Usage scenarios for view state, session state, application state, cookies

Hi Guys,

Im a college student in London with exams starting Monday on ASP.NET with C#.  Id be so grateful if you could provide me with solid real world scenarios/examples of when you would use the following to maintain state and why you would use them in that instance:


  • View State
  • Session State
  • Application State
  • Cookies

Also when would you use SOAP instead of the REST architecture and vice versa and why - again real world usage scenarios?  I note Amazon's web service uses the REST architecture - why is this, why dont they use SOAP.

Id be grateful for a timely response guys, college exams are no fun and rapidly approaching me

Many thanks


4/21/2006 9:11:21 AM 8807 articles. 0 followers. Follow

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ViewState is typically used to store temporary state specific to an individual page in ASP.NET.  It is round-tripped to the server in a hidden form field.

Session State is used to store state on the server for a specific user, and times out by default after 15 minutes of inactivity (but will stay on the server as long as the user keeps returning within the 15 minute window).

Application State is used to store state across multiple users on the server, and can be accessed across multiple sessions.  It is typically used to cache data on the server.

Cookies are data values stored on the client and round-tripped to the server.  They can optionally be persisted so that if a browser is closed and re-opened, they still get sent to the client.  There is a limit, though, as to how much cookie data can be saved (usually only about 2k per site).

SOAP is a protocol standard that uses XML and HTTP by default to transfer data over the Internet.  It has a lot of specific semantics about security and data serialization.  REST is a simplified XML + HTTP format that can be used instead, and isn't as strict as SOAP.  Some developers prefer it because it is simpler to implement and use.

Hope this helps,


4/22/2006 5:27:55 AM

You bet. Here is some basics:

The ViewState, SessionState, ApplicationState, and Cookies are all used to store information. The difference between all of them is their lifetime and visibility, and their location.


The ViewState's Lifetime is the calling context of each page being generated. It is visible to all requests queued from the same page. It is configurable to work on Web Gardens and Web Farms. The viewstate is persisted inside of the ASP.NET page when it is rendered in a Hidden Input control. (That is the usual case. There are exceptions.) You should be careful when using the ViewState. One obvious risk is that is is clearly visible to the client inside of the HTML. It is simply Base 64 encoded and hashed, so it has a little protection. However it does have it's advantages. First, it doesn't use any server resources like the others do. Secondly, it is available for fast access. But developers are hesitant to use it because it is so easily accessible by the client. If you look at the Source Code of an ASPX page you will notice this object:

<input type="hidden" name="__VIEWSTATE" value="Base64Data" />

That is the ViewState. Personally I would restrain from using this not because of security threats but because careless use of it can cause that __VIEWSTATE input to become quite large and pack on up to 10KB to the page. The ViewState is best used for storing simple things, like a sort direction. Never put anything in there that needs to be secure.


The HttpSessionState class provides a Dictionary-based way of storing data, similar to ViewState. However, the Lifetime of the Session begins when the client makes its first request until the user ends the Session. It is Global to all Requests issued to the client that started the session, and it is configurable to work on web farms and gardens. The big difference with Session and ViewState is Session is server side, so it is never exposed to the client making it more secure and what developers use the most often to store data for some time. The Session State has 3 modes that determine where the data is store. It can be Stored InProc, StateServer, and in SQL. StateServer is for Web Gardens, and SQL is if you need to ensure that if the ASP.NET server fails that their Session data is recoverable. The SessionState is handled by an ASP.NET Module called SessionStateModule. The SessionState module is invoked during the Setup of the HttpApplication object (We'll get to that). SessionState is widely popular for passing values between two pages. If I ask for input on page1, I could store the input in the Session, then redirect the client to page2, and page2 can read from the session and display the input.

One of the important issues with working with Session is Syncronization. To avoid problems with that, the Session State Manager has a read/write lock on it so all data is concurrent. Although HttpSessionState implements ICollection, it is not a syncronized collection. Access to the collection is synronized.

Application State

The Application like the others is a Dictionary used for storage. The difference is the Lifetime and the Scope. The lifetime of the Application State begins when the very first request is made, and ends when the AppDomain shuts down. It does not support Web Farms or Web Gardens. The issue with Applocation is locking the data. You must manually use your own Read/Write locks by using Application.Lock() and Application.UnLock(). However locking the application can cause a lot of lag and put some threads out of sync as well. Secure information or data that should not be lost should be stored in here, mainly because if an error occures, it's gone. Or if the ASP.NET Process recycles.


Cookies are nice because they are simple to use, and they have been around a long time. They persist data on the clients computer and will last however long the cookie is set to expire. A cookie is useful for tracking how often the client vists a page or keeping login credentials. In fact, ASP.NET uses Encrypted cookies to store authentication cookies. It also uses cookies for the Session State. However you can't count on cookies to always be accepted, the client browser may have cookies disabled or may reject the cookie because of the computer's policy. Therefore only trivial information should be stored in a cookie if there isn't a failsafe implemented.

As for the REST Architecture, I can't think of a reason to use REST except that it is older and easily consumable by PHP the like. Amazon uses REST probably because they implemented it before SOAP was available and it would be way too costly and counter productive to upgrade to SOAP. Why change what works?

Does this help?

       Kevin Jones

4/22/2006 5:52:38 AM

Hi Kevin,

Thank you sincerely for your comprehensive explanation.  I have a very precise lecturer though, he will say that some of the content you gave me there is 'abstract' - would you be so good as to give me 1 specific real world example as to when you would use each of the following:

  1. Session State
  2. Application state
  3. Cookies
  4. view state

e.g. an example of a value you would store in view state and why? you say sort direction what is this and why is it suitable for viewstate - likewise for the other three

thanks a million

4/23/2006 8:44:07 PM

Hi Scott,

Thank you kindly for your response.  Again I think the lecturer i have will tell me that i need to be less abstract and state specifically an actual real world example of a value / something you would store in

  • application state
  • session state
  • view state
  • cookies

e.g. give me an exanple of something you would store in view state and state why view state is best for storing that specific type of value instead of the other

If you could give me a specific example for each of these i would be most grateful

Also is SOAP better than REST and if so could you give me  real world example in what way


thanks a million

4/23/2006 8:48:54 PM

Yeah sure. Here we are:

Here is a scenario for storing something in the Session State:

Lets say I have page1.aspx and page2.aspx on in a Web Application. Page1 is a form for contacting the webmaster where a user inserts their e-mail address in a textbox and they insert their issue in another textbox. When the user clicks "submit" they are redirected to page2.aspx. Page2 is a thank you page that says "thank you for your input" and all that jazz but also displays a copy of the email as well. In order to get the input from page1.aspx to page2.aspx, page1 would store the input in the session before transfering the client to page2.aspx. That way, when page2.aspx is loaded, page2 can read from the Session what page1.aspx put in the session.



Let's say I have a page, page1.aspx that wants to keep track how often the person has visited that page. page1 would create a cookie and store all the times that the client loaded the page. When the page loads, they will increment the count by 1 then re-save the cookie.

Alternate Scenario:

Let's say there is page1.aspx that has a DataView control on it displaying lots of data, and it is rather cluttered because it has 11 columns. So at the bottom of the page you add check boxs that lets the client choose which columns to show and which not to show. Now the client closes their Session. When the page reloads, the columns will be back as they were initially. So you want it so that when the client re-visits the page, the filtered columns persists. So you create a cookie that stores what checkboxs are checked and which aren't. When the page is loaded for the first time, you read the cookie and set the columns as they were last time.


View State:

Let's say you design your own custom control. This custom control has several properties that need to persist. Let's say one of those property names is "Text". You would read and write Text into the ViewState of the custom control so the text persisted accross PostBacks. Like this:

public String Text
        object o = ViewState["Text"]; 
        return (o == null)? String.Empty : (string)o;

        ViewState["Text"] = value;

 This is how almost all controls store their values. TextBox, Label, and Literal to name a few.


Application State:

Let's say I have an internet application that need to read a file, but that file never changes, it just needs to be read. So during the Application Startup, I would read that file's contents into The Application State so every time I needed that information I didn't need to open a Stream to that file. This way all pages of all clients can access that data.


SOAP is generally considered "better" than REST, but not in all cases. SOAP is better because it is type safe. However it can be a hassle to implement in languages that do not support SOAP. Here is an example of when to use both:

Let's say I have a web application written in PERL and PHP. I want to offer a web service that provides a list of products (Like amazon). Because PHP and PERL do not directly support SOAP, it would be hard to consume them within my own site. REST would be better because it is very loose.

Here is where you would use SOAP: Let's say I have that application in .NET. Then I would use SOAP. SOAP is extremely easy to consume in .NET because it can automatically discover all of it's services and built strong types from them.

The difference mainly is what language and programming model you are trying to implement.

I hope these examples will help.

       Kevin Jones

4/24/2006 3:22:09 AM

Web form pages are HTTP-Based, they are stateless, which means they don’t know whether the requests are all from the same client, and pages are destroyed and recreated with each round trip to the server, therefore information will be lost, therefore state management is really an issue in developing web applications
We could easily solve these problems in ASP with cookie, query string, application, session and so on. Now in ASP.NET, we still can use these functions, but they are richer and more powerful, so let’s dive into it.
Mainly there are two different ways to manage web page’s state: Client-side and Server-side.

1.Client-side state management :

There is no information maintained on the server between round trips. Information will be stored in the page or on the client’s computer.

A. Cookies.

A cookie is a small amount of data stored either in a text file on the client's file system or in-memory in the client browser session. Cookies are mainly used for tracking data settings. Let’s take an example: say we want to customize a welcome web page, when the user request the default web page, the application first to detect if the user has logined before, we can retrieve the user informatin from cookies:
if (Request.Cookies[“username”]!=null)
lbMessage.text=”Dear “+Request.Cookies[“username”].Value+”, Welcome shopping here!”;
lbMessage.text=”Welcome shopping here!”;

If you want to store client’s information, you can use the following code:

So next time when the user request the web page, you can easily recongnize the user again.

B. Hidden Field

A hidden field does not render visibly in the browser, but you can set its properties just as you can with a standard control. When a page is submitted to the server, the content of a hidden field is sent in the HTTP Form collection along with the values of other controls. A hidden field acts as a repository for any page-specific information that you would like to store directly in the page. Hidden field stores a single variable in its value property and must be explicitly added it to the page.
ASP.NET provides the HtmlInputHidden control that offers hidden field functionality.
protected System.Web.UI.HtmlControls.HtmlInputHidden Hidden1;
//to assign a value to Hidden field
Hidden1.Value=”this is a test”;
//to retrieve a value
string str=Hidden1.Value;

Note: Keep in mind, in order to use hidden field, you have to use HTTP-Post method to post web page. Although its name is ‘Hidden’, its value is not hidden, you can see its value through ‘view source’ function.

C. View State

Each control on a Web Forms page, including the page itself, has a ViewState property, it is a built-in struture for automatic retention of page and control state, which means you don’t need to do anything about getting back the data of controls after posting page to the server.

Here, which is useful to us is the ViewState property, we can use it to save information between round trips to the server.
//to save information
//to retrieve information
string shapes=ViewState[“shape”];

Note: Unlike Hidden Field, the values in ViewState are invisible when ‘view source’, they are compressed and encoded.

D. Query Strings

Query strings provide a simple but limited way of maintaining some state information.You can easily pass information from one page to another, But most browsers and client devices impose a 255-character limit on the length of the URL. In addition, the query values are exposed to the Internet via the URL so in some cases security may be an issue.
A URL with query strings may look like this:

When list.aspx is being requested, the category and product information can be obtained by using the following codes:
string categoryid, productid;

Note: you can only use HTTP-Get method to post the web page, or you will never get the value from query strings.

2. Server-side state management:

Information will be stored on the server, it has higher security but it can use more web server resources.

A. Aplication object


The Application object provides a mechanism for storing data that is accessible to all code running within the Web application, The ideal data to insert into application state variables is data that is shared by multiple sessions and does not change often.. And just because it is visible to the entire application, you need to used Lock and UnLock pair to avoid having conflit value.

B. Session object

Session object can be used for storing session-specific information that needs to be maintained between server round trips and between requests for pages. Session object is per-client basis, which means different clients generate different session object.The ideal data to store in session-state variables is short-lived, sensitive data that is specific to an individual session.

Each active ASP.NET session is identified and tracked using a 120-bit SessionID string containing URL-legal ASCII characters. SessionID values are generated using an algorithm that guarantees uniqueness so that sessions do not collide, and SessionID’s randomness makes it harder to guess the session ID of an existing session.
SessionIDs are communicated across client-server requests either by an HTTP cookie or a modified URL, depending on how you set the application's configuration settings. So how to set the session setting in application configuration? Ok, let’s go further to look at it.

Every web application must have a configuration file named web.config, it is a XML-Based file, there is a section name ‘sessionState’, the following is an example:

<sessionState mode="InProc" stateConnectionString="tcpip=" sqlConnectionString="data source=;user id=sa;password=" cookieless="false" timeout="20" />

‘cookieless’ option can be ‘true’ or ‘false’. When it is ‘false’(default value), ASP.NET will use HTTP cookie to identify users. When it is ‘true’, ASP.NET will randomly generate a unique number and put it just right ahead of the requested file, this number is used to identify users, you can see it on the address bar of IE:


Ok, it is further enough, let is go back to session object.
//to store information
//to retrieve information

C. Database

Database enables you to store large amount of information pertaining to state in your Web application. Sometimes users continually query the database by using the unique ID, you can save it in the database for use across multiple request for the pages in your site.


ASP.NET has more functions and utilities than ASP to enable you to manage page state more efficient and effective. Choosing among the options will depand upon your application, you have to think about the following before making any choose:
  • How much information do you need to store?
  • Does the client accept persistent or in-memory cookies?
  • Do you want to store the information on the client or server?
  • Is the information sensitive?
  • What kind of performance experience are you expecting from your pages?
Client-side state management summary


Use when
You need to store small amounts of information on the client and security is not an issue.
View state
You need to store small amounts of information for a page that will post back to itself. Use of the ViewState property does supply semi-secure functionality.
Hidden fields
You need to store small amounts of information for a page that will post back to itself or another page, and security is not an issue.
Note   You can use a hidden field only on pages that are submitted to the server.
Query string
You are transferring small amounts of information from one page to another and security is not an issue.
Note   You can use query strings only if you are requesting the same page, or another page via a link.
Server-side state management summary


Use when
Application state object
You are storing infrequently changed, application-scope information that is used by many users, and security is not an issue. Do not store large quantities of information in an application state object.
Session state object
You are storing short-lived information that is specific to an individual session, and security is an issue. Do not store large quantities of information in a session state object. Be aware that a session state object will be created and maintained for the lifetime of every session in your application. In applications hosting many users, this can occupy significant server resources and affect scalability.
Database support
You are storing large amounts of information, managing transactions, or the information must survive application and session restarts. Data mining is a concern, and security is an issue.
10/17/2007 4:45:23 AM

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superreview granted: [Bug 289313] Support DHTML tree view accessibility : [Attachment 179879] 1) Support collapsed & expanded states, 2) Support state change events for those states, 3) Support posit
T Rowley (IBM) <> has granted Aaron Leventhal <>'s request for superreview: Bug 289313: Support DHTML tree view accessibility Attachment 179879: 1) Support collapsed & expanded states, 2) Support state change events for those states, 3) Support positional descriptions ...

Web resources about - Usage scenarios for view state, session state, application state, cookies -

Application - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License ;additional terms may apply. By using this site, you agree to the ...

NZ doctor Alan Kenny flooded with 'trash' applications for $370k job
The New Zealand GP who couldn't find a doctor to take up a $NZ400,000 ($370,000) position at his practice has been inundated with "trash" applicants ...

NZ doctor Alan Kenny flooded with 'trash' applications for $370k job
The New Zealand GP who couldn't find a doctor to take up a $NZ400,000 ($370,000) position at his practice has been inundated with &quot;trash&quot; ...

Western Digital Introduces Its First Helium-Filled HDDs for Consumer Applications
... two models with 10 TB capacity. This week Western Digital unveiled the world’s first family of helium-filled HDDs designed for consumer applications, ...

NASA just smashed its record for astronaut applications—18,000+
... excitement about the future of NASA, with the space shuttle soon to debut, was palpable. So when the space agency called for astronaut applications, ...

Oklahoma: Concealed Carry Permit Applications Surge Following Obama’s Gun Control
... State Bureau of Investigation numbers suggest gun control talk and Pres. Obama's gun controls contributed to surging concealed carry applications. ...

MBA: Mortgage Applications Decreased in Latest Weekly Survey, Purchase Applications up 27% YoY
From the MBA: Mortgage Applications Decrease in Latest MBA Weekly Survey Mortgage applications decreased 4.3 percent from one week earlier, ...

Review: 5 application security testing tools compared
Users weigh in on favorite features, room for improvement. Application security is arguably the biggest cyber threat , responsible for 90 percent ...

Mortgage applications down 4.3%
A very slight inch higher in interest rates caused a more than slight drop in mortgage application volume.

European Central Bank Exploring Blockchain Tech Applications
In a new report, the European Central Bank (ECB) has said it is investigating blockchain use within its securities and payments settlement systems. ...

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