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CGI Essential Training highlights the skills required to build common gateway interface (CGI) scripts that allow web forms to interact with applications on a web server. Instructor Bill Weinman explains how these scripts can be used for simple interactive applications written in any programming language. Bill shows how to use CGI to set up an HTML template with hidden fields for use with a web server application. Exercise files accompany this course.
The HTML that creates this contact form, with all its form elements and such, actually lives in a template file on the server. That template file is read by the CGI application. It has tokens in it that are replaced by elements that are created by the CGI application and that's what makes everything work the way that it does. So let's take a look at this process and see how it works and why we do it this way. Here is my editor and it's connected to the server and I am going to open this first.html. This is in the html directory under the bw-contact directory and that's where these template files live.
So these are all template files. I will go ahead and open first.html. Now, this file is actually read not directly by the server but it's read by the CGI application. And as the CGI application reads this file, it goes ahead and replaces things with values that it creates itself for various reasons, like for instance here is a place for the CONFIRM_ERRORS. If you try to submit the form and it's missing a value or something, you get a little error message. And you see that it has these dollar signs on either side of the word CONFIRM_ERROR.
Likewise, here is the action attribute to the form element and it has a token called SELF and this is a callback variable. It has the relative path back to the application. So for example, if I look at this form here on the web and I look at the View Source, you see here in form action it has the path, the relative URL, back to application itself. And in the HTML, we see it has $SELF$ and on the web it has this value filled in.
It's integrated into the look-and-feel of the website. This technique allows us to do that. We can take those HTML elements and we can wrap them around these tokens and the tokens fill in what's necessary to make the application work. So as part of our case study here, we are actually going to do that and you'll see how that works in action.
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