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AJAX demystified: import text; async cgi

Here's the barebones of a javascript function that will request text from a url configured to return text (text/plain or text/plain for example) and then asynchronously put the returned text into a textarea element (or any other element with a value field) on your page; this target element is selected by id.

function getText(url, id){ 
  var request = new window.XMLHttpRequest();
  // for IE use ActiveXObject instead

  function load(){
    if(request.readyState == 4 &&
         request.status == 200){
        = request.responseText;
  // should handle null response or failure

  if(request){"GET", url, true);
  } // else ...

This will work on a gecko browser, if you have everything set up properly. You'll have to expand it to make it robust, as per the comments (and more).

Example html and javascript to call this (note how the call uses the id of the textarea):

<textarea id="putInfoHere" />
<span class="button" 
    "putInfoHere");'>Get Info</span>

Make sure text files are served with an appropriate mime-type. With apache you can do this using .htaccess :

AddType text/plain .txt

You can replace info.txt with a cgi script that produces a header and info on stdout. For example (with otherwise pointless sleep to demonstrate asynchrony), put the following mydate.cgi in a cgi-enabled directory:

echo "Content-type: text/plain\n"
sleep 2

Change the URL in your html accordingly, and make sure your script is executable chmod +x mydate.cgi

A future post will have more, on how to receive xml instead of text and how to send text or xml data to a script using httpRequest with POST instead of GET.

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