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Razor view engine vs ASPX view engines in ASP.NET. Which is best?

Updated: Apr 7, 2023

When it comes to developing web applications in ASP.NET, developers have two main options for creating views: Razor view engine and ASPX view engine. Both of these view engines offer a powerful set of tools for building dynamic web pages, but they have some key differences that can impact which one is the best fit for your project. In this article, we'll explore the differences between the Razor view engine and the ASPX view engine, and highlight the unique features of each.


What is Razor View Engine?

Razor view engine is a markup syntax that allows developers to create dynamic web pages by combining C# code with HTML markup in a single file. It was introduced in ASP.NET Web Pages 1.0, and later became the default view engine in ASP.NET MVC and ASP.NET Core. Razor views are compiled at runtime, which means that they can be modified and updated without the need for a full recompilation of the application. The syntax is designed to be easy to read and write, with a focus on minimizing the amount of code required to achieve a desired result. Razor views also support the use of layout pages, which allow developers to define a common layout for multiple views.


The Razor view engine works by allowing developers to create views that combine C# code with HTML markup. These views are compiled at runtime, which means that they can be updated and modified without requiring a full recompilation of the application.


Here's a step-by-step overview of how the Razor view engine works:

  1. The developer creates a view file using the Razor syntax. This file contains HTML markup as well as inline C# code that can be used to dynamically generate content.

  2. When the application is run, the Razor view engine compiles the view file into a class that inherits from the System.Web.Mvc.WebViewPage class. This class contains all of the logic necessary to render the view.

  3. When the view is requested by the user, the Razor view engine instantiates an instance of the compiled view class and passes it the necessary data. This data might include information about the user's session, database queries, or other dynamic content.

  4. The view class then uses the Razor syntax to generate HTML markup based on the data that was passed to it. This markup is sent back to the user's browser as a response to their request.

  5. If the user interacts with the page (for example, by clicking a button), the Razor view engine can be used to handle the resulting request and generate a new view based on the updated data.


What is ASPX View Engine?

The ASPX view engine is a markup syntax used to create views in ASP.NET web applications. It uses a combination of HTML and server-side controls to create dynamic web pages. The ASPX view engine was the default view engine for ASP.NET Web Forms applications prior to the introduction of the Razor view engine.


The syntax used in ASPX pages is similar to HTML, with the addition of server-side controls that are processed on the server before being rendered in the client's web browser. These controls allow for the dynamic generation of content, such as displaying data from a database, processing user input, and creating interactive user interfaces.


The ASPX view engine works by converting an ASPX page into a class file that inherits from the Page class, compiling it into an assembly, and generating HTML output during the page lifecycle. The ASPX view engine relies on server-side code to process user input and generate HTML output, making it a powerful tool for building dynamic web applications.


Here's a step-by-step overview of how the ASPX view engine works:

  1. When a user requests a page from the web server, the server checks to see if it is an ASPX page.

  2. If the page is an ASPX page, the server uses the ASP.NET runtime to process the page.

  3. The ASPX page is parsed and converted into a class file that inherits from the Page class in the System.Web.UI namespace.

  4. The class file is compiled into an assembly and loaded into memory.

  5. The page lifecycle begins, starting with the Init event, followed by the Load event, and ends with the Unload event.

  6. During the page lifecycle, the ASPX view engine generates HTML output by processing server-side code, such as server controls and data-binding expressions, and combining it with the markup in the ASPX page.

  7. The resulting HTML is sent back to the user's browser as a response to their request.

  8. If the user interacts with the page, such as by clicking a button or submitting a form, the ASP.NET runtime processes the user's input and triggers the appropriate server-side events.

  9. The page lifecycle begins again, and the ASPX view engine generates a new HTML output based on the current state of the page.

  10. The process continues until the user leaves the page or the session times out.


The Difference: Razor View Engine vs ASPX View Engine

Factor

Razor View Engine

ASPX View Engine

Syntax

Razor views use a combination of HTML markup and inline C# code to create dynamic content. The Razor syntax is designed to be lightweight and easy to read, with a focus on minimizing the amount of code required to achieve the desired result.

ASPX views use a syntax that is more similar to HTML, with the addition of server-side controls that are processed on the server before being rendered in the client's web browser. These controls allow for dynamic generation of content, but can make ASPX views more complex to work with than Razor views.

Readability

Razor view engine is considered as more readable because it allows you to write more compact code that is easier to read and maintain.

ASPX view engine is difficult to read as compared to Razor view engine

Performance

Razor views are compiled at runtime, which means that they can be updated and modified without requiring a full recompilation of the application. This makes it easy to make changes to a Razor view and see the results immediately.

ASPX views, on the other hand, are compiled into executable code on the server. This makes them fast and efficient for serving dynamic content but can make them more difficult to modify or update. Changes to an ASPX view require a full recompilation of the application, which can take more time and resources.

Code Reusability

Razor view engine promotes code reusability through the use of partial views. Partial views are reusable components that can be shared across multiple views.

ASPX view engine allows code reusability through the use of user controls. User controls are reusable components that can be shared across multiple pages

Flexibility

It allows for inline C# code, developers have more flexibility to create complex logic and dynamic content.

It offers a wider variety of server-side controls that can be used to create complex user interfaces.

Support

Razor views also support the use of layout pages, which allow developers to define a common layout for multiple views. This can be particularly useful when working on large web applications with many pages.

It offers better support for legacy applications, as they have been around for longer and are more widely used in existing ASP.NET Web Forms applications.

Debugging

It is easy to debug the code as the code and markup are separated more clearly. This make it easier to pinpoint the errors and identify problems in the code.

It is difficult to debug the code in ASPX view engine

Client-side rendering

Razor views can be rendered client-side using JavaScript frameworks like Angular or React, which allows for more flexibility and control over the rendering process.

ASPX views, on the other hand, are typically rendered server-side.

MVC Framework

Razor view engine is the default view engine for ASP.NET MVC applications, which provides a powerful framework for building web applications with a model-view-controller architecture.

ASPX view engine, on the other hand, is more commonly used in ASP.NET Web Forms applications.

IntelliSense

Razor view engine provides IntelliSense support in Visual Studio, which can help developers write code more quickly and accurately.

ASPX view engine does not provide the same level of IntelliSense support.

Page Lifecycle

Razor view engine has simple page lifecycle.

ASPX view engine has a more complex page lifecycle compared to Razor view engine. This can make it more difficult to understand how changes to the view will affect the page as a whole.

Performance optimizations

Razor view engine provides additional performance optimizations such as precompiled views and view compilation mode, which can improve the performance of web applications.

ASPX view engine does not offer these same performance optimizations.

Layouts

Razor view engine supports layouts, which allow developers to define a common structure for pages and reuse it across multiple views. This can make it easier to maintain a consistent look and feel across an application.

ASPX view engine also supports master pages, which serve a similar purpose but may be less flexible than Razor layouts.

Testing

Razor view engine can be easier to unit test compared to ASPX view engine, as it uses plain C# code that can be tested with common testing frameworks.

ASPX view engine, on the other hand, may require more complex setup and integration testing due to its dependence on the ASP.NET runtime.

Compatibility

Razor view engine is not backward compatible with older versions of ASP.NET, which may be a consideration for developers who need to maintain legacy applications.

ASPX view engine, on the other hand, has been part of ASP.NET since its early days and is widely supported across different versions.

Tooling support

Razor view engine has robust tooling support in Visual Studio and other IDEs, including features like syntax highlighting, IntelliSense, and code refactoring

ASPX view engine also has good tooling support, but may not offer the same level of functionality as Razor.

Conclusion

Both Razor and ASPX view engines have their own strengths and weaknesses, and developers should choose the one that best suits the needs of their project. By understanding the differences between these two options, developers can make an informed decision about which view engine to use for their web application.

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