When you want to process information quickly or develop a dynamic website, it's a good idea to explore the "server-side" possibilities. Server-side technology requires special software on the web server, but it allows some interesting possibilities. CGI (Common Gateway Interface), PHP, ASP (and the newer ASP.NET), Macromedia ColdFusion and JSP (JavaServer Pages) are all server-side scripting languages that allow web developers to handle a wide range of data and present information dynamically.

Before jumping into a project be sure you have the services and tools you'll need for your server-side activities.

Server Software. Before selecting a technology, check with your web server service provider to determine whether you have access to any of these server-side technologies. Ask specific questions such as: Is my web server PHP-enabled? Many service provider now make these services available. However, if the answer is no, you can install software such as Apache on your own computer.

Editing Software. You won't need any new software on your computer. Your text editor (i.e., WordPad, TextEditor), HTML editor (i.e., BBEdit), or web development software (i.e., Dreamweaver) will work fine for creating scripts.

FTP Software. You'll need to upload your scripts to the web server. You can use your standard FTP software for this activity.

Like JavaScripts, you write simple or complex scripts to perform specific functions. However unlike JavaScripts that are written and executed within an HTML document, PHP, ASP, CGI, and other server-side scripts are stored on the host computer and executed as separate files on the host server. When you visit a website, your requests for information are processed by these scripts stored on the web server. For example, a web page may ask for your name and password. The PHP script would then locate your name in a database and display your customized personal page. Or, you might fill out a form on a web page and a CGI script might be used to store your information in a database on the web server. If you want to search this database, another CGI script might be used to process this request and display the search results. As you can see, server-side applications are what make websites powerful, customized tools.

Why hassle with server-side applications if they require special software and set-up? The reason lies in your website goals. If you'd like to develop customizable, dynamic pages, you really need this technology. If you'll be dealing with information collected through online forms, stored on databases, and organized on pages dynamically, you'll be frustrated working with XHTML and JavaScripts.

Rather than trying to explore the entire range of applications on a single page, we'll explore the basics. Then, use links and book resources for additional information that might be helpful in your decision whether to use these tools.

arrowThis section of the website contains four elements: ASP, CGI, PHP, and Cold Fusion.

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