AJAX Control Toolkit: Script Only


I previously posted about how to use the Microsoft Ajax Library in order to provide Globalization script functionality without using the ScriptManager control.  Why would you want to do this?

One issue is that Microsoft is currently working on the ASP.NET MVC framework, which will provide a way of doing web applications that is more familiar to PHP and JSP programmers.  In other words, it doesn’t use the WebForms infrastructure that has underpinned Microsoft’s whole approach to web development for the past six years.  The original promise of WebForms was to abstract web development so it looks more like traditional Windows Forms development.  In order to accomplish this, the developers at Microsoft have worked hard to abstract the underlying web technology using windows components that render html and emit client script for the developer.

But now the tide is turning, and with WPF and XAML, Microsoft’s newest technology for building desktop applications, we are seeing a transition to the development metaphors that we have become accustomed to in web development.

ASP.NET AJAX was originally developed following the WebForms paradigm.  While other AJAX frameworks provided script libraries that you needed to manipulate using client script (typically javascript), Microsoft provided their framework wrapped in controls like the ScriptManager and the UpdatePanel.  Even the Ajax Control Toolkit, the Microsoft backed opensource project that extends ASP.NET AJAX with additional controls, follows this model.

But the MVC model doesn’t follow this model.  It follows the model followed by every other vendor of web technology.

So how do ASP.NET MVC and ASP.NET AJAX come together if they follow these radically different models?  Well … the Microsoft AJAX team also provides the underlying scripts for their framework in the Microsoft Ajax Library, which can be used in JSP, PHP, or even your traditional HTML page if you are willing to do the muscle work required to hook into them.  They can also, of course, be used with the MVC framework.

The Ajax Control Toolkit now also exposes its underlying script files for general use, allowing use to get all the great ACT functionality with WebForms or a ScriptManager.  The only problem is that learning to use the library without controls to manage our state and emit our code is difficult, and there is very little online help to get you started.

Stephen Walther is now helping people through this difficulty on his blog, and it is a wonderful thing.  He has already tackled the Popup Calendar and Autocomplete.  Expect to hear more from him in the near future.  I can’t wait to see what he does next.

h/t to Bertrand Leroy’s Tales From the Evil Empire for highlighting this.

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