During the various steps of the request’s chain of
execution, an object gets passed along from class to class—this object
is the HttpContext object. HttpContext encapsulates all the information available about an individual HTTP request that ASP.NET is going to handle. The HttpContext class is instantiated by the HttpRuntime
object while the request processing mechanism is being set up. Next,
the object is flowed throughout the various stages of the request’s
lifetime, as Figure 1 demonstrates.
Figure 1. The HttpContext
object, which encapsulates all the request information and is passed
along through the HTTP pipeline until the client response is generated.
Properties of the HttpContext Class
Table 1 enumerates all the properties exposed by the HttpContext
class. The class represent a single entry point for a number of
intrinsic objects such as classic ASP’s intrinsics and ASP.NET-specific Cache and User objects.
Table 1. HttpContext Properties
|AllErrors||Gets an array of Exception objects, each of which represents an error that occurred while processing the request.|
|Application||Gets an instance of the HttpApplicationState class, which contains the global and shared states of the application.|
|ApplicationInstance||Gets or sets the HttpApplication object for the current request. The actual type is the global.asax code-behind class. Make a cast to access public properties and methods you might have defined in global.asax.|
|Cache||Gets the ASP.NET Cache object for the current request.|
|Current||Gets the HttpContext object for the current request.|
the handler for the request that is currently being executed by the
application. It is a read-only property that returns the value stored in
Handler. Not supported in ASP.NET 1.x.|
|Error||Gets the first exception (if any) that has been raised while processing the current request.|
|Handler||Gets or sets the HTTP handler for the current request.|
|IsCustomErrorEnabled||Indicates whether custom error handling is enabled for the current request.|
|IsDebuggingEnabled||Indicates whether the current request is in debug mode.|
a name/value collection (hash table) that can be used to share custom
data and objects between HTTP modules and HTTP handlers during the
|PreviousHandler||Gets the last handler before the current request was executed. Not supported in ASP.NET 1.x.|
|Profile||Gets the object that represents the profile of the current user. Not supported in ASP.NET 1.x.|
|Request||Gets an instance of the HttpRequest class, which represents the current HTTP request.|
|Response||Gets an instance of the HttpResponse class, which sends HTTP response data to the client.|
|Server||Gets an instance of the HttpServerUtility class, which provides helper methods for processing Web requests.|
|Session||Gets an instance of the HttpSessionState class, which manages session-specific data.|
or sets a Boolean value that specifies whether the URL-based
authorization module will skip the authorization check for the current
request. This is false by default. It is mostly used by authentication modules that need to redirect to a page that allows anonymous access.|
|Timestamp||Gets a DateTime object that represents the initial timestamp of the current request.|
|Trace||Gets the TraceContext object for the current response.|
|User||Gets or sets the IPrincipal object that represents the identity of the user making the request.|
The Current property is a frequently used static member that returns the HttpContext object for the request being processed.
property is a dictionary object—a hash table, to be exact—that can be
used to share information between the modules and handlers involved with
the particular request. By using this property, each custom HTTP module
or handler can add its own information to the HttpContext object serving the request. The information stored in Items is ultimately made available to the page. The lifetime of this information is limited to the request.
Methods of the HttpContext Class
Table 2 lists the methods specific to the HttpContext class.
Table 2. HttpContext Methods
|AddError||Adds an exception object to the AllErrors collection.|
|ClearError||Clears all errors for the current request.|
|GetAppConfig||Returns requested configuration information for the current application. The information is collected from machine.config and the application’s main web.config files. Marked as obsolete in ASP.NET 2.0.|
requested configuration information for the current request. The
information is collected at the level of the requested URL, taking into
account any child web.config files defined in subdirectories. Marked as obsolete in ASP.NET 2.0.|
|GetGlobalResourceObject||Loads a global resource. Not available in ASP.NET 1.x.|
|GetLocalResourceObject||Loads a local, page-specific resource. Not available in ASP.NET 1.x.|
|GetSection||Returns requested configuration information for the current request. Not available in ASP.NET 1.x.|
|RewritePath||Mostly for internal use; overwrites URL and query string of the current Request object.|
Starting with ASP.NET 2.0, the GetSection method replaces GetConfig, which has been marked as obsolete and should not be used. If you have old code using GetConfig, just change the name of the method. The prototype is the same. Also, GetAppConfig is marked as obsolete in ASP.NET 2.0 and beyond. It has been replaced by GetWebApplicationSection, a static member of the new WebConfigurationManager
class. Also, in this case, no changes are required to be made to the
prototype. Let’s spend a few more words to dig out some interesting
characteristics of other methods of the HttpContext class.
method lets you change the URL of the current request on the fly, thus
performing a sort of internal redirect. As a result, the displayed page
is the one you set through RewritePath;
the page shown in the address bar remains the originally requested one.
The change of the final URL takes place on the server and, more
importantly, within the context of the same call. RewritePath should be used carefully and mainly from within the global.asax file. If you use RewritePath in the context of a postback event, you can experience some view-state troubles.
protected void Application_BeginRequest(object sender, EventArgs e)
HttpContext context = HttpContext.Current;
object o = context.Request["id"];
if (o != null)
int id = (int) o;
string url = GetPageUrlFromId(id);
protected string GetPageUrlFromId(int id)
// Return a full URL based on the input ID value.
The preceding code rewrites a URL such as page.aspx?id=1234 to a specific page whose real URL is read out of a database or a configuration file.
Loading Resources Programmatically
The $Resources and meta:resourcekey
expressions for global and local resources, respectively, work only at
design time. What if you need to generate text programmatically that
embeds resource expressions, instead? Both the Page and HttpContext classes support a pair of programmatic methods to retrieve the content of resources embedded in the application.
GetGlobalResourceObject retrieves a global resource—that is, a resource defined in an .resx file located in the App_GlobalResources special folder. GetLocalResourceObject does the same for an .resx file located in the App_LocalResources special folder of a given page.
msg1.Text = (string) HttpContext.GetGlobalResourceObject(
msg2.Text = (string) HttpContext.GetLocalResourceObject(
The first parameter you pass to GetGlobalResourceObject indicates the name of the .resx resource file without an extension; the second parameter is the name of the resource to retrieve. As for GetLocalResourceObject, the first argument indicates the virtual path of the page; the second is the name of the resource.