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Opinion: How to Write ASP

There was a time when computer programming was hard work. I am far too young to truly appreciate the vast amounts of time and effort that needed to be poured into yesteryear's programs, but I have been programming long enough to see this trend.

It use to be that programs would take half a day to compile, and would have to be composed on a carefully ordered set of punched cards. Instructions were in assembley or machine language, no fancy English-like languages. When you wrote a program, it worked on one machine, and one machine only. If you wanted it to run on a different computer, you'd have to learn that machine's assembly language and rewrite the entire program.

That was how it use to be, long ago. Even a mere decade ago, programming was still hard work. The COBOL program had to have its columns closely aligned, the BASIC prorammer still needed to worry about pesky line numbers, C didn't really concern itself with type-checking.

But that isn't how it is today. Today, programming couldn't be easier. Drag this here, drop that there. One of the easiest domains to program for today is the web. Such graphical development tools such as Drumbeat, Visual InterDev, and Front Page allow for quick, painless development of web applications.

These GUI development tools allow beginners and novices to design impressive-looking web applications with a few clicks of the mouse. These tools protect beginning programmers from the burden of real programming, but that burden need be experienced! Learning web development on a GUI system detracts from one's total understanding of the paradigm, and weakens that developer's ability to write good code, to debug difficult code, and to just generally understand what his or her code is doing.

The solution is rather simple: don't use GUI development tools unless you are 100% sure that you could write the same application using nothing more than DOS's edit or Notepad. If you are about to create your first HTML page, resist the temptation to use FrontPage. Instead, take some time to learn HTML, and write the page in raw HTML. Rather than using InterDev to create those databound forms, use edit and write it in raw ASP! While it may take considerably longer and not look as pretty, it will teach you how things are really working, and allow you to gain invaluable debugging and coding experience!

If you are quite experienced in writing raw ASP and raw HTML, then there is nothing wrong with using a GUI development tool to produce a quick prototype. I would strongly recommend, however, that your final system be written in raw ASP/HTML.

There is obviously a big jump from using Notepad to using Visual InterDev. To make the transition more smoothly, as you become more advanced and learn more about ASP, you may find ASP Express a useful tool for ASP development. ASP Express is an editor designed particularily for ASP development. It doesn't try, though, to be like InterDev or FrontPage. It's like Notepad on steroids, keeping ASP editing to a text based science, but adding tools to make ASP development more productive and efficient.

The main moral here, though, is for beginners to resist the temptation to develop with a GUI product. Only through this arduous process will you become a proficient programmer. OK, I'll step off the soapbox now.

Article Information
Article Title: Opinion: How to Write ASP
Article Author: Scott Mitchell
Published Date: Tuesday, February 02, 1999
Article URL:

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