STOWS is a Simple Tool for Organizing Web Sites, written in Perl. It is used in web site management for keeping site structure under control and ensuring common appearance of the pages comprising a site.
Site structure can be understood as the way how pages are linked to each other, how is the user supposed to navigates through them and how they interact with server-side modules. Common appearance means coherent usage of fonts, colors, graphics, logotypes, navigational elements and layout through pages. This is something that gives your pages a "corporate identity" and makes them recognizable in the endless sea of pages on the World Wide Web.
In order to use this tool, you have to have a Perl interpreter installed on your machine. But, as you are reading this manual, you probably already know that. To make most out of it you should have a decent understanding of the HTML and some sense for programming. No knowledge of a programming language is needed, but it is of an advantage if you understand concepts like "variable" and "nesting". The better your understanding of these things, the nicer sites you are going to make with STOWS. But do not give up if you lack the knowledge: you can acquire it through using the tool.
HTML knowledge is needed because you are likely to have to edit some HTML files at the source level when designing a site. And some programming sense is useful to understand what you are doing.
STOWS is ideally suited for small and medium-sized web sites, up to some thousand pages. Those are sites that are too big to be managed manually, but still comprehensible, i.e. the webmaster is likely to know, if not each single page, but then at least where it is ordered. STOWS is not particularly suited for managing sites with a lot of dynamically generated pages and customized contents. This is due to the fact that the number of pages on a site is fixed after the site has been published. If only a known and limited number of pages are generated dynamically, proxy pages can be incorporated in the site and serve as placeholders for the dynamically generated pages.
On the following pages we shall show how to create the structure for a new site, design the page appearance and publish the site. We shall also show how to modify the site once it is published. But, for the beginning, we shall start with a quick tour of STOWS.