[Kc] Book Review: Official Guide to Programming with CGI.pm

Garrett Goebel garrett at scriptpro.com
Thu Apr 24 13:39:45 CDT 2003

Official Guide to Programming with CGI.pm
Author: Lincoln Stein
Publisher: Wiley
Published: 1998
ISBN: 0471247448

The Offical Guide to Programming with CGI is an introductory level text
covering Lincoln Stein's CGI.pm module. CGI.pm is the standard perl module
for working with CGI. CGI (Common Gateway Interface) is the standard
interface by which external programs can interace with web servers. The text
assumes the reader has at least a beginner's knowledge of Perl and HTML. For
instance, readers are assumed to know how to use modules, but no prior
knowledge of object oriented perl is required. Likewise, the reader should
have a passing familiarity with HTML tags, forms in particular. This book is
particularly beginner friendly.

The reader should be able to walk away from the book with the ability to
create simple websites which take and respond to user input. The potential
CGI.pm programmer will gain a fundamental knowledge of the module, its
interface, and how it may be used to generate HTML. The text also includes a
very detailed reference guide which may appeal to those people who prefer to
hold what they're reading.

While the book was published back in 1998, it hasn't become outdated. It is
pleasantly surprising that CGI.pm's interface has changed so little. Support
for new standards like XHTML have been added since the book was originally
published, but have had little net effect on the use of CGI.pm itself.

Why CGI?  Isn't that the way people used to write dynamic web pages? Yes.
And where portability concerns outweigh performance, it still is. Also, if
you're a relative novice or don't have an endless supply of round tuits, CGI
programming may present the lowest barrier of entry into dynamic web

Even if you later move on to one of the newer templating systems a
fundamental knowledge of CGI.pm and how it works will still be useful. Not
to mention that some of the templating systems for instance HTML::Mason will
run on top of CGI, even though most are primarily designed to work with
Apache and mod_perl. For those who would appreciate a short description of
what mod_perl is, it basically puts a copy of Perl inside the Apache
executable making powerful hooks available to perl scripts and avoiding the
overhead of executing a separate process for each CGI script.

The author of the book, Lincoln Stein, is also the author of the module
itself. In the book, Stein takes the reader through a gradual progression of
scenarios and solutions. The explanations are thorough and the pace
gradually takes the reader into more advanced topics. In short, it is a
concise introduction to CGI programming with Perl.

Low level details, like how CGI works under the hood and more advanced
topics like security, cascading style sheets, javascript, and persistence
are touched upon but not covered in particular depth. The author does
however provide many timely references to books and websites where the
reader can find more information on those topics.

Garrett Goebel
IS Development Specialist

ScriptPro                  Direct: 913.403.5261
5828 Reeds Road            Main:   913.384.1008
Mission, KS 66202          Fax:    913.384.2180
www.scriptpro.com          garrett at scriptpro dot com

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