CGI Programming in C & Perl

by Phil Hughes
  • Author:Thomas Boutell

  • Published by: Addison Wesley Longman

  • ISBN:0-201-42219-0

  • Price:$34.95

  • Pages:402 (plus CD)

  • Reviewer: by Phil Hughes

Going to write a CGI program? If your answer was “yes”, you need this book. Once I started reading it, I told our book buyer that SSC needed to sell this book. While there are other books that cover CGI, this book jumps out as a must have.

The book starts with the basics, covering browser/server/CGI program relationships, the CGI standard, goals of CGI and where to get CGI access. But it doesn't dawdle. By page 35 you are looking at CGI scripts, and for the next 300 pages you find concepts, more scripts and explanations.

Every script is presented in both C and Perl 5, and the source for everything is on the CD. The scripts are initially presented as stand-alone programs, where all the routine-parsing and such is included in the code. After you are familiar with these methods, libraries for both C and Perl (cgic and cgi-lib) are presented and used in the subsequent examples. These libraries do most of the CGI dirty work for you.

By the time you are halfway through the book you will have learned about CGI environment variables, handling forms, sending e-mail and multimedia. Then you get into what Boutell calls “advanced features”, including client pull, server push, imagemaps and decision-making based on browser type. Debugging—using real debuggers—is also covered.

Chapters 13 and 14 present two serious applications. The first is a solar system simulator which, as the author notes, is really pushing the capabilities of CGI. But it employs good code, and it shows that he knows what he is doing. The other application, called World Wide Web Wall Street, is a model for what could be a real web-based, on-line trading system.

The last 80 pages of the book are appendices that cover CGI environment variables, Internet Media types (MIME types), the cgic library, a reference manual for gd, a library for creating and modifying GIF images on the fly and information on the content of the CD.

The only criticism of the book I have is a few minor typos early on. For example, a line-folding mistake in a listing causes a command to end up on the same line as a comment. These mistakes are few and easy to catch. They are far overshadowed by the extensive knowledge of the author and the usefulness of the content of the book.

Convinced yet? If not, think of it as the purchase of a CD with some amazing software on it that happens to come with a 400 page manual. I don't think you will be disappointed.

Phil Hughes is the Publisher of Linux Journal.

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