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on June 12, 2000
Seeing as there is a lack of decent books to begin with on this subject, I chose this book over the Wrox professional book because 1. It was smaller and easier to reference without having to take weightlifting classes 2. It had what seemed to be better reviews, though some were ambiguous.
Here are my thoughts after trying to learn PHP using this book: You can't.
I have a heavy ASP background so I try to translate my ASP commands into comparable PHP commands. One glaring omission from the book is the SWITCH command which is comparable to the SELECT command in ASP. It is a very common and useful command. However, it had no mention whatsoever in the TOC, the index, or the pages concerning control structures. Nor did she use it in any of her scripts in the book!
Secondly, the bulk of the book only concerns Database connectivity. When I start connecting databases, I'll consult this book, but if you are trying to learn PHP, go somewhere else. This is the only reason I gave this 3 stars instead of 2 like I wanted.
I learned more about PHP printing out the pages... than I did reading this book.
My suggestion: Either buy the WROX professional PHP book (though you may need a stronger shelf to put it on) or wait until August for the WROX Beginner PHP book. If it is anything like the WROX Beginning ASP book, you should have no problem learning everything about PHP.
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on May 24, 2000
I disagree with the reviews that say this book is only for beginners. I am a PHP newbie, but code ASP for my day job, so I understand the basic concept. But since I am a visual learner, I find step-by-step examples much more helpful than a big paragraph going over the theory behind something. PHP Essentials is great for me in that respect. Yes, some of the html stuff is pretty basic, but it doesn't take up the bulk of the book! Besides, you can just skim those parts. The only reason I don't give the book five stars is that I have yet to find the be-all, end-all tech book that warrants it. It's very rare to find books that are timely, comprehensive, and useful day-to-day. But PHP Essentials isn't supposed to be the grand bible of PHP either.
I've also read some of the Wrox Professional books, but find them less useful because of the reason I stated before. Lots of text, few examples, so that I have to look elsewhere anyway just to find something specific. For me, it's usually a waste of [money].
The nice thing about PHP is that it's very well documented, which is to everyone's advantage. For [this purchase price] and a few hundred pages, PHP Essentials shows you just enough to get your feet wet. Most books, including some Wrox books, are one-thousand-page doorstops with information that becomes obsolete rather quickly.
If you're new to PHP but not new to the web, and you learn by example, PHP Essentials can be a very helpful intro. But if you prefer more text in your tech book, then by all means drop your money elsewhere. I think it's nice to have the choice.
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on April 2, 2002
I'm the author of the best-selling guide to graduate school, so I know what I'm talking about when I rate a self-help book. Meloni's book is amazing! Clear, concise, everything a self-help book should be.
After unsuccessful struggles with other PHP and MySQL books, which caused me to fear I would never learn, thank God I found "Fast and Easy Web Development." Within a day I was writing code and I worked through the entire book in 4 days. After that I never looked back. A year later I have created a highly complex, database intensive site that includes an onsite email system, shopping cart, and all the other staples of an e-commerce site. Make no mistake, her book is introductory, and I quickly moved on to Professional PHP and other more advanced books (I now own 9 PHP books and 4 MySQL books). Nonetheless, I would never have understood them were it not for Meloni. Her book is at just the right level for a beginner. The examples are clear, and nearly every time I was just thinking "but what about....", she answered my question. Even better, her examples were FUN to work through! Some of the other books I've got are valuable, but fun? I think not.
I don't think the negative reviews of her book are fair. Her book is for beginners. So why are advanced programmers who found her book inadequate giving it 1 or 2 stars? That's like a medical doctor criticizing a book on first aid because it doesn't explain how to do heart surgery. People also bitched about typos in the book. But Meloni has a comprehensive listing of all typos on her web site at So the first thing I did when I got her book was go to the site and correct the typos (there were actually very few). Also, when I was getting started, Meloni answered several emails I sent her to ask for help on problems when I was stuck. That's clearly above the call of duty.
In short, if you're a beginning programmer, go with Meloni.
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on April 16, 2000
I recently bought this book as a quick primer for an office project and i must say it was a refreshing read. Having spent the last 8 months learning javascript from various confusing and muddled sources, the intro to PHP here made me feel as if I'd bumped my head and web development suddenly crytallized! The instructions were clear, concise and nearly too well meaning. The code examples helped me to quickly apply my c knowledge and reinvigorate the otherwise dead office project for which I had purchased the book. The helpful appendix of essential functions was pretty much a bonus "pocket"-type reference. Also, the book opened my eyes to the power of MySQl and the ease with which PHP connects to it. I just finished a 8-week MCSD prep course, yet I didnt feel comfortable with SQL. This book went a long way toward making me feel at ease creating and manipulating with SQL. Looks like I wont be bothering to spend (waste) any more time trying to get my SQL Server 7.0 to operate reliably on a daily basis!
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on January 10, 2003
I got this book because not only was it on sale, but I had just been assigned a PHP project at work. Having read the book, though, I must say that it's the worst computer book I've ever come across.
First, for someone who is already a programmer such as myself (having used C, Perl, Lisp, etc. for years) the book is much too basic. I don't like to see the same 10-line example repeated half a dozen times with only minor changes. At many points, the author basically tells the reader "do it this way and don't ask questions." I don't like that, especially when the author seems to have contradicted herself. As a programmer, I was also shocked by the inaccurate presentation of sprintf() and other functions - turning them into special purpose functions. There were many other things badly done as well. Also, the language reference in the appendix is pretty lame.
Secondly, this book I believe would be bad for those beginning to program. Maybe if you think that you can whip out a webpage with PHP and get rich fast this book would be a good buy. But for all others - stay away! The book doesn't teach programming. Functions are not covered. Control structures are basically ignored. The presentation of variables is badly done. This is very bothersome to me indeed.
Finally, the scope of this book. I thought this was a book on PHP. So why do I have to wade through: how to install Apache & other web servers, a pathetic HTML "refresher", a discussion on database "theory", an SQL lesson, etc.? Another chapter filled with incomplete coverage of the functions for connectivity to 7-8 different databases. Then a chapter that's source code for some bloated e-commerce example.
All things considered, a worthless book. It doesn't matter if you're a beginner or if you have lots of experience - please don't waste your time and money here.
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on August 17, 2000
Newbies will love this book, it's great for getting your feet wet, but look elsewhere for the nitty-gritty.
I've had some very basic ASP and JSP experience and unfortunately, the ISP hosting my online portfolio (I'm a web designer) DID NOT support either ASP or JSP, so I had to look at PHP for any server-side scripting. I just wanted to do some very basic stuff, like server-side includes with if/then/else control statements to dynamically create web pages. I got that after the first few pages of reading this book, BUT reading a few more pages TOTALLY OPENED UP MY EYES TO PHP. I'm just hooked and I can't seem to put the book down.
The first few chapters take you through installation and you create hokey "Hello, World!" script exercises, but it's enough to show you what PHP can do for you and gets your mind thinking.
The later chapters take you through getting info from a database and setting up a shopping cart/ e-commerce site. And the end has an appendix which should be sufficient for a newbie, but leaves a little to be desired for people looking for more details like syntax and a more extensive functions list.
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on December 26, 2000
I bought this book on reading the glowing reviews that were written here, needless to say, I won't make the same mistake again.
At first glance the book appears to be a good introduction to PHP. But once you get really stuck into it, the omissions and inaccuracies are apparent. Many of the examples in the book don't even run due to typos and missed ; and { } - This is not exactly reassuring to the learner.
Perhaps more importantly than even these errors though is the fact that the book skips over important issues, and remains too simplistic, even in the supposedly "advanced" concepts. Anything interesting is shrugged off as "beyond the scope of this book". Huge areas of the PHP language are omitted.
The other complaint I have with this book is the truly awful programming style it teaches. Prefering to use huge great chunks of "IF...THEN" fragments instead of teaching proper code structure. The style taught here makes PHP seem very unsophisticated. No room at all is spent on teaching users how to use function calls to make code easier to manage.
On a final note, something a bit more sinister is that huge parts of the book appear to be copied off of the webmonkey site, almost word for word, same exact code in the examples, just changing a word here or there....Or did webmonkey plagarise the book? Mysterious indeed....
I would advise against buying this book if you want a good serious guide to the PHP language.
Additional Note: The book quite often refers to websites with code downloads, fixes and upgrades which simply just dont exist.
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on May 18, 2001
Who says that a book has to have 1000+ pages to be of any use. PHP Essentials has shown that it is not so. In just over 300 pages, the author has given everything that one needs to know about PHP to start working on it and develop a full fledge web-based application.
This book is great for a new user who has never used server side scripting and also for intermediate user though the first four chapters may prove too basic for them. After that its all about web-based application development starting from database setup, user authentication and progressing towards session management and database management through web.
The example codes given in every chapter are explained very clearly. A complex problem is broken down into simpler problems. For each simple problem a PHP solution is given and at the end, all the parts are combined with HTML to come up with the actual code for implementation.
PHP is used for various purpose on the Web and 'PHP Essentials' does a great job of covering the web application development.
Do not take this book as a guide to learning all PHP features, because it doesn't, although the name is misleading.
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on September 8, 2000
PHP essentials is a very good book. It is well written and easy to understand. However, if you do not have any programming experience, such as Perl, this is not the best one to get started. If you do have some experience in programming and understands how the web actually works, this book is excellent to develop your programming skills.
I have a Perl background and use flat text file as a database. I wanted to transfer my entire site on PHP as a language and MySQL as a database system. Therefore, I purchased this book and a MySQL book and now, I am home free. Julie Meloni uses simple examples to help you learn PHP and you can actually build and manage your database, simply by reading this book. I strongly recommend this book and buying a MySQL book to go along with it.
Finally, although this book has a favorite database system covered, MySQL, it does support other database systems such as SQL, Oracle, etc... If you want to use PHP with a database system, this is the book to get.
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on January 7, 2001
This book isn't written like a novel. It's not made to make you laugh, cry, or write art forms for programs. This is one of the most straighforward intro programming books I have covered in a long time.. and it was FUN -- I was up until 05:00 one night after starting into the book, just playing around with each new feature as Julie talked of them, writing my own test code as I went.
The book covers many aspects of PHP in enough detail to get you started with the language. The first 8 pages of chapter 2 contain an HTML refresher on forms, tables, lists, etc, which was helpful to me: I haven't dabbled in HTML for some time. Also included is a pretty good Appendix (Appendix A) which contains a lot of reference material which makes reviewing the small details of functions you've previously read of quite easy.
Though almost anyone can pick up the book and get started with some PHP, you'll get maximum enjoyment and will move faster through the book if you know some basic C++, as the loops are set up pretty much the exact same way. As well, knowledge of basic HTML (things such as the <img> and <font> tags, and the attributes that many tags can take.)
If I could change something about the book it'd be: 1- more tables in the book (i.e., in the section on writing/reading data files, it lists the modes, but a table would make that very similar text easier to parse, and see differences.) 2- Add a small section early on with information on loops and general style for the 100% neophyte computer programmer. 3- A section on host security would be nice.. but that's just a personal wish, and can't really be expected in this type of book for beginning.
To sum up-- if you want to jump into the language, hit every base while having fun and moving FAST, while having fun, jump all over this book. Want to get deep with PHP? When you're done, you'll be able to play with all of the features and continue into a book more concentrated on a certain aspect of the language.
The author also has another PHP book out which I have yet to read, but I'll definantly thumb through it the next time I'm at the bookstore.
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