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The Beginner's Guide to PHP

written by: N Nayab•edited by: Ronda Bowen•updated: 2/17/2012

Ever wondered how to create dynamic web pages, or pages that respond to user queries? Whether you've just learned HTML or are an old hand who just never got around to PHP, this guide will help you understand what PHP is capable of, and then send you off to some great tutorials.

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    What is PHP?

    php logo 

    PHP is a popular general-purpose scripting language especially suited to create dynamic web pages, or software that is part of web pages. The term "PHP" was initially an acronym for "Personal Home Page", but now stands for "PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor".

    Developers use HTML code to develop ordinary web pages. The web browser software reads and process HTML. Pages with PHP have PHP codes embedded into such HTML codes, and such the web server software reads and process such PHP codes, allowing the web page to communicate with databases. The PHP code acts as a filter, deriving data from a file or stream and outputs another file or data stream, usually in HTML.

    PHP is suited for server-side and command-line scripting and client-side GUI applications. It remains compatible on most web servers, operating systems platforms and relational database management systems (RDBMS). Unlike other web-based programming languages such as .NET, PHP is free software released under the PHP license, and has no formal specifications.

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    Evolution

    zend 

    Rasmus Lerdorf, a Danish programer in 1995, first developed the language when he created a set of Perl scripts to maintain his personal homepage. The scripts he developed displayed his resume and recorded his web-page traffic. Two Israeli developers, Zeev Suraski and Andi Gutmans, rewrote PHP's core and developed the Zend Engine by 1999. The Zend engine is a highly optimized execution engine that supports incorporating plug-in modules such as debuggers, performance boosters and custom loaders to dynamically extend PHP for a broader range of functionality, besides providing memory and resource management; transforming PHP as a full-featured development language.

    Apart from Zend, PHP has also attracted other frameworks such as CakePHP, Symfony, and CodeIgniter, all providing a robust structure and promoting rapid application development (RAD).

    The language is in a continuous state of evolution and development, with the latest versions adding static binding (version 5.3)and the PHP6 set to support unicode. The PHP Group now sets the de facto standard for PHP, providing the complete source code for users to build, customize and extend for their own use.

    The open-source nature and ease of use has made PHP the most popular server-side scripting language in the world today. Over 20 million Internet domains now have web services hosted on servers with PHP installed, and 75 percent of all web servers have PHP installed. Most of the popular web content management systems such as MediaWiki, Joomla, WordPress, Drupal and Moodle are written in PHP as are the user interfaces of popular websites such as Wikipedia, Facebook and Digg.

    PHP is now the dominant use in the "P" of the LAMP or WAMP architecture in widespread use in the web development industry. While LAM stands for Linux, Apache and MySQL, and WAM stands for Windows, Apache and MySQL, the "P" may refer to Python, Perl, or PHP.

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    Free Tutorials

    If you are interested in learning PHP, refer to a host of resources and tutorials available in Bright Hub itself.

    Apart from this, there are five beginner's tutorials to start you off:

    1. PHP: A simple tutorial is an easy introductory tutorial that demonstrates the basics of PHP by showing how dynamic Web pages can be created. You will create a PHP enabled page, check a visitor's browser and output data from an HTML form.
    2. W3Schools' Introduction to PHP provides free tutorials for many scripting languages and is an offshoot of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). This tutorial will take you further than the previous one, all the way from What is PHP? to $_POST and $_REQUEST variables. There are also advanced tutorials to work through.
    3. These tutorials from PHP 101: PHP for the Absolute Beginner were written in an informal, entertaining way in order to keep your interest. It is a fifteen-part series that culminates in building an RSS feed aggregator.
    4. Webmonkey's PHP Tutorial for Beginners is another great web technology resource. This tutorials goes through syntax, variables, forms, arrays, operators and loops. If that sounds scary, don't worry. The tutorials are written for ease of understanding and aren't dry or boring.
    5. This PHP tutorial is intended for people with some web development experience but no knowledge of PHP. You'll download and customize PHP scripts and learn to design your own projects while gaining a solid understanding of what PHP can do for you.

    Pick one. Or do them all. All these tutorials provide you with the basics of PHP and enable you to create the basic PHP pages. There is a rider though. You should be familiar with HTML before starting any of these tutorials.

References