bringing you more tutorials to help you learn how to master this wonderful development language. See ya next time!

~ Geoff Swartz

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