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How to Install a Perl CGI Script

You can do lots of nifty and convenient things using totally free, pre-written scripts that are widely available on the Web. For example, you can install a script that will email the contents of an HTML form to you, or that automatically rotates content, or perhaps provides a daily poll and tabulates the results. But before each new script can work its wonders, you'll need to install it on your Web server. This is a fairly simple task, once you know how to do it.

When you obtain a new script, it will usually come with a file called "readme.txt." This file, which can be viewed with any text capable program such as Windows Notepad, contains the instructions you need to follow to get the script running on your server. For example, there may be lines in the main script file that have to be changed to work properly with your hosting environment - such as the path to certain system resources or files. Or there may be a configuration file that needs to be altered. Readme.txt will tell you what changes are needed. If there is no readme.txt packaged with the script, open the script file itself. Often instructions are built in at the top of the file.

Before you make any changes, store a copy of the original script in another place so you can start over if you need to. When you have made any necessary modifications, take care to save it in the same format it arrived in - i.e. plain text. Some word processors have a nasty habit of saving files with extra binary characters which will render the script nonfunctional.

Once you've made any modifications to the script file per the instructions, the next step is to upload the script to your Web server. You can use any FTP program to do this, but be sure you upload the file in ASCII (text) mode. If you use binary mode, the script won't function properly. The script must also be uploaded to a special place on the server - in a directory named cgi-bin. If your Web host allows Perl programs, a cgi-bin directory will probably be ready and waiting. If there isn't one, create it yourself.

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