Ajax Portal using VS 2008 and .NET 3.5
I have built an Ajax Web Portal (just like Sharepoint or Google
IG) using Linq to SQL, Linq to XML, Workflow Foundation and ASP.NET
AJAX 3.5. Although it's no where close to any real Portal, but it
works as a great example to show how web applications can implement
a widget enabled architecture just like Sharepoint. It also
showcases how these hot technologies can play together in a
complete web application.
Full source code is in Visual Studio 2008 using .NET 3.0 and
Code Project article that explains the architecture and
- ASP.NET 3.5
- ASP.NET AJAX (.NET 3.5)
- Linq to Sql
- Linq to Xml
- Workflow Foundation (.NET 3.0)
- Visual Studio 2008 and SQL Server 2005
What is an AJAX Portal
A portal refers to a page that allows users to customize
their own homepage by dragging and dropping
widgets onto the page. This approach gives users complete
control over what content they see on their Start Page, where they
want to see it, and how they want to interact with it.
A widget is a discrete piece on a Web page that performs a
particular function and comes with its own UI and set of features.
Examples of widgets include a to-do-list, an address book, a
contact list, an RSS feed, or even a clock, calendar, playlist,
stock ticker, weather report, traffic report, dictionary, game, or
almost anything you can imagine that can be packaged up and dropped
on a Web page. In a corporate environment, widgets can connect to
internal systems, such as an Expense Tracker widget that interacts
directly with the internal Accounting System. If you are familiar
with Sharepoint Portal, then you already know about Widgets. They
are called Web parts in Sharepoint’s term and also in ASP.NET
Portals are powerful RSS aggregation platform. You can put as
many RSS widgets as you like on your page and get fresh content
delivered to you as soon as it is published.
An Ajax-powered portal is specifically a portal that uses
Ajax technologies to create richer experiences for its users. It is
one step ahead of previous generation portals like My Yahoo or
MSN.com, because it gives you state-of-the-art UI that behaves more
like a Windows client application -- with widgets, animations,
popups, client side data grids, and other effects not usually found
on a non-Ajax Web portal.
How to run the project
- Install Visual Studio 2008 (VS 2005 won't work)
- Install SQL Server 2005
- Download latest code from
- Restore the database from database\dashboard.zip
- Update web.config from the web project and set proper
- Build and Run
How is ASP.NET AJAX used in this project?
It is an N-tier application, with a user interface (UI)
layer, a business layer, and a data access layer. I have used
ASP.NET AJAX to implement the UI layer of the portal application
which includes the homepage and the widgets’ UI. ASP.NET AJAX
provides the framework for loading widgets onto the Start page,
updating widgets without doing any postbacks (via
UpdatePanel), and changing page layout by dragging and
dropping widgets on the page. It also provides a rich collection of
Control Extenders, that add cool effects like fade in/fade out,
smooth transitions, and client side animations . You can add to the
rich client-side experience by providing auto-completion behavior
on text boxes, asynchronous data loading via webservice calls, and
client-side paging, sorting and many more.
How is .NET 3.5 used in this project
The business layer of the application is built with the
Workflow Foundation in .NET 3.0 . Major operations like a
first-time user visit, a subsequent user visit, adding a new
widget, and creating a new page are all orchestrated using workflow
. The workflows contain all the business rules and activities
needed to complete each operation. For example, the "New User
Visit" workflow creates the user account, populates the user
profile with default values, creates some default pages, populates
them with specific widgets, etc. Such compound operations are very
easy to build with Workflows , which enables you to break the
complete workflow operation into smaller chunks named Activities.
Each Activity does a very small amount of work. It talks to the
data access layer and performs the task. The data access layer is
built with .NET 3.5 , utilizing LINQ to SQL .
The web project and the widgets make good use of .NET 3.5 by
utilizing lambda expressions , LINQ to SQL, and LINQ to XML. You
will use Linq queries to work with collections and database rows.
Widgets make good use of Linq to Xml in order to consume XML from
external data sources.
The above figure shows an workflow that creates the default
homepage for a new user.
You are invited to participate in continued development of the
project. If you want to develop widgets, you can download the code,
develop the widget offline and then send me the widget related
files. I will put them up on the production site. If you want to
participate in core development, let me know and I will make you a
developer on the codeplex project. Then you can check out code,
work on it and then check in when you are done.
Warning: Dropthings.com is a very simple, open-source example of
what can be done with AJAX and Microsoft technologies. It is
intended for educational purposes only. Dropthings.com has
absolutely nothing to do with pageflakes.com, and has no code or
technology in common. Trust me, you could not possibly build
a product as advanced, scalable and complex as Pageflakes using the
examples here, and you’d be insane to try :-) But this
project does a good job to show you how all these technologies work
together in a working web application.