- A Look at Acronyms Used in Web Design

A Look at Acronyms Used in Web Design

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On this page we discuss some technologies commonly used in the world of the web. The aim is to slowly introduce you to these concepts so that when and if you ever need to work with any of them, you will at least have some basic knowledge of what people are talking about.

Some basic concepts by acronyms:

HTML: HyperText Markup Language -> the written language of tags that you use to create web pages.

- What is a tag?

To explain what a tag is we need to talk about page elements. Elements are the base components of an HTML page. Examples of elements are tables, paragraphs, and lists. HTML tags are used to mark the elements of an HTML file for your browser. Elements can contain plain text, other elements, or both.

To mark the different elements in an HTML page, you use tags. HTML tags consist of a left angle bracket (<), a tag name, and a right angle bracket (>). Tags are typically paired (e.g., <B> and </B>) to start and end the tag. The end tag looks just like the start tag except for a slash (/) that precedes the text within the brackets.

URL: Uniform Resource Locator -> this is the geek's way of saying ‘address’. So for example: is a URL.

CSS: Cascading Style Sheets -> an extension to HTML that allows you to style your pages in ways you cannot do with standard HTML. Check out my article on CSS.

XML: Extensible Markup Language -> a way to store and present data in a format readable by humans. XML is used today for all sorts of things. For example: as configuration files for web servers, as mini-databases, and as a universal means of exchanging information between computers. XML can come into play in a big way when you get into server side programming and FLASH work.

PHP: PHP (recursive acronym for "PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor") PHP is a very popular web scripting language and engine. It allows you to create dynamic web pages easily and quickly. It is easy to learn and so once you get the basics down you will progress quickly and start writing some useful scripts. In non-geek terms: it's an engine that runs in conjunction with a web server that allows you to create web pages that change – examples of such include guest books, discussion boards … and so on.

I'm not going to try and teach you PHP but I thought it might be fun for you to see what it looks like. PHP is very simple to use, the first thing to note is that PHP is embedded into HTML. That is to say that PHP code is intermingled to some extent with your HTML code:



echo "Hi, I'm a PHP script!";



The PHP code is enclosed in special start and end tags that allow you to jump into and out of "PHP mode".

The special start tag is:


And the special end tag is:


Anything in-between these special tags is processed by the aforementioned PHP engine (The PHP engine is just a program that knows how to read and use the PHP code – in a nutshell). In the above example we are telling the PHP engine to do something very simple; print “Hi, I'm a PHP script!”.

In PHP (like in all programming languages) there are special keywords that tell the PHP engine to do something. In the above example ‘echo’ it is a special keyword/command that tells the PHP engine to print something to the HTML page.

So now you know PHP pages are just like HTML pages except that they have special PHP code in places surrounded by the special PHP start and end tags. Oh yeah, PHP pages have the extension (that is to say: end with the letters) ‘.php’ rather than ‘.html’.

So if you have an HTML page called: ‘books.html’ and you wanted to add some PHP in the page to for example grab a list of books from a database, you would first have to change the page name to: ‘books.php’ and then insert the PHP code into your page. You need to rename any pages that have PHP so that the PHP engine knows that there is PHP code in there. Finally, you cannot run PHP pages unless your server has PHP installed. This is very likely since PHP is free for everyone, and runs on both Windows and non-Windows servers like Linux.

If you want to learn more about PHP you might want to go to the 'source' of PHP.

You can get at a whole bunch of PHP scripts here.

ASP: Active Server Pages -> Microsoft’s Scripting Engine.

Active server pages is Microsoft’s PHP-like scripting engine for dynamic pages. It is different from PHP in many ways (ASP uses VBscript or Jscript as it’s programming language and it is free only on windows) but it is also very similar in that they have the same purpose of providing a means to creating dynamic web pages. If you want to learn more, please let me know and I’ll start writing!

You'll learn more about ASP at Microsoft's website.

JSP: Java Server Pages -> Java’s version of ASP and PHP.

You can learn more about JSP from the source.

DBMS: Database Management System: A program that provides all kinds of functionality to allow you to easily save, update, delete, and search for information. Examples of DBMS products are MySQL and Oracle, among many others. People typically refer to DBMS products as simply ‘databases’.

SQL: Structured Query Language -> the language of relational databases, databases like MySQL and Oracle. Relational databases are a type of database that has been around for about 20 years. A relational database is the most popular type of database out there today and is commonly used with dynamic web sites.

Just in case you’re confused, there are several different types of databases as there are several types of automobiles. If you ever get into database work, you'll find that there is a 99% chance you will be working with a relational database so you need not worry about the other types. But for those wannabe nerds who really want to know, here are some other types of databases out there:

Object Databases: everything is saved as a programmic object. Has everything to do with Object Oriented Programming, Object Oriented Programming is a way/style of programming that organizes the code as conceptual objects. OOP (object oriented programming) is very popular today and can be found in languages like Java, JavaScript, and C#.

Flat File Database: Typically a custom way of storing the information in a simple text file (as in: example.txt). It was common just a few years ago for programmers to create their own database by saving the data to a series of simple text files referred to as flat files.

This is a very primitive form of database and is not normally something you need to do today with so many commercial and free database products out there that have a lot of functionality built in.

CGI: Common Gateway Interface -> the first method developed to create dynamic web pages. Usually written in the PERL programming language, CGI has been replaced by easier-to-use and more advanced technology like PHP, ASP, and JSP. Yet CGI is still used today by many people.

Because CGI has been around a long time, there are a lot of free scripts out there that you should be able to easily run on your webserver as just about all webservers support/allow for CGI scripts - to a certain degree.

Check out some CGI scripts

Links of interest related to this article:

You can learn about CSS from my Article on CSS.

This site has a collection of CGI scripts.

You can learn more about JSP from the source.

PHP's home page.

This site has a nice collection of PHP scripts

You'll learn more about ASP at Microsoft's website.

If you liked the article and you want to see more let me know!

Stefan Mischook

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