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Instant Web Scripts with CGI/PERL
Diablo Valley Review  
by Selena Sol and Gunther Bernicks
Reviewed by for Diablo Valley MUG

This book is intended for the intermediate-level CGI developer who may be working for a company which is providing a Web site or who may be doing freelance work for companies on the Web. The authors assume the reader is fluent in HyperText Markup Language (HTML) and know their way around the CGI/Perl environment, at least Perl 4, Perl being a general program language. The authors feel this book provides a comprehensive source of CGI/Perl applications useful in Web site development and enhancement by providing detailed explanations of how they are setup and how they are programmed. The authors chose Perl as the programming language for CGI applications for this book because Perl is easy and the right tool for the job.

What is CGI?

If you've ever clicked on an image on the Web and it linked you to different places depending on where you clicked, you've used a CGI or Common Gateway Interface. Image maps which allow many "hot spots" within a single graphic are one of the most common uses of CGIs. Other popular uses of CGIs include connecting a web site to a database, enabling someone who visits the site to do an online search. CGI programs are used to count the number of visitors to a page, returning a graphic file that looks like an odometer and has the current count. They can also collect and manage information submitted from a form on a web page. CGIs are executed in real time, so that they can output dynamic information depending on what was entered.

The book is divided into six parts, each made up of several chapters, and supplementary appendices. Most chapters are organized into three parts: an overview, a discussion of application-specific installation and usage, and a detailed description of programming used to make the scripts run.

Part One: Installing, Using and Building Scripts

Part one deals with obtaining and installing scripts to suit your project needs. Chapter One outlines the steps needed to find CGI scripts on the web; also, methods you will need to know to set correct permissions to actually run the scripts. Chapter Two deals with troubleshooting scripts. Chapter Three discusses design issues.

Part Two: CGI Libraries

Part Two deals with managing routines and libraries. Chapter Four introduces the concept of using algorithms, subroutines, and libraries. Chapter Five through Ten outline the libraries used continually thought the book such as valuable routines for reading form data, providing Web security, file locking and emailing.

Part Three: Databases

Part Three discusses web-based databases. Chapter Eleven involves data base management. Chapter Twelve introduces a database search engine complimenting the Database Manager for users of the database. Chapter Thirteen discusses the Groupware Calendar. Chapter Fourteen deals with a modified database management system relative to employing a classified ad manager program simulating a classified ad newspaper section. Chapter Fifteen provides a look into heavy-duty SQL database integration.

Part Four: Working with HTML

Part Four is dedicated to the discussion of working with HTML from within CGI applications. Chapter Sixteen introduces a keyword search engine. Chapter Seventeen outlines a web-based HTML shopping cart system. Chapter Eighteen involves using a page tracking application. Chapter Nineteen provides a CGI backend to feedback and comment HTML forms. Chapter Twenty outlines the Web-based Guestbook.

Part Five: CGI-Based Graphics and Animation

Part Five take a look at CGI-based animation using the non-parsed header method to generate server push animation. Chapter Twenty-one Discuses methods one could use to animate text and Chapter Twenty-two outlines the graphics-based animation of random image banners.

Part Six: Miscellaneous Applications

Part Six overview several miscellaneous application that you can use to enhance your web site. Chapter Twenty-three introduces the Fortune Cookie Script. Chapter Twenty-four discusses the Advertising Tracker script. Chapter Twenty-five provides a full-featured Bulletin Board System on the Web. Chapter Twenty-six involves real-time chat script (WebChat).


Discussion of Perl 4.0 and 5.0. In addition a cursory discussion of how the accompanying CD-ROM is organized. The CD-ROM contains two most popular Perl libraries, cgi-lib.pl and cgi.pm as well as custom libraries created by the authors. All scripts discussed are in the book and ready to use.

Question posed to one of the authors, Selena Sol. Would you say this book is more for Unix and Widows folks rather than Mac? Author Selena Sol states, "Well, it is mainly for UNIX, but scripts can easily be ported to NT or Mac by someone familiar with porting."

The Instant Web Scripts and CGI/PERL provides a consistent and well written up-to-date reference book that is invaluable to anyone building pages using CGI and Perl language.

Instant Web Script with CGI/PERL
by Selena Sol and Guntehr Bernics
Published by: M&T Books
A Division of MIS:Press, Inc.
115 West 18th Street
New York, New York 10011
Date:1996 ISBN: 1-55851-490-2
List Price: $39.95