Posting HTML forms with special characters, while keeping your database clean.

The best practice when storing data in a database is to store it in its most purest form.
When allowing users to edit data through HTML webpages you need to encode some characters so your HTML-forms won’t break. You can do this by using htmlspecialchars (or htmlentities). Below is an example with htmlspecialchars where only the double quotes are escaped (ENT_COMPAT flag).

Mind the accept-charset in the form value: I try to work with UTF-8 and UTF-8 only. (see your collation in mySQL is also set to UTF-8!)

You can run this on code on localhost (e.g. XAMPP)

<?php
header("Cache-Control: no-cache, must-revalidate"); // HTTP/1.1
header("Expires: Sat, 26 Jul 1997 05:00:00 GMT"); // Date in the past
?>
<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-transitional.dtd">
<html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml">
<head>
<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8" />
<title>htmlspecialchars (utf-8 encoding)</title>
</head>
<body>
<h1>htmlspecialchars (utf-8 encoding)</h1>
<h2>Before form post</h2>
<?php
$dbvalue = "String: ? < > ' - \" `´& % ‰ € ® 2011";
$formvalue = htmlspecialchars($dbvalue, ENT_COMPAT,"UTF-8");
?>
<p><strong>String</strong> is a value coming from a database record in its cleanest form: <span style="color:green;"><?php echo htmlspecialchars($dbvalue); ?></span> </p>
<p>For use in a text form, especially the double quotes, must be encoded so the <em>value=&quot;&quot;</em> doesn't break. We use <strong>htmlspecialchars</strong> (ENT_COMPAT) function. ENT COMPAT only forces double quotes to be changed into &amp;quot; (besides < > ? &)</p>
<form action="<?php $_SERVER['PHP_SELF']; ?>" method="post" accept-charset="UTF-8">
	<label>String:
	<input name="string" type="text" value="<?php echo $formvalue; ?>" size="50" /></label>
	<br />
	The value of title inside this form looks like <span style="color:red;"><?php echo htmlspecialchars($formvalue); ?></span><br />
	<input name="submit" type="submit" value="submit this form" />
</form>
<?php if($_POST){ ?>
<h2>Yes, the form was posted</h2>
<p>When the form is <strong>submitted</strong>, the <strong>string</strong> field will again have a value in its purest form (no &amp;quot; values but &quot;) (not the htmlspecialchars formatting)</p>
<p><strong>String</strong> has submitted value: <span style="color:green;">
	<?php echo $_POST['string']; ?>
	</span></p>
<?php } ?>
</body>
</html>

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *