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My Intranet Tools

For intranet application development you will need wider tool palette and knowledge. Above all you should be familiar with (X)HTML, CSS, JavaScript. There are sufficient number of books and on line resources, every one surely find what suits to him. Start as soon as possible to create quite simple application and study under process, study HTML source code pages which you like, to see how the job is done by others.

Intranet applications are characteristic by HTML code that is generated by program that run on server, therefore we need some programming tool or even framework. This tools have to ensure communication with environment: take over request from client and send back response to client (usually) as HTML code for rendering. Your script has to create the response according to request parameters and according to actual data which are usually stored in database or in files.

 

ASP.classic There are a lot of programming tools: PHP, Java, ASP.Net, Ruby on Rails... but it is good to notify, that face of application, or how does it look, and used programming tool are unrelated together in no way. How the page looks depends on browser capabilities and valid HTML code only. I use ASP.classic, one of the very old programming tool for building dynamic web pages. What benefits I see in ASP.classic?

Programming tool and web server have to perfectlly cooperate. Other tools, which are neccessary for buiding web applications, have a bit more degrees of freedom. I'm satisfied with following:

 

HomeSite 3.0 sometimes from the year 1997. I use this for writing programs in VBScript, .asp, .htm, .css files and auxiliary text files. HomeSite contains simple file explorer and leave me enough free space for coding, this is perhaps the most important advantage. It is able to do some things which I like. I can drag and drop file from explorer into code area and it creates relative link to this file. In case of pictures, the link is appended by real parameters height and width of the picture. HomeSite marks changed files and it is important when you edit more files at a time.

I realy do not need anythingVisual. Simple text editor makes me free to concentrate on code, not on visual presentation. Coding is a bit abstract job and tool with all that whistles and bells interrupt concentration. When code is ready, then I can finish CSS and visual desing of pages.

 

Access. You don't need it for regular running of intranet applications. ADO which is component of ASP is enough for working with database in ASP. However Access is usefull on developer PC for creation tables, relations, for data simulation and corrections of defective records. I recommend to locate database files (.mdb) into isolated directory, separated from wwwroot. That increase safeness and simplify backup.

As soon as .mdb file exceeds reasonable size, which you recognize on speed of response, it has come time to upgrade to true SQL server. For that you need more knowledge, experience and understanding.

 

Paint Shop Pro. Sometimes you need to prepare graphic elements, buttons, backgrounds, edit photo. MS painter is too primitive, Photoshop too much excessive luxury and expansive. Paint Shop Pro has proved as the best picture tool for me. I use version 5, sometimes from year 1998, which is able to work with .png files yet.

 

As you could see, you do not need enterprise tools which needs big money, big mouth, small result. With help of easy and cheap, or free tools you can start to build your intranet. Easy tools has another advantage: they empower your imagination to create anything quite new.

At the beginning of development new intranet application I use my notebook and local IIS. In certain level of development I upload the application to intranet server, where I finish development. Incoming users can try and test semifinished application and I need to know their opinion and suggestions. On my notebook I've mapped root directory of intranet server and database server directory, so that it does not matter whether programming is done on local, or server IIS.

I tried to count the size of small and big applications. For small one 750 lines of code in VBScript (24 kB) is enough, in large application there are 9 500 lines (perhaps 400 kB). Each application is separated into number of files, usual file size is 50-300 lines of code. Time consumed on one application development is anything between the two weeks and as many as 6 months. Analysis is the most time consuming phase of development: make clear targets, number of required pages and their content, navigation from one page to another, which user's role are needed. All that takes about 50% of developement time. Design database structure takes perhaps 25% of time, writing and debugging of programm for the rest.

 

Why I do not use ASP.NET? I've tried that many times. The way by which .NET manipulates HTML, forms, include files, makes me crazy. .NET mixes winForms and webForms altogether through that, they are much diverse universe. .NET is too big gun for too small sparrow. Where a few components was enough earlier, now you have to be acquainted with thousands of objects. Couple of links on this subject follows:
Classic ASPasp Myths Debunked
ASP.NET isn't always the right tool
8 Reasons to Stick with ASP 3.0 in 2006 (and 2007)

updated 28.10.2006