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ASP.NET Ajax ("Atlas")

By Rich Campbell

The goal of Microsoft ASP.NET Ajax (formerly known as “Atlas”) is to allow developers to quickly and easily create a rich user experience for their web applications.  It also makes JavaScript more approachable by extending the language and emulating familiar concepts to those of us who are more experienced with C# or VB.

The main draw for the many that have been downloading the “Atlas” CTP is to enhance the increasingly more important User Experience – implement the cool stuff behind the buzz phrase “web 2.0” -- quickly and easily. Add slick functionality like grabbing your data from the server without refreshing the whole page, while taking no extra effort for cross-browser support and very little effort to implement an animated GIF that lets the user know the page is refreshing.  Also -- there is a lot of emphasis on quick and easy animations in the toolkit, not just data oriented retrieval.

I think you’ll find that JavaScript has become much more approachable when you have the need for more customized functionality -- as the JavaScript library provides ability to use namespaces, inheritance, interfaces, enumerations, and helpers for strings and arrays.  These features provide familiarity for C# / VB.Net developers and in my experience this makes the transition to JavaScript / AJAX more straightforward...

In the end it boils down to this:  Microsoft ASP.NET Ajax allows developers of all experience levels to jump in and utilize these great new features.  Whether you are a JavaScript pro or a web-form drag and drop expert, it will be easier to enhance the client side of your ASP.NET application.

There are downsides however to using the CTP.  For example, you can not distribute the Atlas DLL itself; meaning that if you were to build a DNN module you would not be able to re-distribute the DLL with your module.  However, you can build and maintain a web site that uses the Atlas DLL.  Basically you can’t ship it with your product.

From what I’ve heard the first official release will be sometime near the beginning of 2007 and will ship with the next version of ASP.NET.


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