PHP is getting lots of attention as an open-source alternative to Microsoft Active Server Pages, not least because it runs on Linux and other Unix-like systems as well as on Windows. It is a server-side parsing engine that lets you put dynamic content such as online databases on your Web site. The beauty of server-side processing is that any browser can view the results, provided of course that you are careful with your Web-page authoring.
Few books on PHP are available, so PHP Essentials is particularly welcome. The author is a PHP enthusiast and also uses it professionally. Her aim is to provide a hands-on guide to installing and using PHP for those who have no previous knowledge of the product. The book's based on version 3 but covers new PHP 4 features too. Readers are expected to have a basic knowledge of HTML, though. Although databases such as SQL Server and Oracle are briefly discussed, there is a special focus on using PHP with MySQL, an excellent open-source database server. (This is a common partnership, so the focus is appropriate.)
After tackling installation and basic PHP scripts, the book gets straight to the business of linking with a database. The text includes a short introduction to SQL and a complete example of how to create and query a database table. Further chapters cover user authentication, session management with cookies, and Web-based database administration. Finally, a complete e-commerce example in included, with code both printed in the book and available from a supporting Web site. An appendix offers a PHP language reference.
This book teaches by example. It is manageable in size and has a friendly, real-world feel. It is not the last word on the subject, though, so it's best suited to PHP newcomers or those using rival technology who want an idea of what PHP can do. --Tim Anderson, Amazon.co.uk
Why I Wrote PHP Essentials
Whether you're a first-time programmer or you have a few years of web application development under your belt, I think you'll find something useful in this book. Hopefully, what you'll find is a simple "learn-by-example" path to developing successful, dynamic Web sites.
Unlike the Web itself, this book is fairly linear: you'll start by installing the software needed to use PHP, including a Web server (Win/UNIX/Mac) then gradually move into "Hello World!" scripts and eventually create shopping carts and other database-driven applications.
I didn't write this book to be the one and only PHP book on your bookshelf. That's why it's fairly short (relative to other programming books!) This is an overview book, a "don't be afraid, PHP won't bite" kind of book. There are so many different ways to do one task, and so many different ways that a person can teach another how to do something, that I don't believe any one book can ever be the one-stop text for anything.