What is ASP?

Discover the low down on ASP and get ready to start scripting.

By Amy Cowen

We are used to thinking in terms of languages, but ASP does not fit that model. Although we talk about ASP scripts, ASP is not a language. Instead, Microsoft refers to it as a server-side scripting environment. To work in that environment, ASP coders commonly use VBScript or JScript, both of which are automatically supported by ASP.

It is possible to use other scripting languages with ASP as long as you have an ActiveX scripting engine for the language installed. For example, if you're a longtime Perl coder, you may want to check out PerlScript, which lets you write ASP scripts in Perl. You don't need any special tools to create your pages with ASP, but there are some basic requirements.

Since ASP scripts are regular ASCII files, you don't need any special tools to create your pages, but you do have to be running a server that supports ASP to view them. In other words, you can't just open your browser and load an .asp page from your hard drive the way you can an .html page.

Built by Microsoft, ASP runs natively on Windows NT, 95, and 98 machines, running either Internet Information Server (IIS) or Personal Web Server (PWS). IIS 4 (NT Option Pack 4) contains the newest version of ASP.

If you're running your own NT Server, you can install NT Option Pack 4 and work with IIS on your own system. If you've got NT Workstation or Windows 95/98, you're still in the game. You can install Personal Web Server. It's a low-tech IIS sibling, but it will let you work with ASP offline on your own system.

Even if you have zero experience with Web servers, PWS is easy to use. Install it, and you'll have your own site for file testing. To install PWS, even if you're on a non-NT system, you download the Windows NT Option Pack.

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