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What The Heck Is That? - All The Jargons
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Cascading Style Sheets (CSS)
Cascading Style Sheets (CSS for short)
sound a lot scarier than they really are. CSS is a language
for describing how you want the elements of a web page to
For example, instead of using <FONT FACE="arial">
all over your site to set text to Arial font, you can just
create a CSS file that instructs Web browsers that all body
text should be displayed in an Arial font. Making changes
to the look of your site becomes much easier since you can
make a change in one place and have it affect your whole
site at once. For more info, read this CSS
Again, different browsers support CSS to differing extents.
However, there is enough support available already to save
yourself a lot of time typing <font> tags, and you
may actually find that CSS saves you more time when you
need to re-design your web site.
Dynamic HTML (DHTML)
Not really a language in and of itself, the term “Dynamic
HTML” refers to the practice of using the various features
of modern Web browsers together to make web page elements
change and respond to user action/input without help from
Style Sheets together. Dynamic HTML would be a very powerful
tool if it weren’t for the differences between Web browsers’
support for these languages. While many exciting effects
are possible using Dynamic HTML techniques, it takes a lot
of experience to make it work on both major browsers.
Java is a full-featured programming language like C++,
but simpler and more tightly structured.
Instead of running directly on a computer's operating system,
Java programs run on a "Java Virtual Machine",
which itself is a program that runs on the computer's operating
system. This means that any operating system that has a
Java Virtual Machine (and yes all major operating systems
do have) can run any Java program, reducing incompatibility
The disadvantage is that Java programs tend to run slower
as the Virtual Machine has to convert Java program instructions
and pass them to the operating system.
Modern Web browsers usually have Java Virtual Machines
embedded within them. This allows a Web designer to embed
small Java applications (called Applets) into web
pages. While learning Java and programming Java applets
is far from simple, Java applets can do just about anything
a regular program can do, except they can do it in a rectangular
area inside a web page.
Common uses of Java applets include chat programs and online
games. For security reasons, however, Java applets cannot
access files or other potentially sensitive information
on your computer, and they cannot connect to computers other
than the Web server that sent them.
Server-side technologies are largely the result of desires
for web sites to serve as large, dynamic, interactive, and
customizable sources of information that is kept constantly
up to date.
While basic Web server software simply sends HTML files
in response to requests from browsers, server-side technologies
expand on the capabilities of the Web server to allow it
to dynamically generate HTML pages by running programs,
connecting to databases, and doing other fancy stuff in
response to a browser request.
The big advantage of server-side technologies is that they
don’t rely on any special features of the Web browser. A
dynamic page generated by server-side program can be viewed
in any browser that understands HTML, since the program
has run and converted results into plain HTML on the Web
server before sending it to the Web browser. Thus the term:
Since only the Web server itself needs to support any given
server-side technology used to build a site, there are a
lot more options in this area. In this article, I’ll cover
the most widespread of these to give you a good idea of
what’s out there.
Common Gateway Interface (CGI)
The Common Gateway Interface,
or CGI, is a standard that allows a Web server to execute
an external program and send its output to the browser that
requested it. Thus, a CGI-capable Web server, when receiving
a request for, say, “email.exe”, will not simply send that
file to the browser. Instead, it will recognize the file
as an executable program and run it. The Web server then
captures the output (which is usually an HTML document)
and sends it to the Web browser.
CGI was the original method of creating dynamic Web applications.
You can write a program in C/C++, Perl, or whatever language
can run on your Web server computer, and tell the Web server
to treat it as a CGI program. Perl is the most popular language
used to write CGI scripts.
There're thousands of free CGI scripts out there you can
use. For more info, read this CGI
Server-Side Scripting Languages
Server-side scripting languages, such as PHP, ASP, and
PerlScript, are all intended to fulfill the same role as
CGI without the burden of launching an external program
for every request.
By installing a plug-in, the Web server software knows
how to do things like running programs written in Perl or
PHP all by itself, instead of having to ask the operating
system to run them as separate programs. When a web page
containing one of these languages is requested, the Web
server uses its internal plug-ins to run the code in the
page, then send the results to the Web browser.
The distinction here is subtle, but very important. If,
for instance, a Web server knows how to interpret Perl code
all by itself, it doesn’t have to waste the time and resources
involved in launching a separate program to generate a dynamic
Perl (also: PerlScript)
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Article by Zac Hewlett at
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