CGI/Perl Scripting

Here's a pop quiz for you. What common bond connects the following three logos?

Click here for the answer:  

That's very, very good. Most of you nailed this one !!

CGI/Perl is unique among the three enhanced function tools. While  Java and Javascript consume browser resources to weave their magic, thereby using the processing power of your computer, CGI programs (scripts) must work with the server and consume its resources. It is important to note that everyone's browser can run access CGI functions wth excellent performance, and that's not true of Java and Javascript.

Much effort in the last several years has been concentrated on 'client side computing' which is basically all of Java and most of Javascript. This was done initially to spare the server computer the load of managing all the activity of HTML pages and take advantage of the more powerful personal computers being developed.

That having been said, servers themselves have enjoyed quantum leaps in processing power and disk storage capacity, enabling server driven  applications to be utilized much less apprehensively than ever before. Therefore, CGI applications, having long ago come into their own, are now proliferating. E-commerce could not become what it has already without CGI playing a major role.

Over My HeadSince I started my venture into web design, I have always felt that CGI and the Perl language which is widely used to drive it, were well over my head, and I avoided getting involved. I somewhat felt it would drown me if I waded in too far. Well, I was wrong and I hope to encourage you to utilize the richness of CGI technology and be comfortable with it.

In a nutshell, CGI/Perl runs as a primary application on the server. In this capacity, it can create and maintain disk files, manage communication tasks, interface with other applications, and most important to us as web designers, it can take requests from our HTML pages, avail itself of the necessary server resources, and then using the HTML protocol, write pages back to our browsers.

I want to stress that you do NOT have to be a programmer to effectively use CGI/Perl applications, just as you don't have to be a Javascript programmer or a Java developer to utilize those technologies. In this regard, the internet is a big and friendly place where useful CGI scripts abound, and free of charge at that in many cases. Search on Web Design in my Sites to Visit topic.

If you look just at my web site, CGI has been utilized 3 times so far, and each time it proved to be indispensable. My Contact Sam page has a feedback form which requires the 'formmail' script. I didn't write it, but I bought a Perl book and learned just enough to read scripts with some understanding and make a few changes. I should think most people learn this way. In my Reference Material [CGI/Perl] topic, I recommend a couple books.

If you look at Sites to Visit, I explain how I use a product called 'DBMAN' to manage my database records providing link references and descriptions. If you've ever struggled with an extensive links page on your web site, you know that its maintenance is a nightmare. Take a look at what I've done. Perhaps it's not for everyone, but it's attractive, I think, and its incredibly easy for me to add, modify and remove links without touching a word of HTML! On my son's web site, we manage a 4000 item product catalog with DBMAN for a mere $100 license fee. Each of you can have DBMAN today for use on your non-commercial web site, and it's absolutely FREE.

Finally, if you've visited my Search My Site page, you'll find an incredible search facility which I couldn't be more pleased with. I selected it from dozens available at CGI-Resource Index, quite a few of which were, again, FREE. The link to the authors is on that page.

Finally, I have experience with a very nice Discussion Board called 'DISCUS' which I picked up from a company called DiscusWare. They have a 'Pro' version for a reasonable price but the version I'm using which is excellent is available FREE for personal or commerical use.

If you want to see DBMAN and DISCUS in action, go to my friend Brad's 'Fishing at Fortescue' site . His fishing reports section is done with DBMAN and he has an active discussion board using DISCUS.

I'm about to do a web site which involves a major shopping cart package, all CGI. This is something I'm really looking forward to, and remember, I cannot write a CGI/Perl program. Folks, you just don't have to!

In wrapping up this topic, I'm going to give you two links here to some decent tutorial stuff I ran across recently. Can't hurt to have a look at them. Also take a look at the two Perl books I've  recommended in Reference Material [CGI/Perl] . If you make a purchase from Amazon from my web site, I'll make a dollar or more. That'll be on top of the $1.20 I made in 1999. Guess who bought that book?

Here are the links:

 - CGI Programming 101 - Learn CGI Today!
 - | Tutorials and In House Training







Pop Quiz Answer:
 All these companies support CGI Scripts in their server products.