Chapter 9. Forms

Forms, forms, forms, forms: we fill 'em out for nearly everything, from the moment we're born, 'til the moment we die. Pretty mundane, really. So what's to explain all the hoopla and excitement over HTML forms? Simply this: they make HTML and, of course, XHTML truly interactive.

When you think about it, interacting with a web page is basically a lot of button pushing: click here, click there, go here, go there ? there's no real user feedback, and it's certainly not personalized. Programs like applets, servlets, JSPs, and ASPs provide extensive user-interaction capability but can be difficult to write. Forms, on the other hand, are easily made in HTML/XHTML and make it possible to create documents that collect and process user input and to formulate personalized replies.

This powerful mechanism has far-reaching implications, particularly for electronic commerce. It finishes an online catalog by giving buyers a way to immediately order products and services. It gives nonprofit organizations a way to sign up new members. It lets market researchers collect user data. It gives you an automated way to interact with your readers.

Mull over the ways you might want to interact with your readers while we take a look at both the client- and server-side details of creating forms.