Web Site Design & Development Terms And Jargons
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What The Heck Is That? - All The Jargons Explained
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 look.
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 toturial.
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 the server.
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 problems.
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: server-side.
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 tutorial.
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 page.
Perl (also: PerlScript)
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