You've honed your HTML skills and now you want to take your Web site to the next level by adding some database interactivity.

You've browsed around the Net looking for ideas, tried out Web-based tutorials, and you're raring to get going with some real code.

Here are five essential resources you're going to need on your journey -- don't set out without them.

Yes, the advocates of tools such as Macromedia Dreamweaver UltraDev and Microsoft Visual Studio claim you can build your site just by pointing and clicking, without writing a line of code.

These packages come with excellent tutorials that appear to prove this point. But believe me, out there in the messy real world, when you are working on a live application, you will need to edit that code by hand.

Ignore all those seasoned Web hands who boast they only use Notepad and get yourself a proper programmer's text editor. It might cost you all of $20 (U.S.), but it will be worth every cent.

I've been using TextPad constantly, for years, and I wouldn't exchange it for anything else. But quite a few equally good editors are out there, including NoteTab, EditPlus and UltraEdit.

Or try a search at a site such as to find others. Some text editors are free, others cost a few bucks.

Download evaluation copies, try them and register the one you feel most comfortable using.

Then spend some time getting to know its capabilities. All these editors offer some incredibly powerful features, such as advanced search and replace options, which can save you hours of tedious work.

Test Environment
Set up a Web server and a database on your own computer for testing. When you're just starting out in server-side programming, you will make plenty of mistakes -- and some of these mistakes will crash your machine.

I can assure you it's much less hassle to crash your own PC than your live Web server. If you're paying for your Internet access by the minute, testing off-line will also save you money.

Microsoft Windows 98, 2000 and ME come with a Web server built into the operating system (Personal Web Server in the case of Windows 98, and Internet Information Server for Windows 2000) so you are likely to have one installed.

You'll probably also need to set up a database connection using Object Database Connectivity between your selected database -- for example, Microsoft Access -- and your Web server.

If your target environment is a UNIX Web server running Apache, PHP and MySQL, a very common configuration, you can still set up a reasonably close approximation on your PC. Windows versions of all three of these applications are available.

Setup is considerably more complex, but you'll find some good tutorials at Webmonkey that take you through the process step by step.

Which brings me to essential tool No. 3, a collection of bookmarks to help you learn your chosen technology.

Whatever you need to do when you're starting out, you'll almost never have to develop it from scratch. You're certain to find an example you can adapt to your needs on one of the many tutorial sites. Even when you're more experienced, these sites are a rich source of information.