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11.5 Forms Tutorial

In this tutorial, you'll build a simple newsletter signup form for The National Exasperater Web site.


Before you begin building the page, you'll need to download the tutorial files from this book's Web site. Using your Web browser, visit . Click the Tutorials link; then, under Forms Tutorial, click Windows or Macintosh, depending on the kind of computer you're using. The files download to your computer.

When the files have downloaded and uncompressed, you should have a folder named DWForms on your hard drive, containing the Web pages and graphics needed for this tutorial. (If you're having difficulties, the Web site contains detailed instructions for downloading.)

11.5.1 Getting Started

You need to direct Dreamweaver's attention to the new Web site folder you've just downloaded. Full details of this process begin in Section 1.3.1, but here's the Reader's Digest version:

  1. In Dreamweaver, choose SiteManage Sites.

    The Manage Sites window opens.

  2. Click New; from the pop-up menu, select Site.

    The Site Definition window opens. Make sure the Advanced tab is selected.

  3. In the Site Name field, type Forms.

    This is the name that Dreamweaver will use while you're working on this tutorial.

  4. Click the folder icon next to the Local Root Folder field; browse to and single-click the folder DWForms, and then click Choose. Click OK.

    If you see a message that Dreamweaver is about to create a cache for this site, click OK.

  5. Click Done to close the Manage Sites window.

    You've just defined the site you'll be working on in this tutorial. Defining Web sites and using Dreamweaver's site management features are discussed in depth in Part IV of this book.

11.5.2 Inserting a Form and Creating a Structure

The first step to building a form is inserting a <form> tag. This tag encloses all of the different fields in the form and indicates where the form begins and ends. As noted earlier in this chapter, you can also insert other HTML elements, like text and tables, within the form. In fact, you'll be using a table to make this form look better.

  1. Choose FileOpen. Double-click the file called signup.html in the DWForms folder.

    The page is partly designed already with a banner, sidebar, and footer.

  2. Click in the empty white space below the headline Newsletter Signup. On the Insert bar, select the Forms option (see Figure 11-2).

    The Insert bar now shows you the Forms icons you'll need.

  3. Click the Form button on the Insert bar (see Figure 11-2), or choose Insert FormForm.

    A red dashed rectangle appears in the document window, indicating the boundaries of the form.

  4. In the Property inspector, type signup in the Form Name field (Figure 11-14).

    You've just named your form.

  5. In the Action field, type .

    (Leave off the final period, as shown in Figure 11-14.)

    The Action property of a form is simply the URL for that program.

    A form's Action property identifies the address of the program that will process the form's submitted data. In this case, you've been spared the effort of writing (or hiring a programmer to write) the required form-processing software. Such a program already exists on the Web site whose address you've just specified, and it's waiting to process the form you're about to design.

    You may be creating your own form-processing programs if you're using Dreamweaver MX 2004's dynamic Web-building tools described in Part VI. See the tutorial in Section 23.5 for an example.

  6. Make sure POST is selected in the Method menu. Leave the Target and Enctype fields blank.

    The Method indicates how the form sends information to the form-processing program (Section 11.2).

    Now you're ready to begin building a table to design your form.

  7. Choose InsertTable.

    The Insert Table dialog box opens. (See Chapter 7 for the full story on tables.)

  8. Use the following settings for this table: 6 rows, 2 columns, width 100 %, Border thickness 0, Cell padding 5, Cell spacing 0 (see Figure 11-15). Select None for Header, and leave the Accessibility information blank. Click OK.

    Dreamweaver pops your empty table onto the screen. Next, you'll add the labels and form elements to the table, and then add a little Cascading Style Sheet information to make it look beautiful.

    Tables are an excellent way to organize form elements of various shapes. Also see the box in Section 11.3.3, which describes how tables can bring order to an unruly form.

11.5.3 Adding Labels and Form Elements

Now that your table is in place, it's time to start adding the different parts of the form. Since text fields, radio buttons, menus, and other form elements aren't always selfexplanatory, it's a good idea to add labels explaining the purpose of each element.

  1. Click the top-left cell, and then type What is your Name?

    This text identifies what your visitors should type into the text field you'll add in the next step.

  2. Press Tab to move the insertion point to the next cell, and then click the Text Field button on the Insert bar (Figure 11-16).

    Alternatively, you can choose InsertFormText Field.

    Top: The Text Field button inserts, of course, a text field into your form.

    Bottom: The Property inspector as it looks when you've selected a text field.
  3. Type name into the TextField box (Figure 11-16, lower left).

    Every form element must have a name that describes the information it collects.


    Most programs that process forms won't work correctly if the name of the form element differs from its programming. In other words, if you mistyped "name" in step 3 as "mame," the form-processing program won't work correctly. If, when you've finished this tutorial, the form response isn't what you expected, first check to make sure you named each form field exactly as described here.

  4. Type 25 into the Char Width (character width) field.

    You've just specified, in characters, how wide the field will be. Setting a width does not limit the amount of text someone can type into it; it only controls the display of the field in the browser. You can also use CSS to set the width of a form field, which you'll do later in the tutorial.

  5. In the left-hand column of the table, click the second cell from the top and type What is your Email Address? Press Tab, and then click the Text Field button on the Insert bar.

    Alternatively, choose InsertFormText Field. You've just inserted another text field.

  6. In the Property inspector, type email into the TextField box. Type 25 in the Char Width field.

    You've just specified the name and width of your email address field.

  7. Click the cell just below the "email" question. Type Vote for your favorite boogeyperson. Press Tab; in the Insert bar, click the Radio Button button.

    Alternatively, choose InsertFormRadio Button.

    In this cell, you'll be adding three grouped radio buttons. Your visitor will only be able to choose one of the three options.

  8. In the Property inspector, type vote in the RadioButton field, and Big Foot in the Checked Value field (Figure 11-17).

    You can save time by copying the first button, then changing only the Checked Value field.
  9. In the document window, click to the right of the radio button and type Big Foot.

    It's important to label each radio button, so your visitors know what they are selecting.

  10. Click the Radio Button object in the Insert bar to insert a second button. In the Property inspector, type vote in the RadioButton field, and Loch Ness Monster in the Checked Value field.

    Radio buttons in the same group share the same name; this is what prevents a visitor from selecting more than one button at a time.

  11. In the document window, click to the right of the radio button. Type Loch Ness Monster.

    You've just given this button an onscreen label.

  12. On the Insert bar, click the Radio Button button to insert the last button. In the Property inspector, type vote in the RadioButton field, and El Chupacabra in the Checked Value field. Finally, in the document window, click to the right of the radio button and type El Chupacabra.

    Your three radio buttons are all set.

  13. Choose FileSave. Press F12 to preview your page.

    Once in your browser, try out the radio buttons. Check to make sure you can only select one at a time. If you're able to select two or more buttons, you've probably typed slightly different names.

11.5.4 Adding a Menu and Submit Button

Only a few more elements are required to produce a fully functional form.

  1. Return to Dreamweaver. Click in the left column cell just below the "Vote for your favorite boogeyperson" question. Type Where did you hear about the National Exasperater?

    In the next step, you'll build a pull-down menu, from which visitors can select a response.

  2. Press Tab to jump to the next cell. On the Insert bar, click the List/Menu button (or choose InsertFormList/Menu).

    Dreamweaver inserts a small box with a selection arrow梐 menu梚nto the cell.

  3. In the Property inspector, type referral in the name field. Click the List Values button.

    The List Values dialog box appears. You'll use this box to add items to your menu.

  4. Type -- Select One -- .

    The first item on the list is actually an instruction, which lets your readers know what they need to do with the menu.

  5. Press Tab.

    The cursor jumps to the Value column. As noted earlier, list items can have separate labels and values. If you don't specify a value, your form will simply send the selected label to the form-processing program. For this tutorial, you won't add a value.

  6. Press Tab again to add an additional list item.

    You can click the + button in the dialog box, if you prefer.

    As you build your list of menu options, press Tab twice after each entry梐 shortcut that saves you from having to click the + button.
  7. Type Saw it on the newsstand, and then press Tab twice. Complete the list as shown in the Figure 11-18.

  8. Click OK.

    You've just built a working menu. You'll find that it doesn't operate in Dreamweaver, however. You must preview the form in a Web browser to see the menu in action. All in good time.

  9. Click in the left table cell, below the last question you added, Type Add any comments here.

    You'll add one last text field to the form, so that your visitors can submit their comments and suggestions.

  10. Press Tab. On the Insert bar, click the Textarea button (see Figure 11-2).

    Alternatively, you can choose InsertFormTextarea. Either way, Dreamweaver inserts a text box.

  11. In the Property inspector, type comments into the TextField field. Type 25 in the Char Width field (Figure 11-19).

    Doing so establishes the width of the text box, in characters.

  12. Type 4 in the Num Lines (number of lines) field.

    This setting controls how tall the text box appears on the Web page. It doesn't limit the amount of text that can be typed into it, however.

  13. From the Wrap menu in the Property inspector, choose Virtual (see Figure 11- 19).

    The Wrap option determines what happens to lines of text that are longer than the width of the text field.

    Choosing Virtual forces extra letters to wrap to the next line of the text field.
  14. Click in the cell directly below this new text field. On the Insert bar, click the Button button.

    Don't confuse the Button button with a Radio Button; they're two different beasts (see Figure 11-2).

  15. In the Property inspector, change the button's Label to Sign Up.

    The default label is Submit (see Figure 11-20), but since this is a newsletter signup form, you should add a more accurate label. (You don't need to change what Dreamweaver here calls Button Name, which also says "Submit." It doesn't show up on your Web page and isn't used by the form-processing program.)

  16. Choose FileSave.

    Congratulations. You've just created a fully functional Web form!

    The Action property of a button tells a Web browser what this button should do.
  17. Press the F12 key to preview the form.

    Go ahead梖ill it out (with bogus information, if you like). Click the Submit button when you're finished to see what happens. If you're online, your Web page sends the form information to the waiting form-processing program specified at the beginning of the form creation process. The program sends you back a Web page reflecting your entries, exactly as though you had built a professional, working Web site.

    If nothing happens, make sure the Action property of the Form is set correctly (see Section 11.2).

11.5.5 Styling the Form

At this point, the form is rather plain looking. It would be nice if the text labels were a bit bolder and lined up with the form elements. Also, a few graphical touches條ike a line dividing the questions and some text formatting for the form elements梬ould add a lot. You'll use Cascading Style Sheets to do this.

  1. Make sure the CSS Styles panel is open (choose WindowCSS Styles); click the + button on the Styles panel to create a new style.

    Alternatively, you can choose TextCSS StylesNew Style. Either way, the New CSS Style window opens (see Figure 11-21). (For a refresher on creating styles, see Section 6.2.)

  2. Make sure the Class radio button is selected, and type .formLabels in the Name box (see Figure 11-21).

    You'll create a class style which will define the look of each table cell containing a form label. This page already has an external style sheet attached to it, filled with styles used to format the page. You'll add a couple more styles to it.

  3. Make sure global.css is selected in the "Define in" menu and click OK.

    The CSS Style Definition window opens, ready for you to set formatting properties for the new style.

  4. Under the Type category, set the font to "Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif," the size to .8 ems, and the weight to "bold" (see Figure 11-22).

    This sets the basic text formatting options for the labels. Next, you'll make the text align to the right, so that the labels sit next to the form elements they describe.

    In CSS, all class styles begin with a period like this: .formLabels. If you choose the Class type and enter a name without a period, Dreamweaver will add it for you. Dreamweaver is forgiving that way.
  5. Click the Block category and choose "right" from the Text align menu.

    As things are now, the column of cells containing the labels takes up half the table. That's too much. You'll shrink that down to make the form fields more prominent.

    You can use CSS to set the font face, size, color, and other type properties for text that appears inside of a form field. When a visitor enters text into a field, the Web browser formats the text using those settings. This also applies to text as it appears inside menus and lists.
  6. Click the Box category, and in the width box, type 200.

    You'll apply this style to the table cells containing the labels. You can use CSS to set properties of table cells梚ncluding their width. In addition, you can use CSS to add a decorative border to the bottom of each of these cells.

  7. Click the Border category and turn off the three "Same for all" boxes.

    You won't add a border to all sides of the cell, just the bottom.

  8. For the bottom border properties, set the style to solid, the width to 1 pixel, and the color to #CCCCCC. Click OK to finish creating the style.

    You're finished with this style. Now it's time to apply it.

  9. Select the five table cells containing the labels.

    Click in the top cell and drag to the last cell with a label, for example. (See Section 7.5 for more cell-selection techniques.)

  10. From the Style menu in the Property inspector, choose formLabels (the style you just created).

    The column of cells should get thinner; the text should become bold and should align to the right of the cell. In addition, though it's hard to see if the table outline is visible, a light gray line should appear at the bottom of each cell. The cells with the form elements could use a little help too, so you'll apply an already created style to them.

  11. Select the five table cells to the right of the column of labels, and from the Style menu in the Property inspector, select the "formCell" style.

    A light gray line appears under these cells as well, and the text in those cells changes to another font. Finally, you'll create a new style to add some pizzazz to the form elements themselves. You can style form elements just as you would text or other parts of a Web page. You'll change the font used inside of these form elements, as well as set their width and background colors.

  12. Repeat steps 1-3 above to create a new class style called formElement.

  13. In the Type category, set the font to "Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif."

    To make all the little boxes in your form a uniform width (they'll look more consistent that way), you'll set a specific width.

  14. Click the Box category, and in the width box, type 200.

    Now every form element to which you apply this style will be 200 pixels wide. Finally, you'll add a background color to make the form really jump out.

  15. Click the Background category and set the Background Color property to #CCCCCC. Click OK to close the window and complete the style.

    Applying this groovy new style to your form is just a matter of selecting the form element and using the Property inspector.

  16. Select the first text field, and from the Class menu in the Property inspector, select the "formElement" style.

    The text field grows to 200 pixels, takes on a gray background, and (although you can't see this in Dreamweaver) when you preview the page and type something in the field, you'll notice that the font has changed as well.


    Mac users won't see the gray background color in Dreamweaver梟or will you see it if you preview the page in Safari (which doesn't support background colors for form elements). However, if you preview the page in Internet Explorer 5 for the Mac, you'll see it.

  17. Repeat step 15 for the email field, pull-down menu, and comment box.

    When you're done, preview the page in a Web browser (press F12) and see all the changes you just made.

11.5.6 Validating the Form

Now that you have a working form, you'll add the finishing touches. Since this form will be used to sign up for an email newsletter, a couple of pieces of information are crucial, including the name and email address of the person who's subscribing. Using one of Dreamweaver's Behaviors, you can make sure that no one submits a form without these two important pieces of information.

  1. Return to Dreamweaver. Click anywhere on the form's red line boundary to select it.

    Check to make sure the Property inspector says Form Name in the upper-left corner. Alternatively, you can click anywhere inside the table and then use the tag selector at the bottom of the document window to select the form梛ust click on the tag labeled <form#signup>.

  2. Choose WindowBehaviors.

    This opens Dreamweaver's Behaviors panel, which you can use to add interactive effects to a Web page. You'll probably find it in the upper-right corner of your screen.

    Use Dreamweaver's Validate Form behavior to make sure your visitors don't submit empty forms. You can require visitors to fill out specific text fields and even check to see if the information is in an appropriate format 梐 number or email address, for example.
  3. From the + menu, choose Validate Form.

    The Validate Form window opens, listing the three text fields in your form.

    Once again, test your form (top). Pretend you're a particularly clueless or malevolent Web visitor條eave the Name or Email address empty, for example, and then click Submit to see what happens. Then type some gibberish into the email address field, and see what happens when you submit the form. If all goes well, the page that appears after you submit the form should look like the illustration at bottom. If you like, you can compare your work with the finished page online at
  4. Click the first item in the list ("name"). Turn on the Required checkbox (see Figure 11-23).

    "Required" means that your visitors can't submit the form unless they type something into this field.

  5. Click the second item in the list ("email").

    For the email field, you'll not only specify that it's mandatory, but also that its contents must look like an email address, complete with an @ symbol.

  6. Turn on the Required checkbox. Then, from the Accept group of radio buttons, select "Email Address." Click OK.

  7. Choose FileSave. Press F12 to preview and test the page.

    See Figure 11-24 for details.

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