hblogo.gif (3460 bytes) Understanding HTML

Part 3 - Forms. If browsers hadn't sprouted data entry forms, the World Wide Web might not be on its way to becoming the Electronic Commerce Superhighway. They're easy to  understand, and you don't need a programmable server to make use of the data they collect. Paul Stephens

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sb5.gif (6746 bytes)Back in the early days of Navigator, Netscape had the bright idea of giving its browser the same sort of data entry controls - text fields, radio buttons and so on - as 'real' Windows applications. The result was that browsers became data capture applications, able to collect user input and send it back across the Internet to application programs running in server computers. The Web as E-Commerce Superhighway was born.

sb6.gif (4755 bytes)Even if you're not designing E-Commerce applications, HTML forms still have a lot to offer. As well as sending data to server-side applications (including the legendary cgi scripts), they can also transfer data between pages. You can use this feature to build intelligent menu systems, and pages which configure themselves according to variable data. You don't even have to send the data to a program or page, as scripts running in the same page as a form can access the data that's been entered.

sb4.gif (15756 bytes)Check out this month's 6-step example guide, covering the form-building HTML tags. For each type of data entry control, you'll see the tag formally defined, side-by-side working examples and source code, and details of how to access the controls from scripts. To examine them mysteries of the Form Submit string, try the string tester page for yourself.

As always, Microsoft's Internet Client SDK (note the new address) has all the details on form-building HTML and scripts, although in this instance Netscape's HTML Tag Reference is easier to use, thanks to its index of form controls. It's worth downloading both these free, HTML-based resources and keeping them on your PC for instant reference.

Until next month, happy authoring!

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