Help with new site design, using htaccess to avoid 404 pages

Hopefully someone can give me a few tips and tricks.  I have a large site, approx 4000 pages, which half static and half dynamic .  They have names like XXX.shtml because they use server side includes for data.  
My problem is, I have redesigned the site to use PHP and most of the pages are dynamic, I don't want to have people clicking on a google link and getting a 404 error because the old page won't exist anymore.  

I know that eventually google with switch to the new pages but what do I do in the meantime?
Should I use a redirect or a rename?  Is there some kind of global statement that I can use to avoid having to put in commands for 4000 pages?

Will a redirect work if the page being redirected from no longer exists?

I have played with .htaccess  a little bit but it seems to be black magic.

Thanks for the help
Ken Graser
Ken GraserIT ManagerAsked:
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Steve BinkCommented:
        # if the request does not match a valid, resolved file
        RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f
        # and the request does not match a valid, resolved directory
        RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d
        # then take everything after the initial slash, and store it in $1  --> /?(.*)
        # rewrite the URL to server My_Handler_Page, using $1 as a query string parameter
        # and append the original query string, if any
        RewriteRule /?(.*) /My_Handler_Page?original=$1 [QSA]

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Note that I edited the directives slightly, since my initial post was a bit loose.

To set up the handling page, just make a new .php file.  Assuming the rule above, ensure  the "/My_Handler_Page" part is the actual path/filename of the handler file you create.  The handler code could look something this:

<?
$request='';
if (isset($_GET['original'])) { $request=$_GET['original']; }
if (!$request) {
  // there is no "original" parameter passed...do something cool and intuitive
} else {
  // here, you can use $_SERVER, $_GET, etc., to determine what you actually want to do
  switch ($request) {
     case 'this_page.shtml': header('location:this_new_page.php'); break;
     default:
         // create your default "not found" page here
         break;
  }
}

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Admittedly, that example is pretty basic.  Since you have full access to the entire context of the request, including cookies and any related session information you might have in a database, you could really do anything you wanted in the handler.  If you're just looking for a basic 1-to-1 map of "this-old-url" to "this-new-url", you should look at the solution ahoffmann referenced in his last post.

http://httpd.apache.org/docs/2.2/mod/mod_rewrite.html#rewritemap

Don't worry, it is must easier than it sounds.  This is a bit beefier than a normal rule set, and it is a bit slower.  You probably would not notice unless you're handling a few hundred requests a second.  This method allows you to just keep a managed list of the 1-to-1 matched redirects.  Once it is set up, you only need to change the list, not write any new rules.
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ahoffmannCommented:
mod_rewrite is your friend

a simple rule there might look like:

RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI}  \.shtml$
RewriteRule (.*)\.shtml $1.php
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Steve BinkCommented:
Addition: mod_rewrite is your *best* friend.

A simple rule for redirecting all potential 404's to a handling page:

        RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f
        RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d
        RewriteRule (.+) /My_Hander_Page?original=$1 [QSA,NS]

From the handler page, you can either return the content you want to show, redirect them to the page you think they wanted, or send a custom 404 page.
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Ken GraserIT ManagerAuthor Commented:
I have a few questions.

ahoffmann - does that simple rule require that the file names are the same ie: widget.shtml  goes to widget.php?  All my file names may or may not be the same so how would this work?

routinet - This sounds good but how do I set up the handling page?  Could you give me a brief explanation of the rule.?

I think we are on the right track so if I can just get my brain wrapped around this I'll be good.

Thanks
Ken
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ahoffmannCommented:
> .. require that the file names are the same ..
yes

> .. my file names may or may not be the same
see routinet's solution
or mod_rewrite also has mode where all mappings can be read from a file (best in db format)
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Ken GraserIT ManagerAuthor Commented:
I think that with both of these ideas I can work it out.
Thanks
Ken
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