What Is CGI Access for cPanel?

By Jimmy Boyd

Many Web hosting services provide cPanel for managing Web pages, scripts, site statistics and other website features. The Common Gateway Interface, or CGI, protocol is used to run guestbooks, forums and other interactive scripts on websites, and cPanel provides webmasters and bloggers with a number of ways to get CGI access. Make a more useful and dynamic website by accessing and installing CGI scripts through cPanel.

CGI Center

The cPanel CGI Center provides two main ways to integrate CGI into your website. You can access and install a number of scripts that already exist in the cPanel system, or use the Simple CGI Wrapper to create a CGI folder on your website to install scripts that you either make yourself or buy from a programmer. Click "CGI Center" after logging into your cPanel account to access these features.

Script Types

The CGI Center includes scripts for a guestbook, a random HTML generator that rotates text messages, a statistics counter, the current time and date, a countdown timer for New Year's or some other special occasion, CGI email, a website search engine and scripts for various advertising banners. Use the Simple CGI Wrapper if you want to use a script that is not included with cPanel.

Installing CGI

To install CGI scripts provided by cPanel, click to select your chosen script from the menu in the CGI Center, then follow the instructions on that script's page to set up the script. Copy the provided HTML code and paste it in each page where you want to display that feature. For example, to display a guestbook on your homepage, copy and paste the HTML provided by cPanel to the HTML of your homepage. To add HTML in cPanel, go to "File Manager" in the main menu, select the folder that contains the Web page, select the Web page, choose "Code Editor," then copy and paste the HTML in that editor.

CGI Wrapper

The Simple CGI Wrapper lets you create a folder that automatically treats files posted there as CGI scripts. Click "Simple CGI Wrapper" in the CGI Center and follow the instructions to create the folder. To install or access a script, go to "File Manager" in the cPanel main interface, choose the "public_html" folder and select the "scgi-bin" folder. Once inside that folder, you can access all existing CGI files. To install a new script, click "Upload" and "Browse" to find the script on your computer. CPanel uploads it to that same CGI folder, then creates a specific website address for the script in the following format: YourWebsiteName.com/Scgi-bin/ScriptName.cgi.

Alternative Methods

Advanced users can also use the command-line interface, or CLI, to access CGI. The process for this depends on your Web host's configuration. Ask the host for instructions about how to get SSH access and use CLI on the server that hosts your website. You also need a command-line text editor such as Vi, Pico or Emacs. Also, check if your host uses the suEXEC program, which also allows you to add your own CGI scripts. However, neither CLI nor suEXEC is necessary -- these methods are merely alternatives to the Simple CGI Wrapper.

Configuration Requirements

Every CGI script has unique configuration needs. Always consult the script’s installation instructions. For example, you will usually need to define variables and URLS for the script to work correctly.