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Writing ALP application

How to write an application for ALP? Following the beginner samples from the ALP package you can learn how to use the ASP pages to perform tasks and how to combine the pages together to form an application. Let us examine this application building process as if the application is something substantial that would need all the major ALP application structural elements mentioned in the "Configure ALP" chapter.

Creating the structure

On a WEB server (IIS for instance) creating a virtual site (virtual WEB server) for each application can be expensive as effort and may even cost additional expenses for DNS name, for an IP and so on. With ALP it is a matter of a few mouse clicks in a folder and does not involve configuration of external servers (such as DNS), nor adds any costs. Thus in ALP each application can afford its own virtual ALP site. Only a reason related to the actual application functionality makes it sensible to combine more than one applications in a single Virtual ALP site if it would bring some benefits to the applications.

Thus the first step is to create a virtual ALP site. We can start by creating a directory for our application - let it be c:\myapp. 

Right click in the folder window to invoke the Windows Explorer's context menu. There are 3 items added by the ALP Shell extensions. We need the ALP Settings which will open the ALP Settings dialog for that folder. In that dialog we can click Create new virtual ALP site in the current directory:

This will create a virtual ALP site and we will see that an file appears in the folder:

With this we have the basic structure, because the virtual ALP site implicitly implies that an ALP Application begins in its root directory and that application will use the ALP default settings which are good for the most applications.

Now is time to start with the application, we may need to set additional ALP settings for it, but it will become clear what we might need as we progress, thus we will not add more settings for now.

A typical ALP application would need a global.asa file to initialize certain application wide variables, set default values and so on. For the sake of the example we will assume we are creating an application that uses SQLite COM database. Suppose the application uses single database and almost every page we are going to write will execute some queries on it. Obviously we will make our work easier if we can open this database once - when the application starts and use it from all the pages without additional efforts. This means we will need the SQLite COM object initialized in the global.asa. What else? We look in the documentation to see what other objects we will need almost permanently. One obvious candidate is the StringUtilities object which will help us create the queries we will execute over the database. So let's compose a global.asa that will do this for us:

  Sub Application_OnStart
    g_db.Open Server.MapPath("/mydb.db")
    g_db.AutoType = True
    g_db.TypeInfoLevel = 4
  End Sub

We open the database file and we set general behavior parameters to the database object. These parameters will cause it to convert the returned results to their COM compatible types and report maximum type information for each field returned by a query. We specify the path to the database file using Server.MapPath to ensure it will always map in the root of our virtual ALP site. Now we must save this as global.asa file and create the database and design its structure using the SQLite Database Manager (we will skip this step for brevity):

The global.asa file we just created will do a very important thing for us - it will extend the ASP object model with the objects we defined there. Note the ID attributes in bold - they define the variable names under which we will be able to access the objects we created from any ASP page in the application. The SCOPE attribute states that these objects have application scope which means their lifetime will be the lifetime of our application instance.

We are not going in this page to create a fully functional application, but lets put some flesh over the application skeleton. Assume we have a table named Clients in the database. Lets create a page that lists them and put it into the application:


    <table border="1">
      <th valign="top" nowrap>Name</th>
      <th valign="top" nowrap>Email</th>
      Set r = g_db.Execute("SELECT * FROM Clients ORDER BY Name")
      For I = 1 To r.Count
      <td valign="top"><%= r(I)("Name") %></td>
      <td valign="top"><%= r(I)("Email") %></td>


Now we save this let say as list.asp. If we enter some data in the table using the SQLite Database manager we can start the page to see it working. We can use the ALP Shell extensions again:

Right click the saved file and choose Open with ALP in ALPFrame. The page will show something like this (depending on what has been entered into the table):

Notice how the page uses the database without initializing the object - it is already opened in the global.asa file. In such an application we would need pages that will add/change the database. We will limit ourselves in this example to a very simple insert page:

  <title>Insert client</title>

  <FORM METHOD="POST" ACTION="<%= Request.ServerVariables("SCRIPT_NAME") %>">
   Name <input NAME="Name" type="text" size="20"><br>
   Email <input NAME="Email" type="text" size="20"><br>
   <input type="SUBMIT" value="Insert">
     If Request.ServerVariables("REQUEST_METHOD") = "POST" Then
       qry = g_su.Sprintf("INSERT INTO Clients (Name,Email) VALUES (%q,%q)", _
       g_db.Execute qry
     End If
   <A HREF="list.asp">To the list</A>


We can save it as insert.asp and run it to add some new entries and go the the list.asp page to see them. As in the other page we do not need to use Server.CreateObject yet - the most needed objects are already created in the global.asa file.

Continuing with the application we will certainly need more objects and not all of them will be common for the entire application. Therefore in some pages we will use Server.CreateObject to create them only where they are needed. We may find out that some more objects can be placed in our global.asa, that we may need some application specific settings and so on.

Of course this will depend on what exactly we are going to do. We will complete this page by adding a default.htm page which will provide the user with links to the pages we created above and serves as application entrance. This is a good opportunity to demonstrate how the unattended execution protection can be turned on. Our default.htm page is obviously harmless - it is a HTML page and cannot do any harm to the system, but we have that insert.asp page that adds data to the database and perhaps in the process we will add more such pages and some of them may perform even more critical operations (for example import/export files). This makes it sensible to turn on the unattended execution protection. To do so we go again to the ALP Settings shell extension (see the beginning), but we click on Set specific settings for this directory this time.

In the following dialog we check the Prevent unattended execution checkbox and we update the settings.

Finally our directory looks now like this:

Now when the application is entered by double clicking the file or from an especially created shortcut pointing to it, or by an URL pointing the directory (alp://c:/myapp) or the default.htm (alp://c:/myapp/default.htm) everything will be ok. But if by any chance the application is started by an URL that points another file (for example - alp://c:/myapp/list.asp or alp://c:/myapp/insert.asp) ALP will show an error message like this one:

Thus ALP will forbid the execution of these pages unless the application is entered through a default document. The default documents are configured in the same dialog where is the Prevent unattended execution option. We can configure single such file or more than one, in any case we must ensure none of them performs potentially harmful operations. This simple mechanism ensures that the user has actually entered the application and that a page from the application is not invoked by a trap put by a malicious user (for example link in an online page). If the application is highly sensitive the developer can go further and use more of the ALP protection features.

Progressing with the application we may need to set some specific settings for the ASP processor - to do so we enter the ALP Settings as before and go to the Application settings area, then we edit the .asp and may be also the.asa file extension settings if the feature is needed in the both regular ASP pages and the global.asa. If this is an application that will be distributed and we have a developer license we enter the virtual ALP site settings dialog again and import the license from the template file received after the purchase.

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