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In order to use Server Side Includes, your server must be configured to support them. Check with your system administrator as to whether or not you can use them, and if so, what restrictions may be placed on them. If you are not allowed to do SSI- consider moving to someplace where you can!

You may have noticed as you browse this site, that our pages end with the shtml extension instead of the more familiar html or htm. This is because we use Server Side Includes (SSI). Used properly, the SSI can help make your pages more responsive and can even help make maintaining your site an easier task.

Put simply, SSI is sort of like using your HTML server as a cut and paste editor. Here is basically what happens when your server handles a request for an SSI document.

  • The server reads the document and parses (techie word for chops up and looks for special instructions) it for directives. (another techie word for directions!)

  • Follows the instructions that it finds and merges their results into creating a finished document.

  • The document is then sent to the client browser.
SSI also seems to be one of the better kept secrets around. In any web related book, they seem to get about 1 page for every 200 pages on CGI and FORMS. Well, I've never been one to leave you in the dark when it comes to being a better webmaster.

Here they are, a collection of information on SSI that you will surely want to bookmark this page for.
  • Enabling SSI on Your Server. This page covers what you need to know in order to use SSI in the first place. Apache conf files, .htaccess directives, and the XBitHack are explained.

  • Performance Considerations. Nothing good in life is free (usually), and so it is the same for SSI. Here is some food for thought on server performance.

  • The ECHO Directive. Learn how to bring your server's environment information into your pages. Included (no pun intended) is the full list of variables and the complete list of date formatting codes. This page is perfect to print and hang on your wall!

  • The INCLUDE Directive. Discover how to make your pages very simple to maintain. Use this directive to merge text files in with your pages. Great for those side bar type menus.

  • The EXEC and VIRTUAL Directives. Breathe some real dynamic life into those pages. This tutorial covers what is involved in executing programs or CGI scripts and merging the results into the final page.

  • Nested Directives. How you can create an include file that contains directives that will be parsed. A very simple fix to a commonly asked question.

  • A Real Back Button. By using the HTTP_REFERER variable, with or without XSSI, you can present a link back to the referring page- and more!

  • eXtended SSI Directives PART I. Bring logic to your pages. For those of you using the Apache and some other servers, XSSI can give you the ultimate in control over your pages. Covered in this section are the basic IF, ELSE, ENDIF structures using pattern matching.

  • eXtended SSI Directives PART II. This tutorial introduces you to hands-on browser based content management. An excellent alternative to redirects. You will also learn about the SET & ELIF directives, as well as more complex logic techniques.

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