Writing CGI Applications with Perl is a start-to-finish guide to accomplishing key Web development tasks by fully using the power of Perl and CGI together. Using extensive examples, careful line-by-line explanations, and skill-stretching exercises, it not only provides useful cut-and-paste code: it also teaches the practical skills and techniques you'll need to build virtually any CGI-based application. Kevin Meltzer and Brent Michalski cover every key area of Web application development with Perl: database integration, form and file handling, security, e-mail, graphics, and more. The book's in-depth coverage includes: working with HTML Web forms and obtaining user input; placing cookies and tracking clicks; connecting to POP3 e-mail servers; embedding Perl in HTML using HTML::Mason; remote file management across the Web; creating dynamic images; and working with XML. The book also provides detailed explanations and examples of working with Perl DBI, as well as start-to-finish coverage of configuring and using the popular mod_perl Apache module. All of the sample code will be available at a companion web site.
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1. Perl, CGI, and this Book.
What Is Perl?
What Is CGI?
Why Perl Is Good for CGI.
About this Book.
Who Is this Book For?
Conventions Used in this Book.
Using the CPAN.
Basic Security Concerns.
Checking for Taintedness and Laundering Data.
Your PATH and -T.
Installing a Script.
The Expires HTTP Header.
Cache-Control HTTP Header.
Introduction to %ENV.
Adding to %ENV.
Form Input Primer.
Example Script: Visitor Log.
Example Script: Basic Report.
What Have We Learned?
Reading Form Input with CGI.pm.
Making Your Users Happy.
Working with Cookies the Manual Way.
Baking Cookies with CGI.pm.
Controlling User Preferences with Cookies.
Example Script: SSI Text Counter.
Example Script: SSI Image Counter.
Example Script: SSI Text Counter, with a Twist.
Example Script: An Imageless Image Counter.
File Uploading Basics.
Uploading Multiple Files.
Example Script: A Simple Click Tracker.
Example Script: Random Images.
Example Script: Click Tracking (Reprise).
What Is mod_perl?
Automatic Headers and Footers with Apache::Sandwich.
A mod_perl Photo Album with Apache::Album.
Authentication with Apache::AuthDBI.
Writing a mod_perl Handler.
Example Script: Checking POP3 Mail via the Web.
Example Script: Reading E-mail via the Web.
Example Script: Displaying Attachments.
Example Script: Composing E-mail.
Using the Perl DBI.
Connecting to the Database.
Disconnecting from the Database.
Preparing and Executing an SQL Query.
The fetchall_arrayref( ) Method.
The fetchrow_arrayref( ) Method.
The fetchrow_hashref( ) Method.
The bind_columns( ) Method.
Putting It All Together.
The do( ) Method.
Wrapping It Up.
Setting It All Up.
The Main Program.
Finishing the ShopCart Module.
Running the Program.
Wrapping It Up.
Special Mason Components.
Moving Right Along.
Wrapping It Up: The Code for the Example Site.
Adding Shapes and Text.
Creating a Dynamic Graph.
Creating Thumbnail Images.
Filtering Images with Image::Magick.
XML and RSS Overview.
Structure of an XML Document.
News Portals with RSS.
A Home Page News Portal.
Creating an RSS File.
Provide confirmation that a request is being processed.
Request was performed.
Request not performed.
Request is incomplete.
Internal server errors.
Perl's popularity as a CGI scripting language is growing by leaps and bounds. However, there are few books available today that cover this subject in depth including a broad range of concepts. We wanted our book to help people learn to use Perl and convince them that it is the best choice for their Web-based applications. The goal of this book is not to teach the Perl language--although certain tricks and features may be learned--but to show how Perl can accomplish the tasks needed for many of today's online applications. In short, we wanted to provide a resource that not only teaches new uses of Perl but challenges the reader with exercises that use the concepts. Standard Perl documentation is also provided. The book covers a wide range of concepts, and using these, you should be able to write almost any Perl/CGI application with the techniques provided.
This book is different from others about Perl and CGI. It takes a cumulative approach and introduces applications that use concepts learned in previous chapters. Each chapter will cover at least one specific Web-based application and explain the code line by line (or block by block) so you not only learn what the scripts are doing but how they are doing it. And in order to help induce self-learning and application building, each application is working but incomplete. We provide skeleton applications that can stand on their own, but we leave out certain features that can be added (and we suggest adding them in the exercises) using the information in that chapter and in previous chapters. Our goal is not to give you "cut and paste" software but rather to show you how to write the software yourself.
Chapter 1, Perl, CGI, and this Book. This chapter explains what Perl and CGI are. It also supplies more detail about this book and shows how to use the CPAN module.
Chapter 2, What You Should Know. We don't expect the reader to know everything, but we do expect at least a base level of knowledge. This chapter outlines what you should already know and explains a few things that you may not already know but should to get the most out of this book, such as tainting, security concerns, and troubleshooting.
Chapter 3, Using Your Environment. Many times in CGI applications you need information from the client, such as IP address or browser information. This chapter covers how to access the Web server environment variables and what they mean.
Chapter 4, Introduction to Web Forms. There are few online applications where there is not some sort of Web form used to allow an end user to submit information. Chapter 4 explains the HTML elements of creating a Web form, as well as how to obtain the user input.
Chapter 6, Access Counters. Many people want to count how many people come to their Web site. The examples in this chapter show you how to do this.
Chapter 7, Web-Based File Uploading. Here you will learn how to safely allow end users to upload files to a server from their local hard drives.
Chapter 8, Tracking Clicks. It can sometimes be useful to know what links on a Web site are being followed and from where. The examples in this chapter show how to track these clicks.
Chapter 9, Using mod_perl. The popular mod_perl Apache module can be extremely useful when it is appropriate for an application. You will see how to configure mod_perl, as well as how to use and write mod_perl Perl modules.
Chapter 10, Web-Based E-mail. The examples in this chapter demonstrate how to connect to a POP3 server to view e-mail, view attachments, and send e-mail via the Web.
Chapter 11, Introduction to DBI and Databases on the Web. Chapters 1–10 presented basic uses for database connectivity in previous examples. This chapter examines the Perl DBI in more depth.
Chapter 12, Tied Variables. The magic of tying data structures to variables and how to do this when the data structure is a database is explained in this chapter.
Chapter 13, Embedding Perl in HTML with Mason. This popular tool is examined and explained. This chapter shows you how to embed Perl within HTML and use the HTML::Mason module to speed up development and maintenance time.
Chapter 14, Document Management via the Web. By now you will have learned how to upload files to a server. This chapter shows you how to manage your files remotely via the Web.
Chapter 15, Dynamically Manipulating Images. Creating charts, graphs, thumbnails, and galleries, and changing images on the fly are all concepts that can be useful in CGI applications. This chapter shows you how to add these techniques to your software.
Chapter 16, RSS and XML. XML is another tool that is gaining in use and popularity. This chapter shows you how to use both XML and a derivative of it, RSS and RDF, to share information and use in applications.
Appendix A, Server Codes. Learn what the codes returned by a Web server mean.
Appendix B, Environment Variables. This is a list of the most common Web server environment variables.
Appendix C, POSIX::strftime() Formats. This book uses the POSIX module a few times to format date strings. This list shows the formats that the module uses and what the formats do.
Appendix D, General Public License. If you didn't read the copy that came with Perl, you can do so here.
Appendix E, Artistic License. Another license under which Perl is distributed.
Appendix F, Perl Documentation. A list of the documentation that comes with Perl. This list is useful for interactive learning along with this book.
Appendix G, ASCII Codes. A list of ASCII, hex, and decimal codes.
Appendix H, Special HTML Characters. A list of special characters, such as £, ®, and Æ. Although these aren't specific to Perl, you will probably need some of them sooner or later when generating HTML with Perl.
One of the best resources for Perl is the Perl documentation and the documentation included in various Perl modules. Chapter 1 covers how to read this documentation with the perldoc command. The Perl homepage at http://www.perl.com is extremely useful with articles, tips, documentation, other resource links, and what's new in the world of Perl. The Perl Mongers homepage at http://www.perl.org supplies good information on the world of Perl and Perl advocacy. The use Perl Web site at http://use.perl.org is a community page where Perl information is shared and discussed. The Perl Documentation Web site at http://www.perldoc.com is a very useful site containing the latest Perl documentation. Finally, the Perl Monks at http://www.perlmonks.com is another community where people can ask questions, answer questions, chat, and share knowledge.
Usenet has Perl newsgroups that are also useful: comp.lang.perl.announce has Perl announcements; comp.lang.perl.misc is a high traffic list for asking Perl-related questions; and comp.lang.perl.modules announces and discusses Perl modules. A non-Perl-specific news group that deals with CGI is comp.infosystems.www.authoring.cgi. Here you can discuss all topics CGI.