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Walkthrough: Creating a Web Site with Membership and User Login

A common requirement for Web sites is to allow only some members or other authenticated users to see certain pages. In that case, the application must prompt the user for a name and password. The application must also include a way to hide information from anonymous users (users who are not logged in). This walkthrough shows you how to use ASP.NET controls and ASP.NET membership services to create an application that performs all these tasks. For more information, see Introduction to Membership.

Tasks illustrated in this walkthrough include:

  • Configuring an application to include ASP.NET membership services, and how to define users.

  • Using login controls to get user credentials and to display information to logged-in users.

  • Protecting one or more pages in your application so that only logged-in users can view them.

  • Allowing new users to register at your site.

  • Allowing members to change and reset their passwords.

In order to complete this walkthrough, you will need:

  • Microsoft Visual Web Developer.

  • Microsoft Internet Information Services (IIS) installed locally on your computer.

  • SQL Server Express Edition installed locally on your computer.

  • Access to an e-mail server that can forward e-mail messages. (The server does not have to be able to receive messages.) IIS includes the Default SMTP virtual server, a mail server that is suitable for this walkthrough. For more information about configuring this server, see How to: Install and Configure SMTP Virtual Servers in IIS 6.0. If you are working on a local area network, check with your network administrator for information about access to an e-mail server.

If you have already created a Web site in Microsoft Visual Studio (for example, by working with the topic Walkthrough: Creating a Basic Web Page in Visual Web Developer ), you can use that Web site and skip to "Configuring Membership" later in this walkthrough. Otherwise, create a new Web site and page by following these steps.

To create a local IIS Web site

  1. Open Visual Studio.

  2. On the File menu, click New Web Site.

    The New Web Site dialog box appears.

  3. Under Visual Studio installed templates, select ASP.NET Web Site.

  4. In the Location list box, select HTTP. Click Browse.

    The Choose Location dialog box appears.

  5. Select Local IIS.

  6. Open Local Web Servers.

  7. Select Default Web Site.

  8. Click the Create New Web Application icon (Create New Web Application Button) above the list of Web sites and then name the new Web site membership.

  9. Click Open.

    The Choose Location dialog box closes.

  10. In the Languages box, click the programming language you prefer to work in.

    The programming language you choose will be the default for your Web site, but you can set the programming languages for each page individually.

  11. Click OK in the New Web Site dialog box.

    Visual Web Developer creates the Web site and a new page named Default.aspx.

Later in this walkthrough you will put pages into a subdirectory that is protected. You must create the subdirectory now so that you can configure security for it later in the walkthrough.

To add a new folder to the Web site

  1. In Solution Explorer, right-click the name of your Web site and click New Folder.

  2. Name the folder MemberPages.

Before you work with ASP.NET membership, you must configure your application to enable membership and to set up users. You can use the Web Site Administration tool, which provides a wizard-like interface for making configuration settings. When you complete the Setup Wizard, a SQL Server database named ASPNETDB.MDF is created in the App_Data folder of the project. For more information, see Configuring an ASP.NET Application to Use Membership.

For this walkthrough, you will define a single user.

To create a membership user

  1. On the Website menu, click ASP.NET Configuration.

  2. Select the Security tab, click the link to Use the security Setup Wizard to configure security step by step, and then click Next.

  3. Proceed to Step 2 of the wizard and select the From the Internet option.

    The wizard displays a page where you can select the authentication method that your Web site will use. This option specifies that your application will use Forms authentication, where users will log in to the application using a login page that you will create later in this walkthrough.

  4. Click Next.

    The wizard displays a message stating that user information will be stored using Advanced provider settings. By default, membership information is stored in a Microsoft SQL Server Express database file in the App_Data folder of your Web site.

  5. Click Next.

    The wizard displays an option to create roles. You will perform this step separately later in the walkthrough.

  6. Clear the Enable roles for this web site check box, and then click Next.

    The wizard displays a page where you can create new users.

  7. Enter information that defines a user of your application. Use the following values as guidelines (you can use any values that you like, but be sure to note your entries for later in the walkthrough):

    • User Name   Your name (with no spaces), or a sample name.

    • Password   A password. A strong password is required (one that includes uppercase and lowercase letters, punctuation, and that is at least eight characters long).

    • E-mail   Your personal e-mail address. Later in the walkthrough you will send yourself an e-mail message, so you need a legitimate e-mail address.

    • Security Question and Security Answer   Type a question and answer that can be used later if you need to recover your password.

  8. Click Create User.

    The wizard displays a confirmation page.

    NoteNote:

    Leave the Web Site Administration tool open.

Earlier in the walkthrough you created a folder named MemberPages. In this part of the walkthrough, you will create a rule that makes sure that only logged-in users can access pages in that folder.

To set up access rules for the MemberPages subdirectory

  1. In the wizard, click Next.

    The wizard displays a page that allows you to create access rules.

  2. In the Add New Access Rule box, expand the node for your Web site.

  3. Select MemberPages, the folder you created earlier.

  4. Under Rule applies to, select Anonymous users.

  5. Under Permission, select Deny.

    The rule you are creating denies access to anonymous users — that is, users who have not logged in.

  6. Click Add This Rule.

    The new rule is displayed in the grid below. When users request a page from the MemberPages subdirectory, the rules are checked to determine whether the user is allowed access to the page.

  7. Click Finish.

    You are now done with the wizard. The wizard closes and you are returned to the Security tab of the Web Site Administration tool.

For part of this walkthrough, the application needs to be able to send e-mail messages. To send messages, your application must have access to a Simple Mail Transport Protocol (SMTP) server, which forwards e-mail messages from your application to an e-mail recipient.

IIS includes the Default SMTP virtual server as an optional component, which is suitable for this walkthrough. For more information about configuring this server, see How to: Install and Configure SMTP Virtual Servers in IIS 6.0. If you are working on a local area network, check with your network administrator for information about access to an e-mail server.

After you have set up or determined how to access an SMTP server, you must configure your application to route e-mail messages to that server. You can do so by making an entry in your Web site's Web.config file, which contains a series of settings that determine how your application runs.

To configure the application to use a specific SMTP server

  1. In the Web Site Administration tool, click the Application tab.

  2. Under SMTP Settings, click Configure SMTP e-mail settings.

    The tool displays a page where you can configure e-mail.

  3. If you are using the SMTP virtual server that is on your computer, enter localhost as the Server Name; otherwise, enter the appropriate server name.

    Include information for the port number and for authentication according to the requirements of your SMTP server. See your administrator for more information on how to configure these settings.

  4. In the From box, type a valid e-mail address.

  5. Click Save, and in the confirmation page, click OK.

    The Web Site Administration tool creates a Web.config file (if one did not already exist) with the settings you have made.

    NoteNote:

    The Web.config file will not appear in Solution Explorer until you refresh the view.

  6. Close the Web Site Administration tool.

As part of your application, you need to establish the user's identity so that the application can perform actions — such as showing or hiding information — based on who the user is. To get the user's identity, you have the user log in.

In this walkthrough, you will add a link on the home page that takes users to a login page, and then you will create the login page.

To create a home page with a login button

  1. Open or switch to the Default.aspx page of your site. (If you do not have a Default.aspx page, you can add one or use a different page.)

  2. Switch to Design view.

  3. Type static text such as Welcome to our site and, in the Formatting toolbar, use the Block Format drop-down list to format the text as Heading 1.

  4. From the Login group of the Toolbox, drag a LoginStatus control onto the page.

By default, the LoginStatus control is rendered as a link. When users click it, the application displays a login page. You can now create the login page.

To create a login page

  1. In Solution Explorer, right-click your Web application and select Add New Item. Add a Web Form named Login.aspx to your site.

    NoteNote:

    For this walkthrough, the page must be named Login.aspx. By default, forms authentication is configured to work with a page with this name. Although you will not do so in this walkthrough, you can change the default login page — the page to which users are redirected — in the Web.config file.

  2. In the Login.aspx page, switch to Design view.

  3. From the Login group of the Toolbox, drag a Login control onto the page.

    The Login control is a single control that will prompt the user for credentials and validate them.

Displaying Login Errors

The Login control includes validation to help users enter correct information. For example, if a user skips the password, a validator control displays an asterisk (*) next to the Password box. You can provide more complete information for login errors by adding a ValidationSummary control to the page.

To display detailed login errors

  1. From the Validation group of the Toolbox, drag a ValidationSummary control onto the page.

  2. In the Properties window for the ValidationSummary control, set the ValidationGroup property to Login1, which is the default ID of the Login control you added previously.

Displaying Information for Logged-In Users

You will now modify the home page to customize the display depending on whether the user is logged in. Anonymous users will see a generic message inviting them to log in. Logged-in users will see a message that welcomes them by their logged-in name.

To customize the display for logged-in users

  1. Switch to or open the Default.aspx page.

  2. From the Login group of the Toolbox, drag a LoginView control onto the page.

    The LoginView control is displayed with its AnonymousTemplate template open. This template allows you to define the content that users will see before they have logged in.

  3. Click the edit area of the LoginView control to activate editing.

  4. In the edit area of the LoginView control's AnonymousTemplate template, type You are not logged in. Click the Login link to sign in.

  5. On the LoginView Tasks panel, in the Views list, click LoggedInTemplate. If you do not see the LoginView Tasks panel, right-click the heading of the LoginView control and select Show Smart Tag.

    You are now defining the content that will be displayed to users who have already logged in.

  6. Click the edit area of the LoginView control to activate editing, and then type You are logged in. Welcome,.

  7. From the Login group of the Toolbox, drag a LoginName control into the template after the text.

Testing Login

You can now test the login capability of your application.

To test login

  1. In Solution Explorer, right-click Default.aspx and click Set As Start Page.

    This configures the Web site so that when you run the site, the Default.aspx page appears first.

  2. Press CTRL+F5 to run the Web site.

    The home page (Default.aspx) appears in the browser, showing the Login link and the generic message.

  3. Click the Login link.

    The login page you created is displayed.

  4. Type the login name of the user you created earlier in the walkthrough, and then click Log In. (Do not yet enter a password.)

    An asterisk (*) is displayed next to the Password box, and an error message is displayed in the ValidationSummary control.

  5. Type both a user name and password and then click Log In.

    If you entered correct credentials, you are returned to the home page. The page now displays a Logout link, your user name, and the welcome message that you defined for the logged-in user.

  6. Close the browser.

A typical task in many Web sites is to configure pages so that only logged-in users can view the pages. Earlier in the walkthrough, you created the MemberPages subdirectory and created a rule that limits access to pages in the subdirectory. In this section of the walkthrough, you will add a page to the protected subdirectory and test the access rule.

To create the members-only page

  1. In Solution Explorer, right-click the MemberPages folder, click Add New Item, and add a new Web Form named Members.aspx.

    NoteNote:

    Be sure to create the page in the MemberPages folder.

  2. In Design view, add text to the page, such as Welcome, members! The exact text does not matter, as long as you will be able to recognize this page when you see it in the browser.

You can now add a link to the members-only page from the home page. In a real application, you would probably put the members-only page link in the logged-in template of the LoginView control. That way, visitors to your site would not see the link until they were logged in. For this walkthrough, however, you will make the link available to all users so that you can see the effect of trying to view a members-only page without first logging in.

To add a link to the members-only page

  1. Switch to or open the Default.aspx page.

  2. From the Standard group of the Toolbox, drag a HyperLink control onto the page.

  3. In the Properties window for the HyperLink control, set the Text property to Members page and the NavigateUrl property to ~/MemberPages/Members.aspx to point to the page that you created previously.

Testing the Members-Only Page

You can test the members-only page by accessing it both as an anonymous user and a logged-in user.

To test the members-only page

  1. Press CTRL+F5 to run the Web site.

  2. When the Default.aspx page appears in the browser, do not log in. Instead, click the Members page link.

    You are redirected to the Login.aspx page because access to the members page is denied for anonymous users.

  3. In the login page, type the user name and password that you used earlier in the walkthrough to log in.

    You are redirected to the Members.aspx page because the user name you are logged in as has been authorized to access the page.

  4. Close the browser window.

In the first part of the walkthrough, you created a user with the Web Site Administration tool. That strategy is useful if you are working with a small, defined list of users; for example, if you are creating users for a small team. In many Web sites, however, users are allowed to register themselves. ASP.NET includes the CreateUserWizard control that performs the same task you performed earlier using the Web Site Administration tool.

In this part of the walkthrough, you will add a facility that allows users to register on your Web site. To start, you will create a registration page.

To create a registration page

  1. In Solution Explorer, right-click the name of your Web site, click Add New Item, and add a new Web Form named Register.aspx.

    NoteNote:

    Be sure to create the page in the root of the Web site, not in the MemberPages folder.

  2. In the Register.aspx page, switch to Design view and type static text such as Register into the page. In the Formatting toolbar, use the Block Format drop-down list to format the text as Heading 1.

  3. From the Login group of the Toolbox, drag a CreateUserWizard control onto the page.

  4. In the Properties window for the CreateUserWizard control, set the ContinueDestinationPageUrl property to ~/Default.aspx.

    This configures the control so that when users click Continue after creating a user, the control returns to the home page.

  5. From the Standard group of the Toolbox, drag a HyperLink control onto the page. In the Properties window for the HyperLink control, set the Text property to Home and the NavigateUrl property to ~/Default.aspx.

You can now add a link to the home page that displays the registration page. For this walkthrough, assume that you want to display the registration link only to users who are not logged in.

To create a registration link on the home page

  1. Switch to or open the Default.aspx page.

  2. Right-click the LoginView control added previously, and select Show Smart Tag. In the LoginView Tasks panel, select AnonymousTemplate from the Views list box to activate editing in the anonymous template.

  3. From the Standard group of the Toolbox, drag a HyperLink control into the anonymous template. In the Properties window for the HyperLink control, set the Text property to Register and the NavigateUrl property to Register.aspx. The Register link will be displayed only to users who are not logged in.

You can now test the registration process.

To test registration

  1. Press CTRL+F5 to run the Web site and display the Default.aspx page.

    Because you are not logged in, the page containing the Register link is displayed.

  2. Click the Register link.

    The registration page is displayed.

  3. In the text boxes, enter a new user name, a strong password, an e-mail address, and a security question and answer. (All five pieces of information are required.)

  4. Click Create User.

    A confirmation message is displayed.

  5. Click the Continue button.

    You are returned to the home page as a logged-in user. Note that the Login link has changed to Logout and that the information displayed in the Login control is from the LoggedInTemplate property, not from the AnonymousTemplate property.

  6. Click the Logout link.

    The page changes to display the information for anonymous users.

  7. Click the Login link.

  8. Enter the credentials for the user you just created.

    You are logged in as the new user.

  9. Close the browser window.

Users sometimes might want to change their passwords, and it is often impractical to perform this task by hand. You can therefore use another ASP.NET control to allow users to change passwords on their own. To change a password, users must know their existing password.

In this walkthrough, you will add a page where logged-in users can change their password.

To create a password-change page

  1. In Solution Explorer, right-click the MemberPages folder, click Add New Item, and add a new Web Form named ChangePassword.aspx.

    NoteNote:

    Be sure to create the page in the MemberPages folder.

    You are putting the page in the members-only folder because only logged-in users can change their passwords.

  2. In the ChangePassword.aspx page, switch to Design view and type static text such as Change Password. In the Formatting toolbar, use the Block Format drop-down list to format the text as Heading 1.

  3. From the Login group of the Toolbox, drag a ChangePassword control onto the page.

  4. In the Properties window for the ChangePassword control, set ContinueDestinationPageUrl property to ~/Default.aspx.

  5. This configures the control so that when users click Continue after changing a password, the control returns to the home page.

You can now add a link to the home page that displays the password-change page. You will make the link available only to users who are logged in.

To create a password-change link on the home page

  1. Switch to or open the Default.aspx page.

  2. Right-click the LoginView control and then click Show Smart Tag. In the LoginView Tasks menu, in the Views list, click LoggedInTemplate.

    This switches the LoginView control to edit mode for the content that will appear to users who are logged in.

  3. From the Standard group of the Toolbox, drag a HyperLink control into the editing region. In the Properties window for the HyperLink control, set the Text property to Change password and the NavigateUrl property to ~/MemberPages/ChangePassword.aspx.

    The Change password link will be displayed only to users who are logged in, which is the opposite of the Register link you created earlier.

You can now test the password-change process.

To test password change

  1. Press CTRL+F5 to run the Web site.

  2. In the Default.aspx, page, click the Login link and log in as one of the users you have created.

    When you are finished, you are returned to the home page as a logged-in user.

  3. Click the Change password link.

  4. In the password-change page, enter the old password and a new password, and then click Change Password.

  5. Click Continue.

  6. On the home page, click Logout.

  7. Click the Login link.

  8. Enter the new password.

    You are logged in with the new password.

  9. Close the browser window.

Users will occasionally forget their passwords. You can add a password recovery page to your Web site so that they can once again log in to your site. Password recovery can take two forms:

  • You can send users the password they selected (or that you created for them when you set up the site). This option requires that the site store the password using reversible encryption.

  • You can send users a new password, which they can change using the Change Password page you created earlier. This option is useful if the Web site stores passwords using a non-reversible encryption scheme such as hashing.

NoteNote:

Returning a password in clear text using e-mail is not recommended for sites that require a high level of security. For high-security sites, it is recommended that you return passwords using encryption, such as Secure Sockets Layer (SSL).

By default, the ASP.NET membership system secures passwords by hashing them, meaning that the passwords cannot be recovered. Therefore, for this part of the walkthrough, your Web site will send users a new password.

NoteNote:

Password recovery requires that your Web site can send e-mail messages. If you are not able to configure your Web site to send e-mail (as explained under "Configuring the Application for E-Mail" earlier in this walkthrough), you will not be able to add password recovery to your site.

To add password recovery

  1. In Solution Explorer, right-click the name of your Web site, click Add New Item, and add a new Web Form named RecoverPassword.aspx.

    NoteNote:

    Be sure to create the page in the root of the Web site, not in the MemberPages folder.

  2. In the RecoverPassword.aspx page, switch to Design view and type static text such as Reset my password to a new value. In the Formatting toolbar, use the Block Format drop-down list to format the text as Heading 1.

  3. From the Login group of the Toolbox, drag a PasswordRecovery control onto the page.

  4. From the Standard group of the Toolbox, drag a HyperLink control onto the page. In the Properties window for the HyperLink control, set the Text property to Home and the NavigateUrl property to ~/Default.aspx.

  5. Switch to the Default.aspx page.

  6. Right-click the LoginView control and then click Show Smart Tag. In the LoginView Tasks menu, in the Views list, click AnonymousTemplate.

    This switches the LoginView control to edit mode for the content that will appear to users who are not logged in.

  7. From the Standard group of the Toolbox, drag a HyperLink control into the template. In the Properties window for the HyperLink control, set the Text property to Forgot your password? and the NavigateUrl property to ~/RecoverPassword.aspx.

Now you can test password recovery.

To test password recovery

  1. Press CTRL+F5 to run the Web site.

  2. By default, you are not logged in, so you see the anonymous template of the LoginView control.

  3. Click the Forgot your password? link.

    The RecoverPassword.aspx page appears.

  4. Type your user name and click Submit.

    The security question is displayed and you are prompted to type the security answer.

  5. Type the answer and click Submit.

    If you entered a correct answer, the Web site resets your password and sends you an e-mail message with the new password.

This walkthrough has illustrated a simple but complete scenario for creating an application that prompts users for credentials, displays information to logged-in users, allows users to recover a forgotten password, and limits access to pages. You can create more sophisticated pages and applications using the techniques and controls illustrated in the walkthrough. For example, you might want to:

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