MS FrontPage

How Forms Work

You've probably been on the visitor side of forms many times: you enter your information in boxes on a Web page. Then you click Complete My Order and yourbrowser displays a "Thank you" page. Two weeks later, your new Guitar Artistry of Charo CD arrives at your door.

Now that you're going to be on the manufacturing end of forms, you'll need to know a bit more about the process through which that CD was dispatched to you. What's a form made of? And where does the information go once a visitor clicks Submit?

Pages that play host to one or more forms can look pretty complicated when you peek behind the curtain, but you're still dealing with basic HTML. A form is part of a regular Web page and consists ofsurprise, surprisea basic <form> tag. Within the <form> tag's opening and close, you'll add elements that make up your form, such as text boxes, pull-down menus, option buttons, and checkboxes.

When someone fills out and submits a form, the basic process goes something like this:

  1. A viewer fills out form fields and clicks Submit.

  2. The data she entered travels to the Web server.

  3. Special software on the Web server processes the data and sends it into one of the following:

    • An email message that goes wherever you say (to the company "suggestions" mailbox or your manager's inbox, for example).

    • A file that can hold data in a variety of text formats (again, you specify which one).

    • Or, into a database.

  4. The Web server displays a "confirmation page" to the viewer, thanking her for the information she so kindly entered and letting her know the Web server has processed the data.

You've probably been on the receiving end of a confirmation message more than a few times. The process seems pretty simple, except for step 3. If you're not a programming expert, how do you get the Web server to process information like that?

No worries. FrontPage does it for you. You just need to set your options, and then the program takes care of the rest.

Forms require the presence of FrontPage Server Extensions or SharePoint on your Web server. (Publishing Your Site has more about both those tools.) You can create forms if you're developing your site in a disk-based environment (Where to Create Your Site), but you have to upload these pages to your Web server to see how they work.