ASP.NET revolutionized Web application development. The platform handles many of the complexities of creating Web applications. Now ASP.NET AJAX takes the development platform even further. The lines between rich client applications and traditionally less interactive browser-based applications are being further blurred with the use of this technology.
The new server controls that are part of ASP.NET AJAX make it simple to designate parts of the page to be updated automatically without making the user pause and wait while the data is refreshed. You can have partial page updates without writing a single line of code. Other new controls let you alert the user that background work is happening and designate regular intervals at which updates occur. In addition, the ASP.NET AJAX Control Toolkit makes it easy to make your user interface really come to life with animations, modal dialogs, transition effects, and more.
Shortly thereafter, Microsoft released a beta for a new toolkit that enabled developers to incorporate Ajax features in their Web applications. This toolkit, code-named Atlas and later renamed ASP.NET AJAX, makes it extremely simple to start using Ajax features in applications today.
Prior to Visual Studio 2008, the ASP.NET AJAX product used to be a separate application that developers were required to install on their machine and the Web server that they were working with. This release gained in popularity quite rapidly and has now been made a part of the Visual Studio 2008 offering. Not only is it a part of the Visual Studio 2008 IDE, the ASP.NET AJAX product is also baked into the .NET Framework 3.5. This means that in order to use ASP.NET AJAX, developers are not going to need to install anything if they are working with ASP.NET 3.5.
In addition, it is important to note that Microsoft focused a lot of attention on cross-platform compatibility with ASP.NET AJAX. Developers will find that the Ajax-enabled applications that they build upon the .NET Framework 3.5 are able to work within all the major up-level browsers out there (e.g., FireFox and Opera).
This book is aimed at experienced ASP.NET developers looking to add AJAX to their applications, and experienced Web developers who want to move to using ASP.NET and AJAX together.
In this book, I assume that you already have an understanding of how ASP.NET works. For an in-depth discussion of ASP.NET, I recommend Professional ASP.NET 3.5 by Bill Evjen, et al. (Wrox, 2008). The focus here is on how you can extend ASP.NET applications to update portio