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VBScript: Javascript Made Easy

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VBScript is a web language for inserting into HTML documents. It’s a lot like Java, but is easier to write thanks to its Visual Basic-like code.

Is It Really Easier?

Well, it’s largely a matter of personal preference, and what you’re used to. If you’re an experienced programmer, you’ll probably think that VBScript is a joke, and prefer Javascript. If you’re not, though, VBScript’s English-like code can make things clearer and quicker when you’re writing scripts. For example, compare this code for an if/then/else condition.

Javascript:

if (a == 1) { alert(“a”); } else if (b == 1) { alert(“b”); } else { alert(“z”); }

VBScript:

if a=1 then msgbox “a” elseif b=1 then msgbox “b” else msgbox “c” end if

See what I mean? This is a pretty representative sample of the differences (a ‘for’ block would provide a more extreme example). To put it simply, Javascript looks ‘code-like’, with all kinds of brackets and semicolons all over the place – and it’s all-too-easy to forget one. VBScript, on the other hand, is designed to be more human, and closer to natural language. While its approach is less flexible for complicated operations, it’s much quicker for simpler ones.

Useful VBScript Functions

Here are a few of the functions VBScript has that you’ll be wishing you could use in Javascript.

DateDiff. Works out the difference between two dates – this is a nightmare in most programming languages.

FormatCurrency. Takes a number and formats it as whatever currency you want.

InStr. Looks for some text in a string, and stops when it finds it. Useful for including text up to a special ‘stop’ phrase.

Split. Divides some text up into an array depending on where a certain character is (similar to PHP’s explode command, and just as useful).

Replace. Lets you look through some text and replace every instance of a certain character or phrase.

Apart from this, VBScript offers quite a few of Javascript’s functions. Even though that’s useful, it can sometimes make you feel like you’re just writing Javascript in an odd way – the same way that doing anything complex with desktop Visual Basic gradually seems to turn into writing a kind of C with a slightly different layout. If you keep things simple, though, VBScript is good at what it does.

So What’s the Catch?

Well, the catch is a big one. Pages written using VBScript won’t work in any web browser other than Internet Explorer – it’s Microsoft’s own language, and no-one else supports it. For better or for worst, the web has long since standardised on Javascript. This unfortunate fact means that, for use on the web, you’re pretty much stuck with Javascript, unless you want to alienate many of your visitors, or your scripting isn’t essential for your site to work. This is the number one reason why you hardly ever see any VBScript anywhere on the web.

If you’re writing web pages to go on a corporate intranet or some other environment where you have control over how users access the site, however, VBScript can make your life considerably easier. You might also consider using it if you’ve written Javascript that works in every browser except Internet Explorer, as just using VBScript for one or two things can save you playing around with lengthy workarounds.

An Alternative Way of Doing Things

If Javascript intimidates you and you’d really like to use VBScript, but you want your site to work on as many web browsers as possible, there is a solution! VBScript and Javascript that there are converters freely available to translate between them – a good one is at http://slingfive.com/pages/code/scriptConverter/, but there are plenty more. You can simply write your scripts in VBScript and then run them through the translator to turn them into cross-browser Javascript, without having to write a word of Javascript!

Even better, once you’ve got the two versions of the script side by side, you can compare them, and start to learn how things are done in Javascript. Before long, you’ll be writing it with no trouble.

Information supplied and written by Lee Asher of Eclipse Domain Services

Domain Names, Hosting, Traffic and Email Solutions.

VBScript: Javascript Made Easy
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