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PHP for Absolute Beginners (Expert's Voice in Open Source) [Paperback]

Jason Lengstorf
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Sep 2009 1430224738 978-1430224730
PHP 6 for Absolute Beginners starts at the very beginning stages of web programming, showing even the most inexperienced web developer, through examples, how to build a basic content management system. The book dives directly into writing web applications with accompanying explanation rather than explaining elements of the language and then showing examples. While PHP 6 does not have a release date set yet, a development version is already available, and several other books are already addressing PHP 6.

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PHP for Absolute Beginners (Expert's Voice in Open Source) + PHP Cookbook (Cookbooks (O'Reilly))
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Product details

  • Paperback: 408 pages
  • Publisher: Springer Verlag GmbH (1 Sep 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1430224738
  • ISBN-13: 978-1430224730
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 19.1 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 762,999 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jason Lengstorf is a twenty-something from Portland, Oregon who has spent the last decade or so learning how to make a living without wearing pants. Along the way, he's started Copter Labs, written a few books, drawn a few pictures, and spoken to a few like-minded geeks. He's a music nerd, a foodie, a shameless coffee snob, and a big fan of wandering the globe.

You can find more info about Jason at his personal website,, or on the Copter Labs site at

Product Description

About the Author

Jason Lengstorf is a software designer and developer based in Missoula, MT. As the owner of Ennui Design, he specializes in creating custom Web applications, ranging from simple informational websites to full-fledged content management systems. When not glued to his keyboard, he's likely standing in line for coffee, shopping for cowboy shirts, or pretending to know something about wine.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

3.0 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Poor quality code 18 Nov 2010
By Mike D
The downloadable code from the books website does not work. Unfortunately there are errors not covered by the errata in the book too. When I reported them via the website I got no response. Very disappointng.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
The principle behind this book, that of teaching the reader PHP by building a real-world, fully functioning web application (a simple blog CMS) rather than by abstract exercises that can seem irrelevant to a new programmer, is a sound one and is what attracted me to this book.

That sound idea, however, is let down by less than shining standard of execution and some very sloppy editing. The book has a friendly, conversational style, but the copy is littered with typos (I counted five in the first few pages). Most of these are inconsequential, if annoying, but some completely change the meaning that the author is trying to convey.

There are also a number of errors in the code extracts as printed. Again, most of them are fairly obvious (and I think corrected in the downloadable code package on the publisher's website) but enough to cause the true "absolute beginner" some serious head scratching.

I'd also more generally dispute the claim that the book is suitable for *absolute* beginners. I'm an experienced front end developer who picked up this book to plug a few of the more glaring holes in the PHP I've acquired ad hoc over the past few years, so am comfortable with the terms and constructs the book uses, but for a novice reader the descriptions and definitions of programming terms are rather loose and ill-described, and are often introduced later than would be useful for a beginner.

If you really want to get started learning to programme I'd suggest Chris Pine'sLearn to Program: Using Ruby (Facets of Ruby) - it's a far, far better written book and Ruby is a much friendlier language for a novice than PHP.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book for beginners 15 Jan 2010
By Jez
Great Book. Easy to follow and clearly laid out. Guides you through the process of coding step by step. The 'product description' above accurately describes what you should get out of the book and I 100% agree. Definitely recommend it.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 2.6 out of 5 stars  15 reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A review from a REAL absolute beginner in PHP 7 April 2010
By Keeva Cox - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I am an absolute beginner in PHP. I have never coded anything from scratch in PHP. In fact, I don't have much coding experience at all aside from HTML. The most experience I have in PHP is in wading through thousands of lines of code to copy/paste some mods to an open-source forum program I have on one of my websites.

Being an absolute beginner in PHP, I give the book 3 stars. Here's why:

The author glosses over theory (in some instances, he just does away with it all together) in order to hurry up and get to the part of the book where you code your own blog. That's fine if all you want to be able to do with PHP is code your own simple blog. However, if you're like me and would actually like to be able to code something other than a blog after you read this book, you NEED theory. There are several different ways you can code things to get the same output. You need to know the hows and whys of them all in order to choose the best coding method for your project. Otherwise, you run the risk of creating a buggy program and spending hundreds of hours and countless frustrations on a project that you'll ultimately have to scrap because it wasn't coded properly in the first place.

There is no Glossary. Dozens of new terms and concepts get thrown at you within the first two chapters of the book, most of which are poorly explained (if they are even explained at all). A glossary at the back of the book would have allowed the author to explain them in detail to true beginners in PHP without taking up space within the chapters themselves. Without it, the first couple of chapters can be a bit overwhelming.

There are errors in the test code. To me, this is perhaps the biggest flaw this book has. Even during the first few chapters, you are encouraged to write the test code out for yourself, save it, view what you've just created, and compare it to the example in the book. I spent nearly an hour in frustration over a section of code that was giving me nothing but errors, the entire time wondering what I was doing wrong. Fed up and discouraged, I finally decided to move on. Several pages later, after having read about a new concept, I discovered that the reason why I got nothing but errors before was because one line in the test code was wrong. In a book that is primarily teaching PHP through example codes, having even one line of coding wrong is unfathomable.

The good thing about this book is it DOES get you coding right away. It's encouraging to see code that you've written (even from examples) work. It's even more gratifying playing around with the example code on your own, changing different variables, to see how it changes the final output. Because you're coding a simple blog, you learn about databases and how PHP interacts with MySQL, something that is very valuable in the age of dynamic websites.

All in all, this book is worth the read if you'd rather code a sample project before starting off on your own coding journey. If you are a true beginner in PHP, be prepared to struggle a bit if you don't purchase a separate book on PHP theory or research it online before starting this one.
22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome PHP for Beginners and Beyond 29 Oct 2009
By Frank Stepanski - Published on
PHP has been the most popular server-side web developer language for years now. There are more websites created with PHP than any other programming language (more than ASP.NET, Java, etc.). That is probably why there are tons of PHP books from beginner to advanced on the market today.

I have a few PHP books and looked over lots of others online but so many have fell short in my opinion. Either they are way too basic and cover little tidbits and little examples. Thats all well and good for just learning the basics of the language but then what?

After you learn the basics of the PHP syntax (variables, conditional statements, loops, functions, object and connecting to MySQL) then what?

Well, normally most will try and look for an intermediate-advanced book, but do know what happens then? You find the book teaches more advanced topics which may or not be of help to you because you really havent fully understood how to use the basics yet.

I have taught lots of beginner to intermediate classes on PHP, ASP.NET, JavaScript and such and I find students dont fully know how to take what they have learned and put into practice. How do we solve this problem?

This book does. This is the only book i've read in PHP (if not any other programming web langauge), that after it explains the syntax basics with some small little examples, it then shows the reader how to take what they have learned into developing a real world example.

This book shows its readers how to build a working blog site. Of course its not a WordPress clone, but its a useable website that can be expanded. It is actually useful web application. Brilliant!

I have started to implement this book on my PHP classes I will teach next semester. I wish this book was written years ago.

A must buy for anybody who wants to either learn the basics of PHP, or a current PHP devloper who wants to learn how to use PHP the right way and learn to develop a real PHP web application.
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This book needs a lot of editing. 16 Dec 2009
By Original Elvis - Published on
It's clear from reading this book that edits were made after the initial submission. Some of the code doesn't work or doesn't match the author's "official" code sample for the chapter. I've read enough programming books to expect these kinds of problems but it's inexcusable for a book that targets ABSOLUTE BEGINNERS. Many of the errors I've found could have been caught in editing if the proof reader entered the program as described in the book.

For example, in Chapter 5 the author provides a Cascading Style Sheet with the caveat that this isn't a book on HTML/CSS and the user should type the text as displayed. Detailed instructions are provided for including the style sheet in the project. Unfortunately the href for the style sheet - "/css/default.css" - is wrong and it should be "/simple_blog/css/default.css". As a result, the style sheet isn't used and the actual browser output doesn't match what's displayed in the book.

In Chapter 3, page 90 the author feeds the result of the trim() function to the empty() function as part of a conditional check - if(!empty(trim($_POST['username']))). This code returns a fatal error because empty() will only check variables. Again, typing the code as displayed in the book would have caught the error.

In Chapter 7 on page 200 there's a custom confirmDelete() function that doesn't work and isn't part of the author's official code sample. Did anybody test the code before putting it in the book?

I'm giving PHP for Absolute Beginners 3 stars because the editing was sloppy. If the errors are corrected I would give it an additional star. The author provides a complete sample application and reviews all the pieces of the program. That's more than you'd get from a Software Development Kit sample. He discusses using XAMPP for PHP development which is a great suggestion for starting users. There are some wrinkles when installing & configuring XAMPP which would have been nice if the book had taken the time to go over it. I had to spend an afternoon reading the ApacheFriends forums to solve my problems.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars FULL OF MISTAKES - drove me crazy 1 Dec 2010
By jdhadwin - Published on
Anyone who gave this book a five star review didn't do anything more than gloss over it and rate the overall intentions of the author. As if learning how to program isn't hard enough, you're up against:

1. grammatical errors (which increase in frequency as the book progresses)
2. major code errors!
3. INFURIATING program inconsistencies (i.e. In ch5 you build a simple blog with the author. In ch6 the author wants you add functionality to the blog you built in ch5, but now he starts telling you to add to code that we never even wrote in the first place! He's telling you to change the previous code [which doesn't exist] to the new code, which you are hopefully resourceful enough to realize on your own by this point in the book... IT WON'T WORK WITH THE PROGRAM HE HAD YOU WRITE!)
4. Learning HTML on your own (there's not even a refresher in this book, you just have to know HTML or come back when you do)
5. Learning CSS on your own (no explanation at all on what this is... you just enter in the authors magic words and suddenly page looks right!)
6. Learning programming methodology on your own (search for Stanford University's youtube course on the subject and learned like crazy, then come back to this book and it will kind of make sense if you can translate the concepts on your own)
7. Learning all about .htaccess on your own (good luck beginners, much less absolute beginners, cause the explanation is nill)
8. Learning how the internet and web development actually works on your own.
9. Any error in your code and won't know if it's your fault or if you've simply been taught wrong... it's up to you to figure out who's gone wrong and where! SERIOUSLY

As it turns out, little did I know (nor did the cover or contents tell me), HTML is a pre-requisite. You should already be fluent in HTML. I'm sorry, but I wasn't quite an absolute beginner and I got my brain handed to me on a platter with this. The author introduces one concept, explaining it well, and then before you know it he's throwing another concept out there that you've never even heard before. You read on, hoping for an explanation that never comes. Solution = google + patience & suffering.

Somebody was in a BIG rush to get this book out. I have never seen such blatantly absent proofreading and editing.

That being said, I am learning PHP from this book. Perhaps the best teacher is the experience of not being able to trust the author's code. Hopefully people will figure this out on their own like I did instead of thinking their just not getting it! Giving up was not an option for me so I put the book down and went and learned HTML. I came back and learned a little more PHP and then found out that he wasn't going to teach me why he was doing what he was doing or what a ton of different words he was using were... so I went and took 8 hours of programming methodology at Stanford on YouTube! I came back and learned more PHP until I had to know what the heck he was doing with all this CSS, where I took a break and went to have a look at that. Then I came back and learned a tiny bit about databases from this book and then... well, you get the point. But if you have that level of perserverence, you can learn PHP like I did from this guy. Otherwise you will need to be familiar with programming already, not be a beginner!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars For "PHP" it is quite a letdown 5 Jan 2011
By Clara L. West - Published on
To call this book a beginner's guide to "PHP" is rather like calling a book on how to use FrontPage a beginner's guide to "HTML"

It places far too much emphasis on the use of developer kits/interfaces.
There is a good dose of PHP code as well, but it does not start there, nor does it focus on it. So if you are looking to learn PHP for itself - regardless of the development environment, this is Not a starting place!
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