Archive for the ‘Intranet’ Category

(Please forgive me, but the posting and examples to follow rely heavily on Windows and Internet Explorer. (You can substitute Apple and Linux applications for most.)

Your web browser is a very powerful tool. It enables you to view many different types of files from within the framework of the browser.

For an example:

You can go to www.weuntangle.com/index.html and view my home page. This is expected, as it is a web page after all.

Now go here: www.weuntangle.com/examples/test.xls you will find that as long as you have Excel installed on your computer and are using Internet Explorer, you will be able to view this document “In Browser”

Your browser is capable of some terrific things. But it’s most primitive function is to show web pages, with all their links and pictures. Here is your most basic of web pages:

<html>
<head> </head>
<body> </body>
</html>

This bit of HTML scripting is very simple. Here are the components:

<html> </html>

This “tag” tells your browser that it is displaying an “html” document.

<head></head>

This tag is where bits of scripting and other tags go that pertain to background information for the browser. For instance you can place a <title> </title> tag in the <head> section and put a title at the top of the browser window.

<body> </body>

This section is where all the content of your page goes.
Now, the fun part. Open “Notepad” and type whatever comes to mind, once completed, save the document on your desk top. Name it “mypage.txt”

Close Notepad and return to you desk top. You should see you new document sitting there. If your desktop looks like mine, you may need to hunt for it.

Now that you see it, double click on it to open it again. What application is used? Notepad of course. Now close Notepad again. This time right click on mypage.txt and select rename on the menu that appears. In the box below your file rename it mypage.htm and hit enter. Windows will try to cover it’s backside by warning you that you could make this file unusable by doing this, but it’s ok. Click “Yes” and lets move on with our experiment.

With that done you should see the Icon that represents your file change to look like your default browser’s icon – that’s what we want, give it the old double click and watch what happens….

WOW! You just created a web page (OK an extremely mal-formed web page.) and without the taggings and sections we looked at earlier. This is because windows has associated the .htm (and .html) extensions to your browser and your browser is so nice that it is going to try and display the file no matter what. Remember that .xls file you opened earlier? Try this:

www.weuntangle.com/examples/test.htm (with Firefox it may complain before opening it)

Ugh! What a mess. What you just open is actually the Excel spreadsheet renamed with the .htm extension, but your browser tried very hard to display the file, simply because you told it to.

We are going to use the browsers ability to render pages to our advantage. The browser is very forgiving when it comes to webpage content, so it will try to render whatever is passed to it if it is named with an .htm or .html extension.

All this being said, Please take the time to learn html (or better yet xhtml) it will serve you well as you take on this serverless intranet project with me.

Note: you may belong to a company that has also locked down the types of files you can attach to emails. If this is the case you can sometimes rename your html and javascript files something like this:

Html file name:
mypage.htm

Renamed for emailing:
mypage.txt

When you later detach the file you will need to change the name back so you can use it.

Next up Javascript 101

Extremely locked down is what we are looking at here. I came up with this topic when I was working with a small department of a large company. They have limited web access, no ability to upload files via thumb drive, and CDs/DVDs are out of the question. So how do you share information, the latest department news etc. without sending emails to everyone? I began to wonder if I could put together an Intranet site for them without access to servers or even external web sites like Google or facebook.

The short answer is: Yes I could. The longer answer is: Yes, you can too, and I am going to help you do it.

What makes this sort of Intranet possible is that your browser (we are going to look mainly at Internet Explorer) is capable of doing some amazing stuff thanks to the power of a Netscape creation called Javascript, and Microsoft’s browser extensions called Active X controls. Most of the work will be done with Javascript, but for the DB access we are going to need Active X.

OK I hear you now. “But I thought you said no servers?” Remember, we are building this Intranet for a small department or Business, and true to my word, NO servers will be used in the building of our website.

The DB that we will be using (and only if you want a more interactive site) is MS Access. If you have it installed on your PC you’re ahead of the game. If not, we will need to get a little more creative, but it is still very doable. (You will not need to go out and get MS Access if you do not have it.)

For an example of what can be done,  zip on over to Joshua Faulkenberry’s site and see what he has created. Come right back though, OK?

Here are some things you will need to make this work.

  • First and foremost you will need a shared location for your files. The company mentioned above has a networked file share mapped as the I: drive on all the departments computers. So if I drop an Excel spreadsheet called “mysheet.xls” on this drive, everyone in the department can get to it by going to: I:\mysheet.xls
  • Next you will need to have some knowledge of, or at least a desire to learn some HTML, CSS, Javascript, and a little SQL. I am going to help you here, so don’t run off just yet if you don’t know a lick of web stuff. I hope to make this a gentle learning curve. For you HTML experts, stick around too, I hope to make this a learning experience we all can enjoy.
  • I would suggest you also become familiar with your company’s technology policies as well. Please don’t do this if you think you will run afoul of these rules and regulations.

As we go along we may run into more things we need. but for now, that’s it. Come back next time for our first look at what an Intranet is for and your first web page.