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How to Build A Web Database (Without Programming)

P: n/a
This is the latest in the "Total Non-Programmer" series. Any feedback on
the usability of this tutorial would be greatly appreciated.


How to Build A Web Database (Without Programming)

This article will teach you step-by-step how to add interactive
database-driven capabilities to your existing web site. When the steps
below are completed, your web site will be able to search any type of
list (people, products, cars, resumes, articles, pictures etc.) and/or
save the contents of your form into a database for later retrieval.

The following steps will work on both Unix/Linux and Windows based
servers. The only requirement is that you have a hosting account that
includes a /cgi-bin directory. It doesn't matter what kind of computer
you use, so long as it has a web browser. It requires only one
shareware package, which is free for trial purposes.

NOTE TO NON-WINDOWS USERS: To install the program manually, browse to and follow the instructions
there. Then proceed to Step II.

I. Installation:

1. Download the following zip file:
2. Unzip the file. If you don't already have an unzip utility, visit and get PKZIP.
3. Double-click on "Setup.exe"
4. A window will open with 3 boxes. Enter your server's FTP hostname,
username, and password.
5. Click "Next". Now, double-click on directory names until you are in
the /cgi-bin. DO NOT CLICK "NEXT".
6. Enter the URL to the cgi-bin into the box at the bottom of the
screen. You may need to remove /htdocs or /html or /www from the default
to make it a correct URL. Now you can click "Next".
7. The program will move up one level. Now select a folder where you
want the html pages associated with the database to reside. Again, do
not click "Next" until you are sure the URL in the bottom box is correct.
8. On the last page, just leave /usr/bin/perl in the first box, unless
you know of a different path.
9. The name you choose in the second box will be a part of the file
names, so keep it under 8 characters if possible.
10. Choose any password you like for the third box. Later, when you log
into the database as admin, this will be your password.
11. Click "Finish - this may take a moment". It normally only takes a
minute or two.

II. Logging in

When the installer is finished, it will tell you to browse to the URL
which you selected to hold the program's html pages. Open up a web
browser and go to that page. Click on the link to dbname_admin.html
(where dbname is the database name you chose during installation). Enter
your password in the box and you will be logged in as administrator.
You will see the program's free 30 day trial period at the top of the
page. It is safe to ignore it for now, but if you are still using the
program after 28 days you will want to register it.

III. Setting up your fields

Next you need to decide what pieces of information you want to keep for
each item in your database. If you already have a spreadsheet of data,
the label at the top of each column is a field. Some examples of fields
are: (firstname, lastname, address, city, state, zip, phone) or (VIN,
Make, Model, Year, Color, Description) or (MLS#, Property_type, beds,
baths, sqft, city, schools, picture). You get the idea.

Click the "Modify Fields" button. By default, there are 3 fields
created as place holders named "field1", "field2", and "field3". Select
"field1" and click "Redefine Selected Field" and rename it using the
first field in your list. Follow the prompts to determine whether it
should display as a text box, a checkbox, a pop-up list, a comment box,
or a file box for uploading files. After you redefine "field2" and
"field3" you can click "Insert Field Below Selection" to add more fields
to the list. Click "Return to Administration Screen" when you're done.

IV. If you want visitors to add data into your database

If this database will be for searching only, proceed to step V.

Note: the "user search page" doubles as the "user ADD page".

1. Click "Customize Pages".
2. Check the "Allow Visitors to ADD" checkbox.
3. Under "Which fields should appear on the user search page", click on
each field which you will need the guests to fill in.
4. Scroll to the top and click "Modify Pages."
5. Click "Test your modifications on the User Search Page."
6. Copy the URL in your browser's address bar and use it as a link on
your homepage for guests to add to your database.
7. You can customize the page either by adding HTML to the "Header for
Search Page" box, or by choosing "SAVE-AS" from the FILE menu while
browsed to the page, then use your favorite html editor to edit it. As
long as you don't change the names of any of the form tags, you should
be able to modify the page any way you want.

V. If you want visitors to search your database.

1. First you need to get some data into the database. You can either
type the data into the boxes on the administration screen, or click
"Import data" and upload your spreadsheet through the browser.
2. Click "Customize Pages"
3. Under "Which field should appear on the user search page", choose the
fields that your visitors will want to search.
4. Scroll down to "Sequence of fields" and select 6 or so fields which
will appear on the initial report.
5. Make sure "Include 'view' button" is checked, and type "Details" into
the "Label for view button" box.
6. Scroll to the bottom of the page, click "Modify Pages" and then click
"Test your modifications on the User Search Page."
7. Copy the URL in your browser's address bar and use it as a link on
your homepage for guests to search your database.
8. Feel free to experiment with the options on the "Customize Pages"
screen to help your database match the look and feel of your site.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are options for creating
members, restricting access, adding a shopping cart, and more.

The Shareware Company maintains a very helpful support forum at

Jul 20 '05 #1
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