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PHP for the Web: Visual QuickStart Guide (3rd Edition) Paperback – Dec 12 2008
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About the Author
PHP expert Larry Ullman has written several best-selling books on the topic, including the previous edition of this guide. In addition, he serves as the Director of Digital Media Technology at DMC Insights and teaches numerous classes on PHP.
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Ullman himself considers this edition "a relatively light revision of the book, tweaking some things, solidifying the discussion of PHP 5 (which was just out when the second edition of the book was written), and addressing some of the changes forthcoming in PHP 6 (whenever that may be)". I have the earlier edition(s) in my library and there aren't any super-major changes visible.
Ullman begins at the beginning with the basic concepts of programming and PHP. His writing style is very comfortable, very clear and the beginner will not feel lost, though the experienced programmer may do nothing more than skim these first pages.
He moves forward into functions and control functions, working his way to interaction with databases, one of the most widespread uses for PHP.
All in all, this is great learning tool for those coming with experience in other programming languages and those who are neophytes. Ullman has done it again: excellent work.
PHP is actually easy, but it is somewhat involved! It is not like learning VBA where you focus on the language syntax and that is all you really need to learn. PHP, by its Client Server nature, requires us to learn some HTML, Forms, CSS, and Database as well. Being a Client-Server Scripting Language, this is only natural.
Larry has done an excellent job of keeping this book comprehensive by giving us enough first had knowledge to be effective in HTML, Forms, CSS, and Database. But most importantly, there is enough to help learn to write a useful program as a beginner. However, previous experience about other programming languages,we can get inventive and write more complicated ones using this book.
Chapter 1 gets us started nicely. Chapters 2 to 5 are basic things like variables and strings. Chapter 6, does a good job of giving practical, and clearly explained control functions. Chapter 7 on using arrays gives us a good start plus a lot of helpful things like how to convert an array into a string, and vice versa. I found Chapters 8, 9, 10, and 11 containing all essential things needed to make a decent website including session management and cookies. Again, he clearly gives an excellent start, and empowers us to build on that. Chapter 10 is on functions and Chapter 11 introduces us to files and directories as seen by PHP Client Server approach. Chapter 12 is introduction to Databases. Databases and detailed explanation of them, to satisfy a DBA for example, will take a complete book focused on it. However, Larry has packed enough database information here that will get us started and more importantly operational on the Back End Database. Chapter 13, regular expressions, while important, was sort of icing on the cake for me.
Appendix A does a basic treatment of general installation for different operating systems. Appendix B, on the other hand is a good list of other resources.
As a suggestion, I would say that if the code for a more involved, ten or fifteen page website could be shown to expand on what is already in the book, would help put all in prespective. Also, there is a slight confusion at this time in this book. At the time this book was being written, there was some confusion about PHP 5 or 6 in the Regular Expressions Chapter 13. I would recommend that this be cleared up in the Fourth Edition. This book is well worth a Fourth Edition!
The pace of the book is good and it does not jump around, and it does not leave gaps that would be frustrating to a first time PHP programmer. It logically and systematically builds up on previous chapters as it proceeds.
Issues include usage of old mysql library (instead of mysqli, in use since PHP 4.1), a somewhat stilted version of PHP redux, usage of now-deprecated ereg functions in regular expressions, and a few other minor anomalies. Lots of space is wasted showing actual scripts which are being explained simultaneously in adjacent pages, and are available for download on the book's website anyway. But the overall concepts are well-explained, and this text is less confusing than several others available. An economical and educational choice for a PHP beginner wanting to get their feet wet.
So, I needed a textbook that explains absolutely EVERYTHING, repeatedly. And I needed a textbook that would refer new skills back to previous material. My students aren't going to "get" the full meaning of any principle in one explanation. This book explains the little pieces and nuances that were a total mystery to me, when I was a CS student. Of course, as a CS student you are supposed to be very smart and just naturally understand everything without explanation or review, but that won't work in Adult Education.
Some Features that Make the Book User-friendly
- I like the fact that the code is shown in entirety and then also in pieces. This is a design feature that makes the book usable in my classroom situation.
- The explanation of principles is placed in Tips and boxes. In the design principle of "proximity," that means that the tips are right there, next to the relevant material. However, by pulling them out, they are easy to find, if the reader isn't going through the exercise. Neither does the extra instruction stop the flow of following the material.
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