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How to Install a CGI Script and Increase Web Site Interactivity

Written By: Herman Drost

You may have delayed cgi script installation due the
apparently complex process. Well, I avoided it also for
several years, however if you want to increase your web
site’s interactivity it’s a necessity to know how to do it.
It’s not hard to learn and you don’t have to be a
programmer.

What is CGI ?

Common Gateway Interface or CGI is a program that can
interact with an html form on your web site, and processes
the results on your server using a cgi script. The result
generated is a dynamic web page. The cgi script is written
in a language called PERL (“practical extraction and
reporting language”).

Uses of CGI scripts

CGI scripts are most commonly used for creating user
interaction with a html form on your web site. Other uses
include: autoresponders, shopping carts, counters, mailing
list managers, ad management, surveys, polls, discussion
boards, content management, calendars and click tracking.

There are 100s of free cgi scripts that can be found on the
Net. Just do a search on Google for “free cgi scripts” or
visit the resources at the end of this article.

We will create an html email form to collect the name,
email address and comments of subscribers using a secure
cgi formmail script. An automatic confirmation will be sent
and the results of the email form will be passed on to your
email address.

Steps to installing your own cgi script

1. Check that your web host supports CGI – your web host
will have a cgi-bin folder installed on the server. The
cgi-bin is a special directory in the server where all the
files which require security are kept. This is where you
will upload your cgi script once it has been modified.

2. Download the cgi script – this is a secure cgi formmail
script. Spammers can’t access and harvest your email
address from this script.

http://nms-cgi.sourceforge.net/formmail.zip

3. Read the documentation that comes with the script – this
will give you a thorough understanding what changes you
need to make to have it work correctly with your web site
and server. It will also provide you with some examples.

Editing your script

4. Open and edit your cgi script using notepad (don’t use
an html editor as this can create errors).

5. Remove the html tags from the script (at the top and
bottom).

6. Change the path to perl to: #!/usr/bin/perl -wT (this is
the first line of the script to be edited).

7. The section of the cgi script shown below, are the other
minimum fields to fill out in the script (replace the
fields in the script you downloaded with the changed fields
in the script below).

# USER CONFIGURATION SECTION
# ————————–
# Modify these to your own settings. You might have to
# contact your system administrator if you do not run
# your own web server. If the purpose of these
# parameters seems unclear, please see the README file.
#
BEGIN
{
$DEBUGGING = 1;
$emulate_matts_code= 0;
$secure = 1;
$allow_empty_ref = 1;
$max_recipients = 1;
$mailprog = ‘/usr/lib/sendmail -oi -t’;
$postmaster = ‘youraddress@yourdomain.com’;
@referers = qw(yourdomain.com);
@allow_mail_to = qw();
@recipients = ();
%recipient_alias = (‘siteowner’ => ‘youraddress@yourdomain.com’,);
@valid_ENV = qw(REMOTE_HOST REMOTE_ADDR REMOTE_USER HTTP_USER_AGENT);
$locale = ”;
$charset = ‘iso-8859-1′;
$date_fmt = ‘%A, %B %d, %Y at %H:%M:%S’;
$style = ”;
$no_content = 0;
$double_spacing = 1;
$wrap_text = 0;
$wrap_style = 1;
$send_confirmation_mail = 0;
$confirmation_text = <<'END_OF_CONFIRMATION';
From: youraddress@yourdomain.com
Subject: Subject of Your Contact Form

(short note here->> )Thank you for your interest. We will respond shortly.

END_OF_CONFIRMATION
#
# USER CONFIGURATION << END >>
# —————————-
# (no user serviceable parts beyond here)
——————————————————————————–

$postmaster = Who’s sending the email
@referrers = Domains that are allowed to host the script
%recipient_alias = Whom the script will send email to

In my form:

method=”POST”>

You can see how the siteowner variables match up in the .pl
script and in my form. This way, nobody can tell what
address the form is being emailed to!

8. Rename your cgi script – name your script something else
besides formmail (ie contactus.pl), as this is the most
common name people use. This will prevent spammers from
harvesting your email address.

9. Create your html form (contactus.htm).

Contact Us< itle>






Full Name

Email Address

Comments

< extarea>


10. Create a confirmation page (ie thankyou.htm) – this
will automatically thank people for filling in your form.
It can be a simple html page with the comments “Thank you
for your interest. We will respond shortly”.

Uploading the cgi script and html email form.

Use your favorite FTP program for uploading to your server
(I use SmartFTP.com which you can download for free).

11. Set permissions to 755 – in SmartFTP right click on the
script file you wish to upload, click on Properties/CHMOD
and set the permissions to 755.

12. Upload the cgi script – there are two modes of
uploading, ASCII and Binary. Upload the cgi script
(contactus.pl) and any txt files in ASCII mode. Upload the
script to the cgi-bin folder. If you don’t follow this you
will not be able to execute the script.

13. Upload the html form and any image files like .jpg or
.gif in Binary mode.

14. Test your cgi script by filling out the html email form
and submitting it. You should receive an immediate
confirmation.

By adding interactivity to your web site using a cgi
script, you can expand the functions of your web site and
create a more interesting experience for your visitors.
This will keep them coming back and help you stay ahead of
your competitors.

Resources

Formmail script
http://nms-cgi.sourceforge.net/formmail.zip

Free CGI scripts
Scriptarchive.com
Hotscripts.com
cgi-resources.com

About the Author

Herman Drost is the Certified Internet Webmaster (CIW)
owner and author of iSiteBuild.com Affordable Web Hosting
Plans from $30/year http://www.isitebuild.com/sitehosting
Subscribe to his insightful Marketing Tips newsletter for
more original articles. mailto:subscribe@isitebuild.com

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