What is asp?

An overview of Active Server Pages, an internet programming language.

Sometimes having a flashy website with all of the graphic bells and whistles just isn't enough. There might come a time when the budding young webmaster decides that he or she wants more than just a pretty site... they want a site that can truly interact with the person who's viewing it. Luckily, that's where Active Server Pages come into play.

Active Server Pages, or ASP for short, are website pages that are coded in a special language so that they can perform certain actions when prompted by the user (in this case, the viewer of the website.) Their very name, "active server pages", refers to the fact that they can enact changes to the website from the server itself, instead of requiring the programmer to make the changes and then save them to the server. ASP makes somewhat of a "smart" website, capable of writing information to pages on the fly as well as searching databases and displaying only the needed information.

The way that ASP works is that a page is created by the ASP code when the user reaches that page on the site. Until the page is generated, it didn't actually exist in that form on the server; the next time that the page is accessed, a new page will be created to the specifications of the file. Any changes made by the user, such as the signing of a guestbook or the entry of some numbers, are saved on the server for use in the future. That way, the next time that the page is accessed, the information that was entered by previous users can be added to the page for the next viewer.

Along those same lines, ASP can be used to create an on-site search for either page content or information that is contained inside of a database on the site. Users can input the information that they're looking for, and the ASP code will perform whatever search it has been created to do. Any information found will then be displayed on the screen in what is actually a new page that has been created specifically as a result of the search. This way, a person can find everything that they want without having to wade through a lot of information that they don't.

Another way that ASP can be used is to make updates on websites so that the webmaster doesn't have to. One application of this is a website that updates daily... instead of having to go in and manually update the site every day, a webmaster can simply upload files with that day's update to the sever beforehand. When the clock on the server reaches a certain point, the site will automatically begin putting the new file up on the site and will put the previous one into an archive database in case it should be needed.

Of course, these are only a few basic examples of how ASP can be used. There are many more uses for Active Server Pages, and they are pretty much only limited by the imagination and resourcefulness of the programmer. Keep in mind, though, that ASP requires certain programs to be present on the server for them to work, and also must be programmed in a certain way. For more information on programming ASP, a variety of books, tutorials, and websites exist to teach you everything that you might want to know so that you can use this powerful and useful technology to take your own websites to the next level.

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