HTML Coding Q&A

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Q. Which versions of IE and Netscape can read Java & JavaScript? — Agnes

A. Netscape 2+ supports JavaScript, and Internet Explorer version 3+ supports JScript. According to over 90% of Internet surfers have JavaScript/JScript enabled.

Q. I would like to be able to offer a subscription, to say, the top 10 marketing newsletters. The idea is that visitors would click on the bullet button thereby selecting the ezines they want to subscribe to. Then they enter their email and press send. The idea is that the cgi program i run then sends of a request to each of the servers running the mailing lists and subscribes the person with the email. I understand that some mailing lists will not be able to work like this but any ideas? — Chris Padfield

A. is what you are looking for. You can chose from a large list of newsletters and include a form (with checkboxes) in your site. They even give you the opportunity to earn some money, checkout their site for more information.

If you mean that you want to offer subscriptions to newsletters that you are trading subscription forms with, then you’ll have to do some custom CGI Programming. Check out for a good tutorial.

Q. On my current web project I was asked to include a collection of 5 or 6 web documents with internal access only. How do I limit the access of these few pages only to users with a specific login name and password? — Steve Waltman

A. There are dozens of CGI Scripts out there that will allow you to setup membership scripts, so that only people with a certain login/password can access a directory. Hunt around and you’ll find something that suits your needs.

Q. I am working on a form which will send information directly to Web enabled mobile telephones. The phones will only support 160 characters and I need to provide a form with a TEXTAREA which will limit the user to 160 chars. Is there a simple measure to limit the user input in the HTML form TEXTAREA? — Michael Layland

A. The reliable way to go about this is to use a custom-coded CGI Script which can be written with PERL. You’ll find an excellent PERL Tutorial for the non-programmer at

Q. I read somewhere recently about how you can set up links without the usual underscore/underlining, but of course I can’t remember where. How do I do it? — Steve Hawker

A. You can remove the underlines from links using Style Sheets. The tutorial on how you can do that is located at HTML Goodies. Note: Older browsers with no style sheet support will still display the underlines. As well, the vast majority of people online are accustumed to all text links having an underscore.

Q. I’m having trouble with Front Page rewriting some javascript code I have added to my pages to help track visitor info. Is there some way that I can keep Front Page from altering the SuperStats javascript? Do you know why some, but not all computers that visit the pages get javascript error messages? — Laura Chase

A. WYSIWYG HTML editors (like MS FrontPage) usually modify your HTML code and screw it up. To avoid this, open your html file once it’s done with a text editor like Notepad and paste the script between the <head> </head> tags.

Q. Is there a way in HTML to do math on an HTML form? For instance, I’m writing an online purchase order form. It would be nice if the customer could click on a total button and calc the number of items purchased times the purchase price per item. Also a nice grand total button would be great. Do I have to learn JavaScript to do this, or can it be done in HTML? — Jeff Johnston

A. HTML merely controls how a web page is displayed. To do any sort of form processing, math etc, will require that you use JavaScript (client-side) or PERL which is a server-side programming language. Server-Side just means that the work/processing is done by the server and then sent back to the browser.

Q. I need a drop down menu for my site that will allow access to all 58 California Counties. I have tried to cut and paste, but I don’t think I understand all I know about html. Is there a standard form for drop down menus? — George Delacruz

A. Drop down menus do not depend solely on HTML to work. Usually they call a PERL script that then processes the requests and redirects the visitor. You’ll find a list of such scripts here. If you don’t want to, or can’t run CGI Scripts on your server you can use Mach — they have a drop-down menu script on their server that you can use (thanks goes out to Jake for pointing this service out to me).

Alternatively you can use JavaScript, however the drop down menu will not work for visitors who have JavaScript disabled. However it is significantly faster than the PERL method. You’ll find the JavaScript code that you need at: JavaScriptSource.

Q. I have a 4 frame layout on my site i want to put some drop-down boxes on one of the frames and target it to another frame is there any regular html/java drop-down scripts that will allow you to assign a target to it? I see somehow you can do that with a cgi redirect but it would be mush easier with the target.. — Danny Kelly

A. You can do it with both JavaScripts and CGI Re-direction scripts. Simply append the target=_NAME tag to the URL that you are specifying in the script. For example:

<option value=””>Articles</option>


<option value=”http://” target=”_FRAME-NAME”>Articles </option>

Q. I have a web document comprised of a few sections, each of which must be commented on separately by the group. I included a “mailto” tag for comments in each section. Is it possible to automatically fill in the subject line with the name of each section for each “mailto” tag? –Steve Waltman

A. To have a subject line automatically placed in an email client when a mailto: link is clicked simply append ?Subject=SUBJECT to the mailto: link. The HTML code should look something like this:

<a href=””>Click here</a>

Q. Dear Dr. Design:

I am looking for a JavaScript that will send information, such as name, address and comments, from a form to someone’s e-mail or as a text file on a server? –Richard Fong

A. You could do that without any JavaScript at all by simply creating a mailto: form. You could also use a CGI Script (check to do it for you. If you use a CGI Script the visitor using the form won’t get a warning message saying that they are using a Mailto: form and that it will reveal their email address.

Q. Dear Dr.

I’m currently trying to get into Web-Design. I’ve been surfing and reading lots of articles trying to figure out what is a good program to use. I have Front Page Express which came on my computer and I know I need to either upgrade to FrontPage or decide on another program. I’ve heard a couple of complaints towards FrontPage but, not really even an opinion about other programs. Could you give me some advice on just starting out and choosing a web design program. –Terry G.

A. My best advice is that you give all the major HTML editors a spin and see which one suits you. Almost all companies have a fully functional 14 to 30 day trial version. Check out the HTML editor review page page, it provides a listing of some editors that you may want to try.

Q. Okay, I know that hidden text is a no-no, but what about when the text is just a shade lighter than the used background? Also, where does the default background come in if the viewer has the graphics disabled, can you still use the text? I have noticed that all the sites that place higher in the search engines than my site use hidden text. Why are they not blacklisted? — Rhonda Caddell

A. It’s impossible for the search engine to know whether the person is just a bad designer by using hard to read text, or if they are really trying to cheat the search engines. Some engines like AltaVista have anti-small-text policies in effect which limit cheating. If you find someone using a list of keywords on their site just report them to the Search Engine, more often than not they will get their site deleted from the database.

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Dr Design answers design and development questions for SitePoint readers. Drop him a line today!

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