Home > Articles > Programming > ASP .NET

Getting Started with ASP.NET 3.5

This chapter shows you how to install Visual Web Developer, along with the .NET Framework and SQL Server 2005. It also gives you a brief tour of Visual Web Developer and walks you through creating your first ASP.NET web page.
This chapter is from the book

In this hour, we will cover

  • What is ASP.NET?
  • System requirements for using ASP.NET
  • Software that must be installed prior to using ASP.NET
  • Installing the .NET Framework, Visual Web Developer, and SQL Server 2005
  • Taking a quick tour of Visual Web Developer
  • Creating a simple ASP.NET web page and viewing it through a web browser

ASP.NET is an exciting web programming technology pioneered by Microsoft that allows developers to create dynamic web pages. Dynamic web pages are pages whose content is dynamically regenerated each time the web page is requested. For example, after you log on, the front page of Amazon.com shows books it recommends for you, based on your previous purchases. This is a dynamic web page because it is a single web page whose content is customized based on what customer is visiting. In this book we examine how to create dynamic ASP.NET websites quickly and easily.

Prior to ASP.NET, Microsoft's dynamic web programming technology was called Active Server Pages, or ASP. Although ASP was a popular choice for creating dynamic websites, it lacked important features found in other programming technologies. Microsoft remedied ASP's shortcomings with ASP.NET. ASP.NET version 1.0 was released in January 2002 and quickly became the web programming technology of choice for many. In November 2005, Microsoft released the much-anticipated version 2.0. Two years later, in November 2007, Microsoft released ASP.NET version 3.5.

Before we can start creating our first ASP.NET website, we need to install the .NET Framework, Visual Web Developer, and SQL Server 2005. The .NET Framework is a rich platform for creating Windows-based applications and is the underlying technology used to create ASP.NET websites.

Visual Web Developer is a sophisticated program for creating, editing, and testing ASP.NET websites and web pages. ASP.NET web pages are simple text files, so any text editor will suffice (such as Microsoft Notepad), but if you've created websites before, you know that using tools such as Microsoft FrontPage or Adobe Dreamweaver makes the development process much easier than using a generic text editor like Notepad. This is the case for ASP.NET, as well.

The third and final piece we'll need to install is SQL Server 2005. SQL Server is a database engine, which is a specialized application designed to efficiently store and query data. Many websites interact with databases; any e-commerce website, for example, displays product information and records purchase orders in a database. Starting with Hour 13, "An Introduction to Databases," we'll see how to create, query, and modify databases through both Visual Web Developer and ASP.NET pages.

This hour focuses on getting everything set up properly so that we can start creating ASP.NET web applications. Although it would be nice to be able to jump straight into creating ASP.NET pages, it is important that we first take the time to ensure that the pieces required for ASP.NET are correctly installed and configured. We create a very simple ASP.NET page at the end of this hour, but we won't explore it in any detail. We look at ASP.NET pages in more detail in the next hour and in Hour 4, "Designing, Creating, and Testing ASP.NET Pages."

What Is ASP.NET?

Have you ever wondered how dynamic websites like Amazon.com work behind the scenes? As a shopper at Amazon.com, you are shown a particular web page, but the web page's content is dynamic, based on your preferences and actions. For instance, if you have an account with Amazon.com, when you visit Amazon.com's home page your name is shown at the top and a list of personal recommendations is presented further down the page. When you type an author's name, a title, or a keyword into the search text box, a list of matching books appears. When you click a particular book's title, you are shown the book's details along with comments and ratings from other users. When you add the book to your shopping cart and check out, you are prompted for a credit card number, which is then billed.

Web pages in websites whose content is determined dynamically based on user input or other information are called dynamic web pages. Any website's search engine page is an example of a dynamic web page because the content of the search results page is based on the search criteria the user entered and the searchable documents on the web server. Another example is Amazon.com's personal recommendations. The books and products that Amazon.com suggests when you visit the home page are different from the books and products suggested for someone else. Specifically, the recommendations are determined by the products you have previously viewed and purchased.

The opposite of a dynamic web page is a static web page. Static web pages contain content that does not change based on who visits the page or other external factors. HTML pages, for example, are static web pages. Consider an HTML page on a website with the following markup:

  <b>Hello, World!</b>

Such a page is considered a static web page because regardless of who views the page or what external factors might exist, the output will always be the same: the text Hello, World! displayed in a bold font. The only time the content of a static web page changes is when someone edits and saves the page, overwriting the old version.

By learning ASP.NET, you will learn how to create websites that contain dynamic web pages. It is important to understand the differences between how a website serves static web pages versus dynamic web pages.

Serving Static Web Pages

If you've developed websites before, you likely know that a website requires a web server.

A web server is a software application that continually waits for incoming web requests, which are requests for a particular URL (see Figure 1.1). The web server examines the requested URL, locates the appropriate file, and then sends this file back to the client that made the web request.

Figure 1.1

Figure 1.1 The web server handles incoming web requests.

For example, when you visit Amazon.com, your browser makes a web request to Amazon.com's web server for a particular URL, say /books/index.html. Amazon.com's web server determines what file corresponds to the requested URL. It then returns the contents of this file to your browser.

This model is adequate for serving static pages, whose contents do not change. However, such a simple model is insufficient for serving dynamic pages because the web server merely returns the contents of the requested URL to the browser that initiated the request. The contents of the requested URL are not modified in any way by the web server based on external inputs.

Serving Dynamic Web Pages

With static web pages, the contents of the web page are just HTML elements that describe how the page should be rendered in the user's web browser. Therefore, when a static web page is requested, the web server can send the web page's content, without modification, to the requesting browser.

This simple model does not work for dynamic web pages, where the content of the page may depend on various factors that can differ on a per-visitor basis. To accommodate dynamic content, dynamic web pages contain source code that is executed when the page is requested (see Figure 1.2). When the code is executed, it produces HTML markup as its result, which is then sent back to and displayed in the visitor's browser.

Figure 1.2

Figure 1.2 The content of a dynamic web page is created by executing the dynamic web page's source code.

This model allows for dynamic content because the content isn't actually created until the web page is requested. Imagine that we wanted to create a web page that displays the current date and time. To do this using a static web page, someone would need to edit the web page every second, continually updating the content so that it contained the current date and time. Clearly, this isn't feasible.

With a dynamic web page, however, the executed code can retrieve and display the current date and time. Suppose that one particular user visits this page on June 12, 2008, at 4:15:03 p.m. When the web request arrives, the dynamic web page's code is executed, which obtains the current date and time and returns it to the requesting web browser. The visitor's browser displays the date and time the web page was executed: June 12, 2008, 4:15:03 p.m. If another visitor requests this page 7 seconds later, the dynamic web page's code will again be executed, returning June 12, 2008, 4:15:10 p.m.

Figure 1.2 is, in actuality, a slightly oversimplified model. Commonly, the web server and the execution of the dynamic web page source code are decoupled. When a web request arrives, the web server determines whether the requested page is a static web page or dynamic web page. If the requested web page is static, its contents are sent directly back to the browser that initiated the request (as shown in Figure 1.1). If, however, the requested web page is dynamic—for example, an ASP.NET web page—the web server hands off the responsibility of executing the page to the ASP.NET engine (see Figure 1.3).

Figure 1.3

Figure 1.3 Execution of an ASP.NET web page is handled by the ASP.NET engine.

The web server can determine whether the requested page is a dynamic or static web page by the requested file's extension. If the extension is .aspx, the web server knows the requested page is an ASP.NET web page and therefore hands off the request to the ASP.NET engine.

When the ASP.NET engine executes an ASP.NET page, the engine generates the web page's resulting HTML output. This HTML output is then returned to the web server, which then returns it to the browser that initiated the web request.

Hosting ASP.NET Web Pages

To view an ASP.NET web page that resides on a web server, we need to request it through a browser. The browser sends the request to the web server, which then dispatches the request to the ASP.NET engine. The ASP.NET engine processes the requested page and returns the resulting HTML to the browser. When you're developing ASP.NET websites, the ASP.NET web pages you create are saved on your personal computer. For you to be able to test these pages, then, your computer must have a web server installed.

Fortunately, you do not need to concern yourself with installing a web server on your computer. Visual Web Developer, the editor we'll be using throughout this book to create our ASP.NET websites, includes a lightweight web server specifically designed for testing ASP.NET pages locally. As we will see in later hours, when testing an ASP.NET page, Visual Web Developer starts the ASP.NET Development Web Server and launches a browser that issues a request of the form: http://localhost:portNumber/ASP.NET_Page.aspx.

The http://localhost portion of the request tells the browser to send the request to your personal computer's web server, in contrast to some other web server on the Internet. The portNumber specifies a particular port through which the request is made. All web servers listen for incoming requests on a particular port. When the ASP.NET Development Web Server is started, it chooses an open port, which is reflected in the portNumber portion of the URL. Finally, the ASP.NET_Page.aspx portion is the filename of the ASP.NET page being tested.

Hosting ASP.NET pages locally through the ASP.NET Development Web Server has a number of advantages:

  • Testing can be done while offline—Because the request from your browser is being directed to your own personal computer, you don't need to be connected to the Internet to test your ASP.NET pages.
  • It's fast—Local requests are, naturally, much quicker than requests that must travel over the Internet.
  • Advanced debugging features are available—By developing locally, you can use advanced debugging techniques, such as halting the execution of an ASP.NET page and stepping through its code line-by-line.
  • It's secure—The ASP.NET Development Web Server allows only local connections. With this lightweight web server, you don't need to worry about hackers gaining access to your system through an open website.

The main disadvantage of hosting ASP.NET pages locally is that they can be viewed only from your computer. That is, a visitor on another computer cannot enter some URL into her browser's Address bar that will take her to the ASP.NET website you've created on your local computer. If you want to create an ASP.NET website that can be visited by anyone with an Internet connection, you should consider using a web-hosting company.

Web-hosting companies have a number of Internet-accessible computers on which individuals or companies can host their websites. These computers contain web servers that are accessible from any other computer on the Internet. The benefits of using a web-hosting company to host your site include

  • A publicly available website—With a web-hosting company, any visitor who has an Internet connection can visit your website!
  • Use of a domain name—You can register a domain name and have it point to your website so that visitors can reach your website through a name like www.mysite.com.
  • Ability to focus 100% on building your website—Installing a web server, applying the latest security patches, properly configuring domain names, and so forth can be tricky tasks. By using a web-hosting company, you are paying for this service, which enables you to concentrate on building your website.

After you have settled on a web-hosting company and have set up your account, you are ready to move the ASP.NET pages from your computer to the web-hosting company. This process is referred to as deployment, and is covered in-depth in Hour 24, "Deploying Your Website." After a website has been successfully deployed, you, or anyone else on the Internet, can visit the site from their web browser.

Develop Locally, Deploy to a Web Host

Because there are different advantages for hosting a site locally versus hosting with a web-hosting company, often the best choice is to do both! I encourage you to develop, test, and debug your ASP.NET websites locally, through Visual Web Developer's built-in web server. After you have completed your site and are ready to go live, you can procure an account with a web-hosting company and deploy your site. This approach allows for the best of both worlds—an ideal development environment with the end result of a publicly accessible website!

The examples and lessons presented in Hour 1 through Hour 23 are meant to be created, tested, and debugged locally. Hour 24 contains step-by-step instructions for deploying your ASP.NET website to a web-hosting company.

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020