Computers, Software, Web, Windows

ASP.NET and AJAX

Wow, both firsts for me on the technology front. I was tasked yesterday with creating a project using Visual Studio .NET and integrating in AJAX. I was initially turned off from the IDE simply because of the size and the complexity of the installation. In order to install a SQL database, I had to download and configure 3 seperate installation packages. Compare this with “apt-get install mysql php5-mysql”. The application takes a good 30 seconds to completely load to the title screen on my machine. Once there, you open / create a project and it is another good 30 seconds while the application switches over to that mode – and it is slow.

Once there, I created the project based on the AJAX package and video tutorial located at ajax.asp.net. The benefits of Visual Studio became quckly apparent. You can add components to your website such as a database with just several clicks. No connection strings, no username / password setup. Everything is done inside the IDE. I know that makes a lot of folks out there cringe, but I would recommend trying it before you knock it. If you are looking at having to rapidly develop a web application (as is the condition of most business environments), I feel that the tradeoffs are worth it.
The database is designed visually, so you just create a new table, insert your column definitions, and populate base data quickly. Building the SQL that drives the website is equally simple. You create a data layer that builds the query through mouse clicks, not typing. You can flag parameters to be passed values later. For example, one can write “SELECT * FROM table WHERE id>@value”, and later, a form can supply the value for “@value”.

Once the data abstraction layer is in place, VS / ASP.NET automatically controls rendering of output with tools like “page-a-nation”, column sorting, editing, and deleting. This keeps the programmer in the logic, not the design.

The downside to Visual Studio is that since everything is operated inside this IDE, the entire advancement of the application seems to be hindered. The suite is just now getting support for things that other solutions have had for a decade. These include things like templates, or “.site” files, support for stylesheets, AJAX, and cross-browser compatibility.

I will be working more closely with Visual Studio in the near future, so more updates will be coming down the pipe.

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