I've been reading this book to learn PHP and it is undoubtedly the best book for beginners you're going to find. I've been trying to learn PHP since version 3 (yea, finally there is a book that I can understand). If you're new to programming, and new to PHP, do not listen to people who say 'oh, just go to [...]
The online help manual for PHP is not geared towards beginners. It's geared towards the type of people who simply have to read the rules of a programming language and then can go and program with it effectively. Basically, it's for people who know what they're doing. They have the programming mind already. I am not that type of person and many people who are new to programming are not like that.
Andy Harris' book teaches you PHP, but you will have to have a solid foundation in HTML/CSS (which I have) and it says that in the book. The only errors I've noticed in the book so far are HTML and they're nothing major. If you know HTML you'll be able to see them right off the bat and correct them for yourself (it's not like the book is $50 or something, it's just a minor inconvenience you'll only encounter maybe two or three times in the entire 12 chapter book). Also, the examples in the book are sometimes different from the ones on the CD (which implies that the CD is much more up to date than the book). Those are usually only minor changes to the code.
In any case, while reading this book everything is explained and introduced in a way that is easy for me to understand. I think the way he introduces concepts is great. He doesn't simply say 'these are the rules and let me explain them' like the other books. No, he gradually works you up to them, preparing your mind. I find that this is more effective and this is a beginning programmer talking, after years of trying to find a good book. The one thing that I think is great is that this book uses examples that are relevant to what you will be programming. Too many times (back when PHP 3 and 4 came out) have I read those books that use boring examples that I'll never use (like some math formula for example). Instead, the examples in this book are challenging, yet fun and practical, and he goes over every part of the code so that you understand what each part is doing. Sometimes the examples are really big, but this isn't a problem. Even if there is an area where his explaining doesn't do it for me, if I simply go over everything in my mind and break things down on a piece of paper I'm able to understand. The only reason I'm able to understand is because the concepts have been introduced in a way that I can know what's going on. The only issue is then figuring out what a large example is doing and that's something you have to figure out for yourself. I haven't run into a problem I haven't been able to figure out so far.
This book is shaping my mind into a programmer's mind. I can now see the planning involved in each program and I'm finally starting to see the method. It's a lot more effective than other books that simply give you the syntax, explain it, and then give you a problem to do without giving you relevant examples on how to use what you just learning and shaping your mind so that you'll know when each tool is effective, when you'll need to use it, and how they work in different situations. I now know the reason why I couldn't get through those books. I knew the rules, but my mind didn't know how to think like a programmer. All those so-called beginner books don't teach you that at all. Andy Haris' book does. I feel like I can go on to other programming languages now because I finally read a book that taught me the method.
PHP5/MySQL Programming for the Absolute Beginner is not the PHP5 bible but it explains PHP5 enough so that by the time you're done you'll be able to do what you want and get out there and learn more without being intimidated. If you're a beginner to PHP5, don't waste your time with other books that won't introduce you to the mechanics of programming. Get this book!