#5 - use CGI forms and scripts

CGI (or Common Gateway Interface) is an interface between a browser and your Web server.

Excepting Java, browsers do not have any way to execute programs. In other words, browsers just access text and graphics information and display them to the user. CGI allows you to execute programs (or scripts) on your Web server.

A CGI transaction consists of:

Setting up forms in HTML is relatively easy (see NCSA Forms Documentation). Sending HTML output from your server back to the browser is also easy.

The challenge of CGI is the software that runs on your Web server. Depending on your server operating system, you have to write a UNIX shell script, or a PERL script, or a C program. You also have to locate the program in a directory (usually called "cgi-bin") that is executable by the server software. Ask your Internet Service Provider how to do this.

Ready to try CGI? You'll need lots of help from places like The NCSA CGI Pages, Matt's Script Archive (for CGI Perl scripts), Matt's Script Archive - Snippets of Code (for more scripts).

CGI is a challenge, but it is a powerful tool when you get it to work. Give it a try!

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