_ TWF  _ Part Excerpts

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Part I: Foundations of HTML and CGI

The nine chapters in Part I introduce and explain the subject matter for this book. In Chapter 1, we begin with a look at the philosophical and technical underpinnings for the World Wide Web (WWW) and the Internet. In Chapter 2, we examine the Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML) used to define the World Wide Web's HyperText Markup Language (HTML). Then, in Chapters 3,4, and 5, we take a close look at the SGML-derived Document Type Definitions (DTDs) for the historical, prevailing, and emerging versions of HTML. We also discuss the need for formal HTML validation and describe several tools and techniques that can assist in this process.

Chapters 6 through 9 focus on the Common Gateway Interface (CGI)[md]the set of parameter-passing and communications conventions defined for the WWW, that lets users send input to servers for further processing by special-purpose programs. Chapter 6 covers the basic interface definition and Chapter 7 explores the variety of programming languages suitable for CGI implementation. In Chapter 8, we explain the details of CGI input, output, and parameter-passing conventions. In Chapter 9, we discuss the process of designing a CGI application and tackle a typical set of forms-handling tools as an example.

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Part II: The Bridge to CGI Implementation

The eight chapters in Part II supply the examples, reference materials, and basic techniques you'll need to begin creating your own CGI applications. Chapters 10 and 11 continue the elaboration of the forms-handling example introduced in Chapter 9. Chapter 10 steps you through the implementation process of a registration form-handling CGI, with an attendant report generator to abstract the acquired data. Chapter 11 tackles the testing and debugging process, using this same program as the focus for its remarks and advice.

Chapters 12 through 17 cover a number of issues that CGI developers must address before they should begin serious implementation. Chapter 12 discusses the authors' choices of Web server platform and operating system, programming languages, tools, and other implementation specifics, along with possible alternatives. Chapter 13 explains some techniques for surfing the Web for additional CGI information (the traditional and still informative master source for Web programming tips, tools, tricks, and techniques), whereas Chapter 14 explains how to build simple, standard scaffolding for creating the "return page" HTML documents so common in CGI programs.

Chapter 15 examines some of the best of the many CGI code resources on the Net, with a particular emphasis on useful CGI programming libraries. Chapter 16 discusses the need for forms alternatives and introduces several techniques to solicit input from users whose Web browsers may not be forms-enabled.

In Chapter 17, we conclude this part of the book with a discussion of some common CGI programming gotchas and pitfalls, in the hope that you can learn from our mistakes and avoid well-known hazards on the road to CGI mastery.

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Part III: Basic CGI Programming Elements and Techniques

The nine chapters in Part III investigate some basic topics and applications that the majority of CGI programmers will want to investigate, to aid them in the construction of quality CGI applications, and significant enhancements to their Web offerings' capabilities.

Chapter 18 begins this process with an in-depth discussion of the Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (MIME), a set of file formats originally created to enhance the Internet's Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) e-mail capabilities, now also used to describe the formats of the files supplied by Web servers.

Chapters 19 and 20 deal with providing access to large bodies of data through Web pages, as Chapter 19 investigates tools to link Web pages to a Wide Area Information Services (WAIS) server, and Chapter 21 explores tools available to create searchable indexes for large data collections. Chapter 22 discusses a perennial favorite of CGI programmers[md]namely monitoring Web page access and usage, and massaging the resulting statistics to create compelling charts and graphs.

Chapter 23 shifts focus to examine the software automatons called spiders, robots, or wanderers that are commonly used to prowl the Web for the raw materials available from global search engines like Yahoo, EINet, Lycos, and others of that ilk.

In Chapter 25, the topic turns to graphics, specifically the graphics tools and techniques used for Web navigation through clickable image maps. Chapter 26 investigates on-the-fly creation of HTML documents[md]to add the elements of customization and interactivity to your Web pages. Finally, in Chapter 27, we cover the major options available for choosing the Web server that will host your CGI applications, a decision that will have a profound impact on implementation choices and programming details.

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Part IV: Advanced CGI Programming Tools and Techniques

The seven chapters in Part IV expand our discussion of CGI and Web programming to deal with advanced tools and techniques, and also to look at nascent, but exciting, areas of Web development that should interest forward-looking CGI programmers.

We begin our discussion in Chapter 28 with an examination of file retrieval tools and aids, to support access to ftp- or Web-based file archives through your Web pages. In Chapter 29, we investigate the options available today for accessing full-blown Database Management Systems (like Oracle, Informix, and Sybase) through CGI programs, including a sample application to illustrate the programming elements required. In Chapter 30, we explore approaches and software available to support audio, video, and multimedia capture and communications via the Web.

Chapter 31 returns to the Internet's very roots, as we explore the sometimes wonderful synergy that a combination of electronic mail and the Web can create, with an investigation of mail server gateways and related tools. In Chapter 32, we discuss security concerns for Web servers and services, as we cover the most important bases involved in protecting UNIX-based Web servers from compromise. We also cover the issues and technology involved in "Secure HTTP," an emerging Web protocol that promises to make the Web safe for electronic commerce and other secure Web-based transactions.

In Chapter 33, the focus shifts to the issues involved in making the Web "truly interactive," and examines some of the tools and applications that are moving the Web inexorably in that direction.

In Chapter 34, we close our Web programming investigations with a brief discussion of the CD-ROM included in this book, a roadmap of its layout, and some recommendations for how you can use it most effectively.

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E-Mail: The Web Foundations at twf@lanw.com
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Text - Copyright © 1995, Ed Tittel, Mark Gaither, Sebastian Hassinger & Mike Erwin.
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Revised -- February 15th, 1996 [James Michael Stewart - WebMaster - IMPACT Online]

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