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FormMail: A Mail Form Under Your Control

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Don't rely on third parties for mail form functionality: You can supply it yourself with your own mailform script. Learn here how to add fixed functions to process the form information as you want it, and how to set up a script to process a form's results for you.
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FormMail comes in handy for anybody setting up a commercial site or a professional-looking personal site. Mail-tos are okay for a casual personal site, but they look unprofessional on a business site as a primary contact method for the business. Of course, sometimes they are used appropriately for individual staff members, especially in large organizations.

FormMail is also for anybody who has been doing basic web page design for a while and wants to be able to do more than just display simple static HTML pages. You don't have to depend on your hosting provider or third-party site to get mail forms, guest books, counters, and so on.

Third-party web sites can provide this kind of functionality, but there is always a price, even if it is "free." For example, your guest books might have third-party banners, your customers might be exposed to other kinds of advertising, your layout might have to be whatever the provider says it is, and your available controls might have to be whatever the provider says they are.

However, the biggest price is that your third-party functionality might disappear with no advance notice or warning. This has happened to me with guest book providers, counter providers, and web form providers. My readers once lost access to a mail form for several weeks, and I didn't even realize that I had a problem.

If your own host provider provides this kind of functionality for you, you'll have to replace it with something else when you change sites. You almost certainly will have to do this sooner or later. At the very least, you'll have to configure a bunch of "user-friendly" web page controls, which will be different for every provider.

If you provide this functionality via script, which is a simplified program designed to provide certain kinds of limited functionality (mail forms, counters, and guest books), all you have to do when you change the provider is move the script along with the other files on your site. If other files are associated with it, you move them, too. That way, you can start at the new site right where you left off.

Mail forms are a good start on this.

Web-Hosting Support

Some low-end "basic" hosting accounts do not support CGI scripting. These accounts are suitable for only the most basic web sites because scripting is required for anything beyond the most basic functionality. If you are reading this article, you probably have already outgrown this and should look into upgrading your account or finding a provider that supports it.

Note that personal web sites supported as part of a regular ISP account often do not support CGI access for users. Find out before you decide to do this.

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