Perl CGI Hello World

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Perl CGI - Hello World

Introduction

This step-by-step guide shows a small fraction of Perl’s CGI power. It covers some core Perl functions and modules.

I have kept these scripts simple and show how to run them on Uniform Server.

Shebang

Every Perl script starts with a special line known in the Unix world as the Shebang line.

Shebang   Notes
#!/usr/bin/perl

 

It has the following format: Starts with a hash "#" followed by an exclamation mark "!" and then the complete path on your system to the Perl program itself.

The shebang shown corresponds to Uniform Server running either in portable-mode (basic) or disk-root. The line informs Apache where to find the Perl program, "/" means start at the top level of a disk then follow the folder path usr, bin and finally the name of the Perl program perl.exe note the file extension is assumed.

#!c:/UniServer/usr/bin/perl

 

When Uniform Server is installed as a service all Perl shebangs are changed to match the installation path. An example of this shebang is shown for a default installation of Mona installed as a service. Hence when writing new scripts remember to use the correct path for the shebang.

Note 1: The shebang can take parameters the most useful is -w it enables warnings remove it on finished scripts.

  • #!/usr/bin/perl -w
  • #!c:/UniServer/usr/bin/perl -w

Note 2: Forward slashes are Unix paths if you wish you can use a back slash the path must be enclosed in quotes.

  • #!"\usr\bin\perl"
  • #!"c:\UniServer\usr\bin\perl"

Note 3: For maximum computability always use forward slashes and run Uniform Server in portable or disk-root mode.

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Content-type headers

The first thing a CGI script must perform is to output a header. This header is checked by Apache and then passed on to a users browser informing it what type of file to expect. In the hello world examples we are outputting an HTML file hence the header looks like this:

print "Content-type: text/html\n\n";

 

Its important to output it exactly as shown. Must start with a capital "C" followed by lowercase characters. Of importance are the two newline characters (\n\n) at the end of the header. The header needs to be followed by a blank line hence the second newline character.

print "Content-type: text/html\r\n\r\n";

 

The above works fine on Windows.

On some Unix boxes it fails hence for compatibility between Windows and Unix add \r before each \n.

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Script 1 - Basic

Understanding the above two lines is important and allows us to look at the first hello world script:

#!/usr/bin/perl

# test_1.pl - First Perl Script!
print "Content-type: text/html\r\n\r\n";
print "Hello World\n"; # Comment starts

 

The first line is the shebang informing Apache where to find the Perl program.

The second line starts with a hash "#" indicating the start of a comment, any character after this up to the end of a line are ignored. Although the shebang starts with a hash it is not a comment because it is combined with an exclamation mark the two together define a shebang. You can start a comment anywhere along a line, if a line is Perl code a comment must start after the line terminator character ";" semi-column.

The third lines outputs (prints) the header.

Last line prints Hello World, anything to be printed is placed in quotes, all code lines are terminated with a semi-column. If you wish add a comment after the line (code) terminator.

Running the script

  • Create a text file and copy the above script. Save the file with name test_1.pl
  • Copy this file to folder: UniServer\udrive\cgi-bin
  • Start the servers.
  • Type the following into a browser: http://localhost/cgi-bin/test_1.pl

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Script 2 - Basic HTML

In reality we have lied to a browser what is served resembles nothing like an HTML page. A browser will have worked overtime to render the above.

The next script addresses this issue:

#!/usr/bin/perl

# test_2.pl - Second Perl Script!
print "Content-type: text/html\r\n\r\n";

print "<HTML>";
print "<HEAD>";
print "<TITLE>Hello World</TITLE>";
print "</HEAD>";
print "<BODY>";
print "<H1>Hello World</H1>";
print "</BODY>";
print "</HTML>";

 

The code is similar to the above includes a shebang, comment and header line.

Each piece of HTML code is individually output using a print statement.

Running the script

  • Create a text file and copy the script. Save the file with name test_2.pl
  • Copy this file to folder: UniServer\udrive\cgi-bin
  • Start the servers.
  • Type the following into a browser: http://localhost/cgi-bin/test_2.pl

A page full of print statements becomes very tedious the next script makes the task a little easier.

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Script 3 - Basic HTML Here-doc

I have taken the above code and reduce the number of print statements required using a short cut known as Here-document quoting.

#!/usr/bin/perl

# test_3.pl - Third Perl Script!
print "Content-type: text/html\r\n\r\n";

print <<"EOF123";
<HTML>
 <HEAD>
   <TITLE>Hello World</TITLE>
 </HEAD>
 <BODY>
   <H1>Hello World</H1>
 </BODY>
</HTML>
EOF123

 

With the exception of the header all print statements have been replaced with two special markers.

A block of text to be printed is enclosed between print <<"EOF123"; and EOF123 start and end tags respectively.

Note 1: There's nothing special about the "EOF123" string use anything you like however it must be identical in both cases.

Note 2: The end tag EOF123 must be place on its own line and no spaces are allowed at either the beging or end of the statement.

Running the script

  • Create a text file and copy the script. Save the file with name test_3.pl
  • Copy this file to folder: UniServer\udrive\cgi-bin
  • Start the servers.
  • Type the following into a browser: http://localhost/cgi-bin/test_3.pl

Using here-doc is a real time-saver.

It is possible to write complex scripts using Perl’s core functions however to unleash its real power you will want to use modules. There are no shortages of these the next two scripts use one of Perl’s most powerful modules CGI.pm.

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Script 4 - Basic HTML CGI.pm function-oriented

CGI.pm has two faces either function-oriented or object-oriented. This example shows how to use the function interface. The command Use CGI takes a parameter this allows us to import a set of functions from the CGI module. This example imports the "standard" set of functions from this module.

#!/usr/bin/perl

# test_4.pl - Fourth Perl Script!

use CGI qw/:standard/;           # load standard CGI routines
print header,                    # create HTTP header
      start_html('Hello World'), # start of HTML
      h1('Hello World'),         # level 1 header
      end_html;                  # end of HTML

 


Running the script

  • Create a text file and copy the script. Save the file with name test_4.pl
  • Copy this file to folder: UniServer\udrive\cgi-bin
  • Start the servers.
  • Type the following into a browser: http://localhost/cgi-bin/test_4.pl

The above is intended to provide a working example in no way does it indicate the enormity and flexibility of this module.

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Script 5 - Basic HTML CGI.pm object-oriented

This next example shows the second face of this module which is object-oriented. Again it only scratches the surface, You can create one or more CGI objects and then use object methods to create various elements of a page.

#!/usr/bin/perl

# test_5.pl - Fifth Perl Script!

use CGI;                             # load CGI functions
$q = new CGI;                        # create new CGI object
print $q->header,                    # create HTTP header
      $q->start_html('Hello World'), # start of HTML
      $q->h1('Hello World'),         # level 1 header
      $q->end_html;                  # end of HTML

 


Running the script

  • Create a text file and copy the script. Save the file with name test_5.pl
  • Copy this file to folder: UniServer\udrive\cgi-bin
  • Start the servers.
  • Type the following into a browser: http://localhost/cgi-bin/test_5.pl

Again the objective is to provide a working example. The above gives you some idea of the modules capabilities take a look at Perl's doc for more information.

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Script 6 - Basic HTML CGI.pm query string

When a form is submitted its easy to pick-up the query string and process it. There is no need to use a form the query string can be included with the URL. This example demostrates the principal.

URL: http://localhost/cgi-bin/test_6.pl?part1=Hello&part2=World

#!/usr/bin/perl

# test_6.pl - Sixth Perl Script!

use CGI qw/:standard/;      # load standard CGI routines
print header,               # create HTTP header
  start_html('Hello Page'); # start of HTML
  my $p1 = param("part1");  # get first parameter   
  my $p2 = param("part2");  # get second parameter   
print  h1($p1." ".$p2);     # level 1 header
print  end_html;            # end of HTML

 


Running the script

  • Create a text file and copy the script. Save the file with name test_6.pl
  • Copy this file to folder: UniServer\udrive\cgi-bin
  • Start the servers.
  • Type the following into a browser:
    http://localhost/cgi-bin/test_6.pl?part1=Hello&part2=World

The query string ?part1=Hello&part2=World contains two name/value pairs part1=Hello and part2=World. These values would normally be entered into a form using input tags and added to a URL when the page (form) is submitted.

The script picks-up our two values using CGI function param("input tag name")and assigns them to two variables $p1 and £p2. The two variables (strings) are concatenated (joined together) and printed.

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Script 7 - Basic HTML CGI.pm form

Generally you would combine a form and its processing in a single script. CGI.pm makes the whole task very easy, this example shows some of the form functions. The form consists of two input fields a drop-down menu and send button.

#!/usr/bin/perl

# test_7.pl - Seventh Perl Script!

use CGI qw/:standard/;                                 # load standard CGI routines
  my $p1 = param("part1");                             # get parameter   
  my $p2 = param("part2");                             # get parameter   
  my $p3 = param("part3");                             # get parameter   
print header,                                          # create HTTP header
  start_html('Hello Page'),                            # start of HTML
  h1('Simple form');                                   # level h1 header
if ($p1 && $p2 ){                                      # check both set 
  print p('Full name = '.$p1." ".$p2);                 # print variables
  print p('Extra info = '.$p3);                        # print variable
}
print hr, start_form;                                  # start form
print p('Enter First Name : ', textfield('part1','')); # add input tag
print p('Enter Last Name  : ', textfield('part2','')); # add input tag
print p('Extra:',' ' x 18 ,popup_menu('part3',         # create dropdown menu
['Hello World 1','Hello World 2','Hello World 3']));   # menu values
print p(submit('Send'));                               # add submit button
print end_form(),hr();                                 # end form
print  end_html;                                       # end of HTML

Running the script

  • Create a text file and copy the script. Save the file with name test_7.pl
  • Copy this file to folder: UniServer\udrive\cgi-bin
  • Start the servers.
  • Type the following into a browser: http://localhost/cgi-bin/test_7.pl

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Web Root - Perl

You are not confined to running Perl scripts from folder cgi-bin you can copy the scripts to folder UniServer\udrive\www and run them from there.

For example to run test_1.pl copy it to folder www type the following into your browser:

http://localhost/test_1.pl

This is possible because cgi has been enabled in file .htaccess which is located in www. Open the file in a text editor you will find these two lines they have been un-commented (hash removed) hence enabled:

AddHandler cgi-script .pl .cgi
Options +ExecCGI

The first line informs Apache files with the specified extension are to be processed as cgi scripts.

Last line gives Apache permission to execute cgi scripts.

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Summary

Perl is vast and very powerful this page was intended to provide a starting point. The main aim was to show how to run Perl scripts on Uniform Server by using working examples. With working examples you hack them around to meet your own needs.

Related Links:

New Users: Quick Perl CGI

New Users: Quick Perl CLI

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