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Ken GraserFlag for United States of America

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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
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ahoffmann
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mod_rewrite is your friend

a simple rule there might look like:

RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI}  \.shtml$
RewriteRule (.*)\.shtml $1.php
Avatar of Steve Bink
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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ASKER

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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ahoffmann
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I think that with both of these ideas I can work it out.
Thanks
Ken