More Web Development Tools and Tips Developers Should Know About

By Scott Clark

Last week we showed you some web development tools and services that you can't live without, including CAPTCHA, APIs and discussion forums. This week we're going to continue with the discussion, and we'll talk about free scripts, .htaccess and php.ini.

Free Script Libraries

Whether you're creating a website for your business, or creating websites for clients, at some point you will desire to add some additional functionality to your site, and you will need a script to do so. It may be a bit of JavaScript, a PHP script, a collection of Perl scripts, or some other tidbit of programming expertise that your site requires. At some point, you will run into the situation where you need it, like yesterday. Oh, and you have no budget to purchase yet another wingding for your site, so it needs to be free. Enter the online script libraries--sites that have libraries of all sorts of scripts available for you to download and use on your site.

The following script libraries are highly recommended. Keep in mind that except for the first two (JSS and ScriptSearch), they aren't our sites, so use the scripts carefully.

  • JavaScript Source - an excellent JavaScript resource with tons of "cut and paste" JavaScript examples for your Web pages
  • Script Search - listings include PHP, Perl, JavaScript, Ajax, Java, Python, ASP, XML, and Flash scripts and components, and also features an extensive array of tutorials and a searchable index
  • Hot Scripts - a PHP, CGI, Perl, JavaScript and ASP script collection and resource web portal
  • Matt's Script Archive - offering free CGI scripts to the web community since 1995
  • JavaScript Kit - a comprehensive resource for JavaScript tutorials, scripts, and more
  • Dynamic Drive - a comprehensive DHTML site featuring DHTML scripts, tutorials, and more

.htaccess -- What, Where and Why

In our article, What is the .htaccess File, and What Can I Do With It? we discussed the fabled .htaccess file and told you what you can do with it. To summarize, htaccess is short for Hypertext Access, and is a configuration file used by Apache-based web servers that controls the directory that it "lives" in--as well as all the subdirectories underneath that directory.

By creating (or editing your current .htaccess file), you can use custom 404 (and other error numbers) pages for your site that feature sitemaps, navigation and more. You can also use directory index pages other than the standard index.html, such as mypage.html, or myscript.pl. And as this article shows, you can also password protect your directory(s) using .htaccess and another text file called .htpasswd.

php.ini Meanie Minie Moe

Often, you'll want to allow your site's visitors to be able to upload files to your site. You may find that your web host has set the file upload size limit pretty low. If you need to increase the maximum upload limit, just add the following two lines to your php.ini file (or create one from scratch--it's just a text file), and place it in the main directory of your website (on your webhost):
file_uploads = On
upload_max_filesize = 10M
You can change it to whatever size you want (in megabytes)--just remember that if you allow very large files, there may be server timeouts that will prevent the files from being uploaded at all!

You can also increase the PHP memory limit (also in megabytes) that is allocated to applications on your website using php.ini. You do that by adding this simple line:

memory_limit = 50M
If your application requires you to have register_globals on, you can also change that in your php.ini file using the following code:
register_globals = true
Note that setting register_globals to true can leave your website and the applications it uses open and vulnerable to attacks, and is not recommended (but if you have to do it, that is how you can do so).

Is There More?

As you can see, there are lots of tips, tricks and services that can save the average web developer time and effort. If you know of a development trick, tool, tip or resource, please let us know below so we can pass it on!

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