amStandalone is designed for writing an interactive application like The Raiser's Edge shell. It will show the login form (unless you pass in the User Name and Password in your code). The stoplight will be displayed in the Windows Explorer notification area. It allows showing message boxes and other interactive elements. Under the hood, the login code is exactly the same that the shell uses.
amServer is designed for writing non-interactive applications. Some examples would be:
- Using the API from a command line utility and you don't want to prompt the user
- Using the API from an ASP page running under IIS.
- Using the API from a non-interactive NT Service that runs when the computer boots before any users log on.
When in amServer mode the login code is completely different. First, the stoplight is not used. The user name and password must always be supplied because it will never prompt you. Also, it doesn't prompt to run dbrevisions unless they are needed. Next, multiple instances could be run in the same process in this mode; this is necessary for something like ASP where multiple page requests might be executing at the same time.
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