ASP.NET is a web application framework developed and marketed by Microsoft to allow programmers to build dynamic web sites, web applications and web services. It was first released in January 2002 with version 1.0 of the .NET Framework, and is the successor to Microsoft's Active Server Pages (ASP) technology. ASP.NET is built on the Common Language Runtime (CLR), allowing programmers to write ASP.NET code using any supported .NET language. The ASP.NET SOAP extension framework allows ASP.NET components to process SOAP messages.
ASP.NET web pages, known officially as "web forms", are the main building block for application development.Web forms are contained in files with an ".aspx" extension; these files typically contain static XHTML markup, as well as markup defining server-side Web Controls and User Controls where the developers place all the required static and dynamic content for the web page. Additionally, dynamic code which runs on the server can be placed in a page within a block <% -- dynamic code -- %>, which is similar to other web development technologies such as PHP, JSP, and ASP. With ASP.Net Framework 2.0, Microsoft introduced a new code-behind model which allows static text to remain on the .aspx page, while dynamic code remains in the .asp.cs page.
Microsoft recommends dealing with dynamic program code by using the code-behind model, which places this code in a separate file or in a specially designated script tag. Code-behind files typically have names like MyPage.aspx.cs or MyPage.aspx.vb while the page file is MyPage.aspx (same filename as the page file (ASPX), but with the final extension denoting the page language). This practice is automatic in Microsoft Visual Studio and other IDEs. When using this style of programming, the developer writes code to respond to different events, like the page being loaded, or a control being clicked, rather than a procedural walk through the document.
ASP.NET's code-behind model marks a departure from Classic ASP in that it encourages developers to build applications with separation of presentation and content in mind. In theory, this would allow a web designer, for example, to focus on the design markup with less potential for disturbing the programming code that drives it. This is similar to the separation of the controller from the view in model-view-controller frameworks.
A directive is special instructions on how ASP.Net should process the page. The most common directive is <%@ Page %> which can specify many things, such as which programming language is used for the server-side code.
User controls are encapsulations of sections of pages which are registered and used as controls in ASP.NET. User controls are created as ASCX markup files. These files usually contain static XHTML markup, as well as markup defining server-side web controls. These are the locations where the developer can place the required static and dynamic content. A user control is compiled when its containing page is requested and is stored in memory for subsequent requests. User controls have their own events which are handled during the life of ASP.NET requests. An event bubbling mechanism provides the ability to pass an event fired by a user control up to its containing page. Unlike an ASP.NET page, a user control cannot be requested independently; one of its containing pages is requested instead.
Programmers can also build custom controls for ASP.NET applications. Unlike user controls, these controls don't have an ASCX markup file, having all their code compiled into a dynamic link library (DLL) file. Such custom controls can be used across multiple web applications and Visual Studio projects (which is not allowed with user controls). By using a Register directive, the control is loaded from the DLL.
ASP.NET uses a visited composites rendering technique. During compilation, the template (.aspx) file is compiled into initialization code which builds a control tree (the composite) representing the original template. Literal text goes into instances of the Literal control class, and server controls are represented by instances of a specific control class. The initialization code is combined with user-written code (usually by the assembly of multiple partial classes) and results in a class specific for the page. The page doubles as the root of the control tree.
Actual requests for the page are processed through a number of steps. First, during the initialization steps, an instance of the page class is created and the initialization code is executed. This produces the initial control tree which is now typically manipulated by the methods of the page in the following steps. As each node in the tree is a control represented as an instance of a class, the code may change the tree structure as well as manipulate the properties/methods of the individual nodes. Finally, during the rendering step a visitor is used to visit every node in the tree, asking each node to render itself using the methods of the visitor. The resulting HTML output is sent to the client.
After the request has been processed, the instance of the page class is discarded and with it the entire control tree. This is a source of confusion among novice ASP.NET programmers who rely on class instance members that are lost with every page request/response cycle.
ASP.NET applications are hosted by a web server and are accessed using the stateless HTTP protocol. As such, if an application uses stateful interaction, it has to implement state management on its own. ASP.NET provides various functions for state management. Conceptually, Microsoft treats "state" as GUI state. Problems may arise if an application needs to keep track of "data state"; for example, a finite state machine which may be in a transient state between requests (lazy evaluation) or which takes a long time to initialize. State management in ASP.NET pages with authentication can make Web scraping difficult or impossible.
ASP.NET aims for performance benefits over other script-based technologies (including Classic ASP) by compiling the server-side code to one or more DLL files on the web server.This compilation happens automatically the first time a page is requested (which means the developer need not perform a separate compilation step for pages). This feature provides the ease of development offered by scripting languages with the performance benefits of a compiled binary. However, the compilation might cause a noticeable but short delay to the web user when the newly-edited page is first requested from the web server, but won't again unless the page requested is updated further.
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