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Intro to Atlas: The Road to Effortless AJAX Begins Here

There's no reason to get lost with Atlas, Microsoft's framework for building fast, responsive AJAX-enabled Web apps. Get your bearings by following along as we build two introductory applications: a calendar and a content portal.

he phrase AJAX is getting all the attention lately. By now, you should already be familiar with the term, but for those of you still in the dark, AJAX represents techniques to build responsive and feature-rich Web applications. Instead of constantly waiting for web pages to refresh, AJAX-enabled Web sites dynamically update portions of the pages, thus providing a much more responsive user experience to the user. What's more, with AJAX you can now develop feature-rich applications through the Web browser. Just take a look at http://local.live.com/ and http://spreadsheets.google.com/ to experience the wonders of AJAX.

While the technologies AJAX uses are all in the public domain (XML, HTTP and Javascript), developers would be more efficient with the help of a ready framework with which to get started. Not surprisingly, Microsoft has been working on just such a framework—called Atlas (http://atlas.asp.net/ ). To be more specific, Atlas is a free framework that allows ASP.NET 2.0 developers to build AJAX-style Web applications.

In this article, I will show you how you can use Atlas to build responsive Web applications and vastly improved user interfaces. As usual, I will walk you through a case study, and hopefully get you jumpstarted on Atlas programming.

What You Need
To use Atlas, you need the following:

*Microsoft Visual Studio 2005, or Visual Web Developer
*Atlas Setup—At the moment, the latest version of Atlas is the April CTP. Download the latest CTP from http://atlas.asp.net/default.aspx?tabid=47&subtabid=471.

AJAX (and in this case, Atlas) programming generally involves using client-side scripts (such as JavaScript) to dynamically modify the content of a page or to send data asynchronously to and from the Web server. To ease the development effort, the Atlas architecture contains two main components:

  1. Client components—a set of client script libraries (.js files) that define a layered approach for creating client-based applications.
  2. Server components—server-based components, services, and controls that can be integrated with 'Atlas' client scripts.

This article will focus on the Atlas server components.

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