CGI is one of the most important languages on the internet today and very few people know it. CGI scripts power many of the advanced features on pages all over the net. Anything that sends information to a person through a form or stores information on a server is probably done by CGI.
How important is it to most sites, though? Nearly every site will want some way for visitors to send feedback. The most common way to do this is to make a mailto hyperlink:
<a href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org">E-mail Me</a>
but this is probably not the best way to do it. Many times I have wanted to say how good a site was and have clicked on a feedback link. My e-mail program opened and a new blank message opened. This was when I was put off. What should I write?
If this had been a form to fill in with text boxes for Name, E-mail Address and Comments I probably would have continued but most times I would have just closed the e-mail software and carried on surfing the net.
How do you get a form on your site, though? The easy part is creating the form. Most WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) HTML editors will let you create forms. Once you have done this you will need a CGI script to power the form.
There are two ways to do this and which one you choose depends on how confident you are with computers and what your web host allows. The easiest way is to get a web form from another company on the internet. Most counter and guestbook providers also have Mailto forms. You will need to sign up with one of them and then point your form on your website to their scripts. You will be given instructions on how to do this..
The second way is to get a CGI script and install it on your own server. To do this your host will need to give your a CGI-BIN. To find out which hosts offer this visit free-webhosting.info. You will need to download a script from another site to process the forms. You can find some at CGI Resources. When you have the script you can follow the instructions to configure and install the script. Soon you will be getting feedback through forms.
CGI is complicated to set up but if you can use a script hosted on your server it will be much more configurable and will look the same as your site.
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