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Essential ASP.NET with Examples in Visual Basic .NET

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Essential ASP.NET with Examples in Visual Basic .NET


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With coverage not found in other titles and endorsed by the architects of ASP.NET, this book is essential for any serious ASP.NET developer

° Provides practical information on how to use ASP.NET, backed up by a solid understanding of how and why it works the way it does

° Based on the author's extensive experience teaching ASP.NET to professional developers

° Covers the upcoming release of ASP.NET, and is part of the authoritative Microsoft .NET Development Series


  • Copyright 2003
  • Dimensions: 7-3/8" x 9-1/4"
  • Pages: 432
  • Edition: 1st
  • Book
  • ISBN-10: 0-201-76039-8
  • ISBN-13: 978-0-201-76039-2

This book will provide the definitive resource for ASP.NET developers working in Visual Basic .NET, not just to the features of ASP.NET but also how to use them best. Fritz Onion looks at working examples of how Web applications are built today, and then looks at what ASP.NET offers to simplify constructing Web applications of this type. In addition to explaining how to use ASP.NET and examining why it is built the way it is, Onion also explores implementation tools not covered in any other books. He helps the reader acquire a broader understanding of the technology and how it fits in with other tools. From his experience teaching ASP.NET to working developers, Onion knows what information they need, what questions they have, and how to organize and present the material in the best way possible. As Justin Burtch, a Software Engineer at Integrated Data Systems expressed it, "This book does not try to be everything to everyone. As a result, it is able to provide both breadth and depth on the subject. Essential ASP.NET is positioned to become the seminal book on the most important advancement to web development in years."


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Table of Contents



1. Architecture.


ASP 4.0.

Compilation versus Interpretation.



Event Handling.

Shadow Copying.


The New Intrinsics.

2. Web Forms.

Server-Side Controls.



A Day in the Life of a Page.

Web Forms and Code-Behind.

Root Path Reference Syntax.



List Controls.

WebControls versus HtmlControls.

Building Web Forms with Visual Studio .NET.

3. Configuration.


Configuration Hierarchy.

Location Element.

Element Placement.

Impact of Configuration Changes.

IIS and web.config.

Configuration Data.

Process Model.

Accessing Process Information.

IIS 6.0 Process Model Changes.

Additional Settings.

Reading Configuration Information.

Building a Custom Configuration Section Handler.

Using the NameValueFileSectionHandler.

4. HTTP Pipeline.

A Day in the Life of a Request.

Ten Thousand-Foot View of Request Processing.

Inside the Pipeline.



Application Events.

Declarative Object Creation.

Custom Handlers.

Custom Handlers for File Processing.


Handler Pooling.

Custom Handler Factories.

Custom Modules.

Modules as Filters.

Module Pooling.

Modules versus global.asax.

Threading in the Pipeline.

Asynchronous Handlers.

5. Diagnostics and Error Handling.

Diagnostics in ASP.NET.

Page Tracing.

Writing Trace Messages.

Application-Level Tracing.

Performance Monitor Counters.


Error Handling.

Unhandled Exceptions.

6. Validation.

Form Validation.

Client-Side Validation.

Server-Side Validation.

Validation Observations.

Validation Control Architecture.

Page Validation.

Client-Side Validation.

Validation Controls.

7. Data Binding.


Data Binding Controls.

Binding to Database Sources.

IDataReader Binding.

DataSet Binding.

DataSet versus DataReader for Data Binding.


DataGrid Paging.

DataGrid Sorting.

DataGrid Editing.


Data Binding Evaluation Syntax.


Templated Controls.



8. Custom Controls.


Writing Custom Controls.

Using Custom Controls.



Browser Independence.


Inner Content.

Generating Client-Side Script.


State Management.


Explicit Post-Back Data Handling.

Composite Controls.

Creating Child Controls.

Custom Events.

User Controls.

Validation and Data Binding.

Supporting Validation.

Data-Bound Controls.

Implementing a Data-Bound Control.

Designer Integration.

Properties and Appearance.

Type Converters.

Property Editors.


9. Caching.

Caching Opportunities in ASP.NET.

Output Caching.

Output Caching Location.

Caching Multiple Versions of a Page.

Page Fragment Caching.

Output Caching Considerations and Guidelines.

Data Caching.

Cache Entry Attributes.

Cache Object Removal.

Data Cache Considerations and Guidelines.

10. State Management.

Types of State.

Application State.

Session State.

Session Key Management.

Storing Session State out of Process.

Cookie State.

View State.

11. Security.

Web Security.

Server Authentication.

Client Authentication.

Security in ASP.NET.

Client Authentication and Authorization.

Forms Authentication.

Authentication Cookies in Web Farms.

Optional Authentication.

Password Storage.

Salted Hashes.

Role-Based Authentication.

System Identity in ASP.NET.

Index. 0201760398T02042003


It was late in the night in Torrance, California in August of 2000. I had spent 12 hours of the day teaching DevelopMentor's Guerrilla COM course with Mike Woodring and Jason Whittington. Don Box had come over after class and as usual, we were staying up late into the night after the students had long since gone to bed, discussing technology and hacking. Microsoft had just released their preview version of .NET at the PDC in July, and we had been spending much of the year up to that point digging into 'the next COM' and were excited that it had finally been released so we could talk about it. It was that evening, that Don, in his typical succinct way, showed me my first glimpse of ASP.NET (then called ASP+). He first typed into emacs a .aspx file that looked like see code in book. He then wrote another file that looked like see code in book. He then placed the two files in c:\inetpub\wwwroot on his machine and showed me the rendering of the .aspx page through the browser--exclaiming "get it?" Perhaps it was the late hour, or the fact that I had been teaching all day, but I have to admit that while I "got" the technical details of what Don was showing me, I was somewhat underwhelmed by being able to change the innerText of an h1 element from a class.

The following week, after a couple of good nights of sleep, I came back and revisited the .aspx example, and began to explore ASP.NET in more detail. After a day of reading and experimenting, I finally "got it" and I was hooked. This technology was poised to fundamentally change the way people built web applications on Windows, and it took full advantage of the new .NET runtime. I spent the next six months researching, building ASP.NET applications, and writing DevelopMentor's Essential ASP.NET course, and I spent the subsequent year and a half teaching, speaking, and writing about ASP.NET. This book is the culmination of those activities, and I hope it helps you in your path to understanding ASP.NET.

C# Versus VB.NET

Prior to .NET, Visual Basic was not just another language--it was a platform unto itself. Building applications in Visual Basic 6.0 for example, was completely different from using C++ and MFC. With .NET, this distinction is gone, and Visual Basic is indeed just another .NET language that uses the same libraries, the same development tools, and the same runtime as all others. As a consequence, it is now possible to talk about technologies like ASP.NET from a language-neutral standpoint. The code samples, however, must be shown in a particular language, so this book is actually published in two versions--one with examples in C# and one with examples in VB.NET. All content outside the actual examples is nearly identical between the two books, and if you're interested, you can download all of the samples in either language from the book's web site http://www.develop.com/books/essentialasp.net/.

Sample Code, Website, Feedback

All of the code samples in this book are drawn from working samples available for display and download at http://www.develop.com/books/essentialasp.net/. This site also contains any errata found after publication, as well as a supplemental set of more extended examples of the concepts presented in this book for your reference. The author welcomes your comments, errata, and feedback via the forms available on the website.


This book focuses exclusively on ASP.NET, and does not spend time reviewing .NET programming, object-oriented programming techniques, database access, or general web application development techniques. You will be able to get the most out of this book if you have spent some time gaining experience in each of these areas.

Organization of This Book

This book approaches ASP.NET from the ground up, beginning with a look at the core elements of the architecture in Chapter 1, and continuing with the server-side control model in Chapter 2. It is recommended that the reader be familiar with the contents of Chapters 1 and 2 before reading any of the subsequent chapters. However, all chapters after 2 can be read independently and in any desired sequence.

Chapter 1, Architecture, covers the fundamentals of the ASP.NET architecture, beginning with a look at the parsing of .aspx files and their subsequent compilation into assemblies. This chapter explains the details of the Page class, demonstrates the new code-behind model, and discusses the shadow copy mechanism used to prevent file locking. The chapter concludes with a look at the new classes in ASP.NET that replace the intrinsic objects of traditional ASP.

Chapter 2, Web Forms, looks at the control-based programming model supported in ASP.NET called web forms. This chapter looks at the details of state retention across post-backs using both POST body data as well as ViewState, and how to effectively use server-side controls to create dynamic web pages. The chapter concludes with a look at the various server-side controls available in ASP.NET.

Chapter 3, Configuration, describes the configuration model used by ASP.NET, starting with the XML format used by all configuration files and the hierarchical application of configuration settings. This chapter inspects several configuration elements in detail, including the processModel and appSettings elements. The chapter concludes by demonstrating two techniques for adding custom configuration sections to your configuration files.

Chapter 4, HTTP Pipeline, explores the details of the classes involved with servicing HTTP requests in ASP.NET. This chapter first walks through all of the elements in the HTTP pipeline used to process a request, and then discusses the three points of extensibility in the pipeline: 1) custom application classes, 2) custom handlers, and 3) custom modules. The chapter concludes with a discussion of threading and object pooling in the pipeline.

Chapter 5, Diagnostics and Error Handling, covers the new diagnostic features of ASP.NET including page and application tracing as well as the new performance monitor counters. This chapter also discusses techniques for debugging ASP.NET applications and exception handling. The chapter concludes with a look at how to define custom error pages for your applications.

Chapter 6, Validation, describes the new validation architecture built into ASP.NET. This chapter begins by looking at how validation is performed in web applications in general, and proceeds to show how ASP.NET's validation architecture provides a general solution to the problem of validating user input. The chapter includes a detailed look at how both client-side and server-side validation work, as well as a look at all of the available validation controls.

Chapter 7, Data Binding, explores the process of binding server-side data to controls in an ASP.NET page. This chapter starts by explaining how data binding works with several different data sources including collection classes, DataReaders, and DataSets, and then looks at how to bind data to several controls, including the DataGrid class. The chapter concludes with a look at templates and how to use them effectively with the Repeater, DataList, and DataGrid classes.

Chapter 8, Custom Controls, covers the fundamentals of building your own custom controls for use in ASP.NET applications. This chapter explains how custom controls are built, how to use the HtmlTextWriter class to achieve some browser independence, how to further support browser-independent rendering, how to define properties and sub-properties, how to extract the inner content of a control's tag, how to generate client-side script, and how to manage control state. The chapter also covers the details of building composite controls, user controls, controls that support validation, and controls that support data binding. The chapter concludes with a look at how to integrate your controls with the Visual Studio .NET designer.

Chapter 9, Caching, looks at both output caching and data caching in ASP.NET. This chapter discusses the mechanism of output caching and how to precisely control which versions of a page are placed in the cache, as well as how to cache portions of a page using page fragment caching with user controls. The chapter explains how to use the new application-wide data cache, and includes a discussion of considerations and guidelines to observe when caching data.

Chapter 10, State Management, discusses the various types of state in an ASP.NET web application and how and when to use each type. This chapter begins with a look at application state, and explains why it should typically be avoided in ASP.NET. It then looks at the improvements in session state including out of process storage and cookieless key management, as well as techniques for optimizing your use of session state. The chapter concludes with a look at using cookies and ViewState as alternatives, or in addition, to session state.

Chapter 11, Security, describes the security features of ASP.NET and how to control client authentication and authorization in your applications. This chapter starts by reviewing the concepts of security for web applications, and then shows how to build and manage applications that need to authenticate clients using the forms authentication architecture provided by ASP.NET. The chapter also covers the management of authentication cookies in web farms, safe password storage, building role-based authentication systems, and how to control the process identity used by ASP.NET.


I would first like to thank my wife Susan and children Zoe and Sam who supported me without hesitation during the writing of this book. Thanks also to my parents, Pat and Dan Onion for their support and direction.

Thanks to all of my colleagues at DevelopMentor for the many discussions and constant feedback both for the course and for this book. In particular, thanks to: Bob Beauchemin for his always timely and useful feedback; Keith Brown for showing me how to salt my hashes and otherwise reinforcing my security chapter; Simon Horrell for his detailed feedback; Dan Sullivan for leaving no stone unturned; Ted Pattison, for commiserating on writing, and for his always positive comments; Stu Halloway for making my writing more concise.

Thanks to my official reviewers Justin Burtch, Amit Kalani, Daryl Richter, Martin Heller, Matt Milner all of whom provided invaluable feedback. Thanks to the members of the ASP.NET team at Microsoft for building such an interesting product, and for fielding many questions. In particular, thanks to Rob Howard for his input on caching and to Erik Olson for explaining thread allocation and pooling in the pipeline. Thanks to Don Box for introducing me to ASP.NET, and for getting my writing career started at C++ Report back in 1995.

Thanks to my editor, Stephane Thomas, for all her hard work. Much gratitude also to the more than 1000 students that have taken the Essential ASP.NET course--your input has shaped the stories in this book more than anything else. Thanks in particular to the students at the Essential ASP.NET course offered in Washington D.C. in October of 2002 for helping choose the color of the book covers.

Fritz Onion
Wells, ME
October 2002



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