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PHP Solutions: Dynamic Web Design Made Easy, Second Edition [Paperback]

David Powers
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

Nov. 24 2010 1430232498 978-1430232490 2

This is the second edition of David Power’s highly-respected PHP Solutions: Dynamic Web Design Made Easy. This new edition has been updated by David to incorporate changes to PHP since the first edition and to offer the latest techniques—a classic guide modernized for 21st century PHP techniques, innovations, and best practices.

You want to make your websites more dynamic by adding a feedback form, creating a private area where members can upload images that are automatically resized, or perhaps storing all your content in a database. The problem is, you’re not a programmer and the thought of writing code sends a chill up your spine. Or maybe you've dabbled a bit in PHP and MySQL, but you can’t get past baby steps. If this describes you, then you’ve just found the right book. PHP and the MySQL database are deservedly the most popular combination for creating dynamic websites. They’re free, easy to use, and provided by many web hosting companies in their standard packages.

Unfortunately, most PHP books either expect you to be an expert already or force you to go through endless exercises of little practical value. In contrast, this book gives you real value right away through a series of practical examples that you can incorporate directly into your sites, optimizing performance and adding functionality such as file uploading, email feedback forms, image galleries, content management systems, and much more. Each solution is created with not only functionality in mind, but also visual design.

But this book doesn’t just provide a collection of ready-made scripts: each PHP Solution builds on what's gone before, teaching you the basics of PHP and database design quickly and painlessly. By the end of the book, you'll have the confidence to start writing your own scripts or—if you prefer to leave that task to others—to adapt existing scripts to your own requirements. Right from the start, you're shown how easy it is to protect your sites by adopting secure coding practices.

The book has been written with an eye on forward and backward compatibility, recommending the latest PHP 6 techniques, but providing alternative solutions for servers still running old PHP. All database examples demonstrate how to use the original MySQL extension, MySQL Improved, or the PHP Data Objects (PDO), letting you choose the most suitable option for your setup.

What you’ll learn

  • Updates to the first edition with the latest PHP techniques for modern, dynamic web design
  • Create dynamic websites with design and usability in mind, as well as functionality
  • Understand how PHP scripts work, giving you confidence to adapt them to your own needs
  • Bring online forms to life, check required fields, and ensure user input is safe to process
  • Upload files and automatically create thumbnails from larger images
  • Manage website content with a searchable database 

Who this book is for

This is a “must have” reference book for any Web developer using PHP scripting language. If you have read the first edition classic, then this update will bring you the latest PHP techniques and best practices. If you are new to dynamic web design with PHP, then David will introduce you to the core techniques and methods for dynamic PHP web sites, ready for the 21st century!

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Product Description

About the Author

David Powers is an Adobe Community Expert for Dreamweaver and author of a series of highly successful books on PHP, including PHP Solutions: Dynamic Web Design Made Easy (friends of ED, ISBN-13: 978-1-59059-731-6) and Foundation PHP for Dreamweaver 8 (friends of ED, ISBN-13: 978-1-59059-569-5). As a professional writer, he has been involved in electronic media for more than 30 years, first with BBC radio and television and more recently with the Internet. His clear writing style is valued not only in the English-speaking world; several of his books have been translated into Spanish and Polish.

What started as a mild interest in computing was transformed almost overnight into a passion, when David was posted to Japan in 1987 as BBC correspondent in Tokyo. With no corporate IT department just down the hallway, he was forced to learn how to fix everything himself. When not tinkering with the innards of his computer, he was reporting for BBC TV and radio on the rise and collapse of the Japanese bubble economy. Since leaving the BBC to work independently, he has built up an online bilingual database of economic and political analysis for Japanese clients of an international consultancy.

When not pounding the keyboard writing books or dreaming of new ways of using PHP and other programming languages, David enjoys nothing better than visiting his favorite sushi restaurant. He has also translated several plays from Japanese.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good book. Sept. 19 2011
Format:Paperback
Highly readable and almost entertaining. This book breaks it down into simple parts and makes complex tasks easy and understandable. And it encourages you not to give up at key points along the way.I still have to figure out 'classes' though. I'm considering skipping that chapter all together.
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  49 reviews
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Book at My Elbow Dec 29 2010
By dhm - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I'm about to start a new PHP project for our university website and was going to do it with the first edition of Dave Powers's PHP Solutions at my elbow. Now it will be the second edition. I have other PHP books and may dip into them a bit, but this is the one that will see me through.

It seems that Powers came to computer guru-dom from a career in broadcast journalism, and it shows in his ability to present exactly the information I need in exactly the way I need it. I'm a fairly experienced user-developer, but not a technical person. Powers is a wizard and at the same time a first-rate "host" to the reader. He understands the difference between making an explanation ALMOST confusion-free and getting it just right. His writing style pleasantly engages you on grown-up terms, with no static of jokiness to cut through.

As for content, PHP Solutions is, as the title declares, a solution-oriented approach to getting things done with PHP, not a ground-up tutorial or a dictionary-like reference. But I find that the challenges and solutions Powers has assembled amount to an important part of what I want to get done on a project. You can learn PHP basics anywhere (although Powers gives you a refresher in those, too) and then, when it comes to putting a particular capability into your website, turn to this book for the solution. For example, when I look at the code I wrote for my course-management system to display a list of students' reports with short extracts in screens of ten students each, I find the following comment:

// *** Prepare for paging through query results, displaying a specified number
//of records on the page and inserting a record-navigation system above and
//below the records. This is a heavily modified adaptation and combination of
//techniques from PHP Solutions by David Powers.

I really write comments like that, because I have to remember what parts of "my system" might need attribution if I describe it in an academic paper. The one above refers to the first edition of PHP Solutions, which brings us to an important point. I was working in PHP 4 at the time and dreading the move to PHP 5. Dave Powers took care of me at my own level but also showed how things could be done the newer way, thereby getting me started on the road to transition. If you're coming to PHP Solutions now, in the new edition, be aware that PHP 4 is a THING OF THE PAST -- and be glad! You shouldn't invest time and headaches in writing it at this date.

Note the following from the introduction to the book: "If you're in hurry or are daunted by the prospect of building class definitions, you can simply use the finished files. However, I encourage you to explore the class definitions. The code will teach you a lot of PHP that you'll find useful in other situations." Right. I started out pasting useful code snippets years ago but found that while it was the first step in learning the code, it was also the first step in a mess that I couldn't untangle when things didn't quite work. Do learn the lessons that Powers makes so learnable. They'll have you writing reusable code, and you'll understand how to deploy it. Still, you don't want to struggle with every last keystroke in making it run -- and that, of course, is why you want a book of solutions. So it's great having solid, tested examples to go from.

With many computer books, I feel that I've invested in a small number of valuable tips -- which is all right, if they're lifesavers. With PHP Solutions, the abundance of lifesavers and generally useful information is very rich. Since the original edition is my most-used computer book (literally), I'm happy to have had the chance to review this edition, working from a complimentary copy.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Could be a good book if... Feb. 22 2012
By Erik O'Brien - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I was going to hold off on reviewing this book until I had actually made it all the way through to the end but after spending hours (5 or 6 maybe?) debugging an error in the code from Ch. 09, I decided maybe it was time to voice my opinion.
I come from a programming background but I'm new to all things "web development". I went through the Head First HTML/CSS book and thought it was great. Decided to give the Head First PHP a try and was disappointed with it and so abandoned it half way through. Decided to give this one a try because of all the good reviews.

My first impression was that I liked the actual layout of the book and the teaching style much better than the Head First book. For the most part, the authors explanation of what each line of code is doing is excellent. The sequence of topics being covered seemed strange to me. You dive right in to the deep end which I found a little unsettling at first. There were a few instances where the author puts a line or two of some cryptic code and says something along the lines of "don't stress about this code and what it means...just know that it needs to be there and does what it needs to do" which I found a little strange because he was so detailed in his explanations in most other parts.

What I have found to be the most frustrating part of this book though, are the amount of errors found in the example code. I'm on page 256 of Ch. 09 and I've found no less than 6 or 7 errors in the code thus far that ARE NOT listed on the errata page on the books website. I've submitted the found errors to the publisher but I have yet to see them on the added to the errata list. Quite frankly, I'm pretty surprised that nobody else has mentioned this in any of their reviews? It is absolutely not possible to get working code from some of the examples given in the book as they are printed. Not only are the errors in the printed version of the book but in the downloadable code as well. For a beginner, things like missing semi-colons at the end of a php statement or a mistyped variable name can be obvious and easy to spot. Others like the one I just went through in the middle part of Ch. 09 (specifically solution 9.3 thru 9.5) were much for difficult to debug and resolve. I actually gave up and was ready to quit the book at one point. Out of sheer determination to get it working, I decided to pick the book back up a week or two later and give it another try and finally figured it out. Very frustrating.

I'm really curious to know how other reviews have not mentioned this? I can't be that crazy, can I?
21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great PHP guide updated to new standards of the Web. Dec 28 2010
By Rosario - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Almost four years ago I was lucky enough to buy the book "PHP Solutions: Dynamic Web Design Made Easy", I was lucky because in 2006 PHP books was not so numerous as today or at least the greater part of those existing was too much similar to the official PHP manual containing only the general description of the language, its main functions and supplied only with basic examples not really useful. I have always planned and realized the graphical part of the Web sites and having to the age a very basic knowledge of PHP and Database the only alternative was to search and use pre-made PHP scripts, often meeting unsurmountable mistakes in my works.

David Powers in its books guides the reader step by step to understand the infinite power of PHP language through practical projects to realize, following the philosophy of the subtitle: "Dynamic Web Design Made Easy". This second edition adopts the same structure of the previous book but has been updated following the natural evolution of the language: PHP is an alive language and from 1995 to today it upgraded adding a lot of powerful features. Altough the first edition of the book already took in consideration version 5 of PHP - while version 4 was used by all - this second edition raises the compatibility to version 5.3 assuring also full compatibility with future PHP v. 6, under development for several years and never ended to a really usable release until now.

I would like to emphasize that this is not the usual book that limits itself to try to explain what's PHP with 500 and more pages of boring theory making use of interminable lists of PHP terms and property, rather reading with attention the several chapters everyone will succeed to complete practical projects that will sure return useful in the realization of Web sites as well as will increase the skill of PHP programming. This is possible also using the example files downloadable from the website of the book: at the last you will have 17 folders - one folder for chapter - plus images, CSS styles and all the files necessary for working easily through the book. Obviously a bit of theory is present: what's PHP? Is it useful for my works? Is it hard to understand? But I can assure that Powers supplies useful answers without to fall in boring programming rules, indeed using sometimes an unexpected sense of humor: An example? In chapter one he illustrates the way PHP makes Web pages dynamic and for example he uses the "Date" function of PHP reassuming the advantages of using it writing this: "You can enjoy your New Year's party without worrying about updating your copyright notice. Anyone accessing your site after the stroke of midnight sees the correct year." I find this both useful and actual since I am writing this review on the 26th of December.

After the good description about PHP, the author guides the reader to prepare a functional testing setup on the computer so to try soon the functionality of scripts made: useful suggestions are supplied about how install PHP, MySQL database and Apache server both on Windows and Mac and what all-in-one free packages are available to install as well as what editor to use to start to write PHP scripts.

A full chapter is dedicated to write PHP scripts in the more correct way: well this is the real core of the entire book. It's a bit hostic for the novice - although David Power try to make it friendly - and contains some technical notions about PHP and you will have to read it many times and probably will use it like reference in the future, but if you understand well it your skill will grow in clean way. Maybe this can free your interest for programming and today for a Web developer this is a great success key. The following chapters show other important PHP features overall the includes function and the classes that costitute a first step in OOP Programming: luckily Powers friendly explain this powerful way to write PHP code, emphasizing both its importance and efficiency.

Another important chapter is dedicated to Web forms: how to validate user imput, how to transmit it to email address and how to avoid that forms become a vehicle for spam diffusion. I have appreciate a lot this last theme that is well explained as well as the difference between GET and POST method with which PHP gains information from the forms. Luckily there is always PHP code ready to work with, so it's necessary only the minimal engagement to understand the argument and to complete the project.

Remaining chapters are dedicated to show the ability with which PHP can upload files to server, image manipulations, protect access to selected Web pages with login and password, and interact with MySQL database: all notions really necessary to know for the creation of really dynamic web sites. After a rich introduction to MySQL and the way databases stores informations, Powers guide the reader to create pratical project like a dynamic online gallery of photos. Thanks to this project the reader can also understand the correct way to dynamically add, delete, update elements in a database to change the aspect and the contents of Web pages or how to authenticate users to personal blog or any protected areas of a Web site and storing its access informations in a secure way using encription.

I think that this PHP book will be a bestseller for everyone that want to transform itself to a real Web developer as it goes to overwhelm some gaps present in Web designers that rarely exits from the comfortable house constituted from PhotoShop...
24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Totally Updated and Still The Best PHP Book Jan. 5 2011
By Erik S. Heyl - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
If you're thinking of getting into PHP programming, you know that there are many many different books that you can buy and use. The problem is, most of these books assume a certain familiarity with programming in general and general concepts in particular. This means that I person that is a complete programming computer will ultimately wind up getting lost and confused with most of the texts. This is not the case with this book however. If you've read and learn from the first edition, you know that the author takes pains to ensure that somewhat otherwise daunting concepts, such as classes, file handling and so on are presented in a clear and easy-to-understand way. If you're looking at the second edition you may be wondering why exactly you should purchase this. Not only has the book and completely updated, it is also much easier to read than and yet still maintains the authors went and wisdom without being dry or boring. This is very important considering it is a book on web programming.

Something else to consider is that although many books will advise you to get PHP, MySQL, and Apache separately, this one does not. It has a specific installer that it recommends and goes through and shows you exactly what to do to get you up and running within 2 to 3 min. at most. This is a far cry from when I had to do it separately and is much easier for the beginner to get started quickly. Something else that is new to this edition is that the author goes into somewhat high-level programming near the end of the book regarding classes. While this may seem to be something that belongs in object-oriented book, this is done in such a way that you will easily understand exactly what he's talking about and why this is actually a good method to start doing from the very beginning.

Just like the first edition of the book, the author develops a PHP site from the ground up but still expects you to know you're basics such as HTML, and CSS. However, the author is focused solely on PHP so you won't have to edit any of that code. Of course, you can always download the PHP code and compare it to the code that you write. The author even stresses the fact that you can just simply read the book and copy and paste. However, I believe that it is better to actually trying to type the code yourself. This way you get a true understanding of what it is that you are doing and potential pitfalls and errors that you can make this programmer.

One thing to consider is that this book will not make you a PHP guy overnight. It is going to take some time to go through and not only do the exercises but really learn and understand the material. However, this is one of the best books that you should have is beginning programmer and indeed may be the only one that you need to start your PHP adventure. If you take the time to read through and learned the exercises, you will find that you'll be able to whip together solid PHP sites in little time with little effort. The reason for this of course is that the author never sounds like he's talking down to students and he always makes whatever topic he is talking about be variables, contact forms or even user authentication, interesting and engaging. This is truly the key to having any successful programming book. So do I recommend PHP Solutions? Absolutely and without reservation this is one of the best books to have on your bookshelf especially if you are beginning PHP programmer.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Strange Book . . Aug. 23 2012
By Mike Briggs - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I worked for years as a programmer, and am proficient in numerous languages, but a PHP noob. A current project requires me to work with PHP, and I bought this thinking it would be a good way to spin up on a new-to-me language.

The author is taking a "practical" approach to introducing the language. The good news is that his code is not all super-simplified examples, he shows some of the complexity of real world applications, and codes appropriate protections against malicious users and hackers. He basically develops a simple web site throughout the book, adding increasingly complex behaviors and features. This Sounds great in theory.

From a practical standpoint, it means that if you're trying to read the book rather than "coding along at home" the examples become impossibly large. Rather than using simple examples to illustrate things like database interaction or object-oriented features, the examples end up being a complex mish-mash of files discussed at various points in the book.

In the author's defense, if I had the time to work, slowly and methodically through each page, editing the sample code and seeing it in action, I would doubtless learn the essentials of the language. Sadly, like too many code monkeys, I'm under the gun and need to spin up on the details of the language quickly.

I was hoping for a book that would explain PHP, preferably in a semi-organized fashion. Where are the super-globals populated, and which ones can I rely on the server actually populating? What built-in functions are available? What are the most common errors and "gotchas" in PHP programming? Instead, I got a book that was somewhere between a PHP reference, a beginning programming tutorial, and an example of the sorts of real-world problems and security concerns that novice programers may not have previously considered.

It was well written, and I like the author's style. It's probably useful to introduce neophyte programmers to THINK about security and real-world complexity. It is, unfortunately, NOT a particularly well organized or effective introduction to PHP.
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