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Chapter 4. Go Web, Young Man

Chapter 4. Go Web, Young Man

In the previous chapter, we introduced the library application and built its basic book management features. But the system we've built so far doesn't give end users any way to take advantage of these features. Because we probably don't want everyone in the library lining up at our office door asking us to make entries in the catalog, we'll want to build a user interface for the system.

When building the application's user interface, or front end, the first decision is what overall style the application will have: does it need to look like a typical Windows application, with toolbars, fancy onscreen doodads, and sophisticated online help? In our case, probably not, particularly considering our development budget. Does it need to run from the command line? Almost certainly not. Instead, making the front end web-based—that is, accessible from a web browser like Netscape—makes sense for a number of reasons:

  • Almost everyone in the user community is comfortable surfing the Web, so they should be comfortable with an application they can run from a web browser.

  • We want to provide the same interface to users whether they are logged in locally or remotely, a requirement that is easy to fulfill with a web-based program.

  • We don't want to have to install special software on each computer workstation.

  • We can build the entire application in PL/SQL.

Before we get into the details of building our web-based user interface, let's make sure you understand some basic web concepts. What I want to show next is a quick overview of how web pages come into the world, both with and without PL/SQL. This discussion begins with an introduction to writing web pages using standard HyperText Markup Language (HTML).

If you're working in an environment where you aren't currently building web-based PL/SQL applications, you might be tempted to skip this chapter. Given how prevalent web-based applications are these days, though, we recommend that you read on. It's only a matter of time before you'll need to know how to use the features described here.

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