Zoom Support - Platforms

Q. How do I determine which script platform to use?

If you can not work out which script platform you should use (PHP, ASP, CGI, or JavaScript), use the flow-chart in the Users Guide (chapter 1.8) to make this decision.

An explanation of each platform option follows.

What is PHP?

PHP (PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor) is a software package installed on web servers to provide scripting capabilities. It is commonly found on web servers running Apache (as it is now built-in by default), but it can be installed on IIS servers also. Since March 2004, there are a reported 15,528,732 website domains which use PHP (source: Netcraft Survey).

You can check with your web host to find out if PHP is available on your hosting account. Alternatively, you can upload a text file containing the following (as test.php):


When you open this file up from your browser (http://www.mysite.com/test.php), it should provide detailed information on the PHP installed on the server. If not, this means you do not have PHP support configured on your server and you should consult your web host or use one of the other platform options available.

More information on PHP can be found at php.net [external link, opens in new window].

What is ASP?

ASP (Active Server Pages) is the Microsoft equivalent to PHP, and comes packaged with most default IIS (Internet Information Services) web servers. Chances are if you have a Windows based web server, you will have ASP available to you. It can also be available on some non-Windows Apache servers, but this is less common.

Check with your web host to find out if ASP is available on your hosting account.

More information on ASP can be found on this site [external link, opens in new window]

Note that ASP is not the same as ASP.NET, which is a new Microsoft server-side platform and they are not compatible. However, Zoom can still be used to search an ASP.NET website and it can also integrate with an ASP.NET site seamlessly. See this solution to creating an ASP.NET search page.

What is CGI?

CGI (Common Gateway Interface) is a method of running programs on a server over the web. This is different to PHP and ASP in that it does not have to load and interpret a "script", and is not limited by the technical capabilities of a scripting platform. In fact, the scripting engines for PHP and ASP are CGI applications themselves. As such, CGI provides a way to run web applications requiring maximum performance and efficiency, and you will find it used on most enterprise-scale sites such as popular sites like eBay, Google, and Yahoo.

Due to the less restrictive nature of CGI applications, some web hosts (especially those offering cheaper packages) do not provide CGI support for security reasons. In addition to this, setting up and installing CGI applications can be more complex, especially if you have never installed one before.

For information on installing and uploading the Zoom CGI, refer to chapter 5.4 of the Users Guide, Additional notes for uploading CGI.

Note: There is a common misconception that a CGI file is the same as a Perl script. This is not true. While you can have a Perl script as a CGI file, it is merely a format which allows applications in various languages to be interfaced with the web. The abovementioned benefits of CGI only apply to compiled applications such as the "search.cgi" supplied by Zoom. A Perl search script would have similar performance and overhead issues as the PHP and ASP equivalent, regardless of whether it is named ".cgi" or ".pl".

What is JavaScript?

JavaScript is a scripting language that allows a web page to tell the browser what to do. It is a client-side language, meaning that it is interpreted and processed on the computer viewing the web site - not on the server. This means that it is usually very limited in what it can do, but can be convenient since it does not rely on any special requirements on the server-side, and can also run off a CD with no web server present.

Please note that JavaScript is not the same as Java, and they bear only marginal similarities in syntax. Java is a powerful, general-purpose programming language and can run outside of a web browser.

Zoom provides a JavaScript version of the search script to cater for users who wish to run their search engines on a CD-ROM, or who have a very restricted hosting environment with no server-side scripting capability. However, due to the technical constraints of JavaScript on most browsers, we are unable to provide the full number of features (such as context descriptions) that are available with the other platform options. It is also unsuitable for large volumes of data, and sites of over 1000 pages or with a large number of unique words, will not run on some browsers.

There is an alternative to running Zoom on CD/DVDs, and that is to include a specialised mini-web server on your CD, so that you can run the CGI or PHP version off the CD. More information is available here.


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