As a full-featured programming language it has the ability to do anything that you can conceive for a programming language. It can, for example, create animations, play sounds, move items on the screen, and communicate with a server or a database. On a larger scale, it could conceivably be used to build programs (like Microsoft Word or Netscape Navigator) or even operating systems (such as OS 8 or Windows98). It is not limited to the Web or to a Mac or to a PC or even to a desktop computer. As a matter of fact, in the not too distant future, Java might possibly be the language that not only operates your Microwave, remote control, and wrist watch, but also allows these devices to communicate with each other! (Not that they'd have too much to say to one another). :-)
If you want to process information in a form on your web page, i.e. make a guestbook entry, add a user to your mailing list, or collect and permanently save information from the user in any way, you must use CGI (Common Gateway Interface). CGI is a set of standards or protocols that define how information can be passed from a client (the user's computer) to the server via a web browser. The term CGI refers simply to the set of agreed upon standards; it is not a language itself. To actually collect and process the information you must write a script in a language that understands the CGI protocol. Scripts are written in any of the following languages: C, C++, Perl, UNIX Shell, Java, Visual Basic, AppleScript, or TCL. Perl, however, is the most popular scripting language for CGI. CGI scripts are separate files that are not embedded in your HTML code.
Dynamic HTML (DHTML)
- Randomly moving images that also follow your cursor.
- Collapsible menu list
- If you are a member of Generation X, this interactive game needs no introduction. Be sure to click on "what will happen" to see the game.
- Here is an arcade game that Generation Xers should also recognize. (It will take a long time to download, do not try with anything less than a 56K modem).
Shockwave and Flash, created by Macromedia, are plug-ins for web browsers. Plug-ins are applications that extend the ability of a web browser. These particular plug-ins enable web browsers to easily display full-screen animations and multimedia presentations. Shockwave files are created using a program called Director - a CD-ROM authoring tool. Shockwave has a number of uses, but is mainly known as a way to translate content developed for CD-ROM to the web.
Flash, also a Macromedia product, is a technology developed specifically for the web that gives developers the ability to create interactive, vector-based animations. It is much like Shockwave and Director, however, the big difference is that Flash files are not bitmapped (as GIFs and JPEGs are) - which makes Flash files significantly smaller. Flash consists of two components as well - the Flash software which allows you to create these files (or "movies") and the Flash plug-in which allows users to play these files in their browsers.
If you are unclear about the differences between Shockwave and Flash, check out this WebMonkey article.
Animated GIF Format
An animated GIF is not a programming language nor is it as powerful as the tools listed above, but I list it here because it is often used as a way to add dynamic content to a page. It is basically an image that is an animation, i.e. a sequence of GIF images that are played like a cartoon or slide show. Animated GIFs are created with special software (that is freely available on the web) and inserted into your web page in the same manner that all other images are inserted - using the <IMG SRC> tag.
"GifBuilder" (Mac) and "WebReady's Giffy the GIF Animation Builder" (PC) are the two most popular shareware programs to create GIF animations. You can find at Download.com.