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PHP Solutions: Dynamic Web Design Made Easy
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 27 August 2012
Disclaimer: I have no connection with the author or publisher.

It is because of that that I feel compelled to write a review in gratitude to David Powers' excellent book on PHP. I've been a programmer for many years starting as an MS Office user then programmer and graduating all the way to SQL server and .Net first VB.net then C#. Fed up with the Microsoft commercially-driven treadmill of enormous upgrades every 18 months, I googled 'best language to learn the web' and happened onto a list that had PHP at the top and various others after such as Ruby, Perl, Python, MS's ASP.net etc.. after much research, I got the overwhelming impression that LAMP (linux/apache/mysql/php) was the way to go, all open source and rather delightfully all free!

I then followed up with an extensive trawl through Amazon to find books with good ratings and I finally decided to go with this book (that I'm reviewing). I spent an entire week reading it from cover to cover and typing all the code, and all the html into Notepad++ (also free, but not a proper IDE), and I must say that I was hugely impressed with the depth of the examples.

The whole book consists of an accumulating tutorial in building a fictitious site around visiting Japan and setting up a site to blog about it. The site's front page is called Japan Journey and it has a screen to view the blog and - in an 'admin' section that you create step by step - a way to add blog entries, edit them, delete them and to even upload pictures. In other words all the skills you need to properly combine your web page(s) with the most useful ways of making html/php and mysql interact.
I am a big fan of tutorial books. What better way is there of learning than by being instructed every step of the way, what to do, how to do it, and most importantly why it's good to do it this way.
David Powers reminds me of Charles Petzold and I totally intend that to be a favourable comparison. He has an excellent and very concise writing style and he really knows what he's talking about.

You have to read this book very carefully because it has 0 filler. When in chapter 16 you need to re-use but slightly update a very elaborate php class that you created in chapter 6 he tells you 'As explained in Chapter 5, a check box is included in the $_POST array only if it has been selected.' and then 2 paragraphs later 'As you learned in Chapter 6 the error 0 indicates a successful upload.' This takes first rate planning and execution, to reuse something that has already been explained very thoroughly and to very briefly allude to where you can go back if you need any clarifications.

You have code downloads on David's website where all the files are included. If you have successfully managed to install XAMPP or MAMP or WAMP on your local machine, you won't want for anything to make it all work except for the email example. You could be doing all this with a hosting company somewhere and FTP but if your'e a beginner I suspect you'll be using localhost. I initially thought, "oh no, I hate having to deal with a profusion of files and versions why not just list out all the code in complete listings", but the flow in this book is really totally easy to follow and first rate. You download the examples and you can always check them, but you're building a site, so you are really adding stuff to the site all the time, and it's totally clear from the written instructions what the workflow is. This is much rarer than it should be (in my experience).

Along the route to building this Japan journey site, you will learn a whole load of stuff about how php works and what are very useful techniques for making your websites interactive. You learn very quickly about php's variables, loops, conditionals, includes/requires, arrays, the super global arrays, regular expressions (for these I recommend Ben forta's excellent primer, Regular Expressions in 10 minutes) and even classes, which are always considered super advanced in any programming language. There is extensive coverage of MySQL and how to interact with it. A dynamic website, is really synonymous with a website that 'talks' in 2 directions to some kind of database. It's these chapters that are really the meat of the book.

I would sum up by saying the following.
David Powers is an excellent writer who really knows his stuff, he has clearly spent an age putting together a quality tutorial on php in the form of a full-length book. It is very coherent and hugely instructive. If you work your way through it, you will have an excellent introduction to php.

A caveat about all this.
Even though David has written an excellent book, I suspect that there are more robust ways to add your php scripts to the pages you're trying to make interactive (i.e using your own classes to automate repetitive code, or even frameworks such as Zend/Cake or symfony) but this is just to indicate that this book is not about frameworks, nor about jquery or all sorts of other technologies, it's an excellent and quite thorough introduction to making your web pages dynamic with the help of html/css/php and mysql via Apache. I think you could easily do with reading it more than once, as it has a stack of content to get your head around.

Final quick mention.
I watched the David Powers php video on Vid2Brain and which covers a couple of chapters of this book (particularly how to make forms alive) and I found it very helpful indeed.

Enjoy
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 20 May 2011
I've bought one or two books about PHP and though they've been good books, this one tops them all. I think the idea of covering most of the key topics that a PHP application would have was brilliant. But the most impressive part of the book is the writers ability to explain technical concepts in a language that a novice programmer can understand. I must stressed that someone without any prgramming knowledge at all may struggle to cope with the topics. But if you daring enough, you can still benefit greatly from this.

However, with a basic understanding of programming concepts and some knowledge of HTML, this book, in my opinion, is the best place to start learing about PHP. Great book and excellent presentation. Will definately recommend this to anyone...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 28 December 2012
I just want to show some respect to David Powers for putting out such a brilliant book. I mean, there are books and there are books, this one is from a no-nonsense writer who immediately comes across to you, upon reading the first few chapters, to be a writer who is seriously out to teach you something, and not just to get you to buy another book. I do not know about any other reader's preferences out there, but i know that learning by practice has to be the best way for any body to learn-especially when you are talking of something as technical as programming. You cannot effectively learn it by just reading theory as i found many other books on the subject do. I had read a few other books on PHP-and trust me, I'm talking about passionate perusing from cover to cover; but was left with little clue as to practically building an application. I ended up with a solid grounding in the theory, in other words, the PHP syntax and bits and bolts of how the language is written, but not how to logically think, and put it together to achieve the practical things you see on standard web applications on a daily basis, if you understand what i mean. This book cut it out for me, i did the same, studied it from cover to cover, and not just reading, but book and computer keyboard on the side, testing out all the code and slugging on with it for weeks and weeks, till i had successfully tried out all the example-application codes on my local MAMP server. While on it, i would consult other sources and investigate why this or that function was used in that situation, and what exactly it does etc, then i only progressed if i was sure i hadn't just copied code, but i had understood how and why it was done as to be able to logically do it myself if i was ever presented with the same problem. This i think, is the way the author intended the book to be read, and is also how i would recommend it to be used, because it worked well for me. All i would conclude by saying is; this book took me from novice to a semi-expert. It does all it says on the cover, and i have since been able to tweak the code supplied with it to achieve other PHP solutions that are not covered in the book, all without help; something i would never have dreamed of achieving after reading the many other books i read before. Finally, very rarely do u find such a piece of extensive coverage on a programming language without errors, but few are the errors in this book, and the author clearly resolves them on his personal web site 'Foundation PHP'. Thanks David for such a work of genius, one can tell much hard work was put in it, you've got a happy reader here.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 14 July 2011
If, like me you're more of a visual/design person when it comes to creating websites then delving into a programing language like php is a scary place. Thankfully this book starts at the beginning and guides you through all the different areas of php (chapter 3 being a very useful overview of all the php jargon you'll encounter).
I've been trying to get my head around php on and off for a good 18 months now but php solutions-dynamic web design made easy is easily the most user friendly resource I've come across so far (and I've been using other books and watching videos on php). Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 18 April 2012
In common with all David Powers books, this one gives clear information and splendid examples of code to achieve secure website designs. Starting with a brief introduction to PHP, it explains how to set up your PHP work station, and moves on to describe includes, forms, managing files and working with MySQL. There is info on creating login pages and on line galleries, managing multipe tables, formating dates (one of my major problems) and authenticating users with a database. In between, there are lots of other tips and hints that make this book invaluable. The style and presentation is very easy to follow, and there is also available on line the complete code for the example pages that can be downloaded to save you a lot of typing as you go along.
It is not a book for beginners, and some knowledge of PHP, CSS and MySQL would be useful for you to get the best from it. However, I would suggest that it is one to have at your side whilst developing database driven sites.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 27 December 2012
This book will give you an excellent grounding in PHP. Having tried a number of books I was pleased to find this one. It starts with a brief introduction of the programming basics and then it moves headlong into the practical examples you need to build a website. For me this is the best way to learn how to code, I've learned more from the examples in this book than I could learn from a thousand books on the theory. The code itself is studded with comments that really help to explain what's going on, and Power's writing is clear and engaging. This book is perhaps not the book to teach you how to build an e-commerce site, but if you want to build a dynamic personal site (eg; blogs, picture gallery etc) then I cannot recommend this book enough.

NB

Since this book was published the website containing the downloadable copies of the code has changed, but a quick google search of the books title was enough to find the new address.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 4 December 2011
Php solutions is a good solid book for beginners. It starts of with theory on the basics of php and then works through written examples which can be obtain from their website.
It's good how every little code snippet is explained, which I found was a problem with some other books, as one piece of code you were unsure off could stop you in your tracks.
I still find it helpful to have another book on standbye to get two explanations for the same problem as a different way of explaining things does help.
All in all a great book with real examples you can use on your sites :-)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 24 December 2012
Brilliant and just what I needed. If you have some knowledge of PHP then this will move you up the scale a little bit more.
I've used PHP a lot over the past few years but this book gave me a better understanding. I highly recommend going through the tutorials chapter by chapter as it sets your PHP foundation knowledge. Excellent if you're studying at university or (like me) a mature student.
Very well written. I only came across one error which was quickly corrected after visiting the associated website forum and files.
Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 16 September 2013
The book is good in general. It teaches you how to get the basic things but that's it. For someone new in programming might be really useful, but if you already have some knowledge then I would go for another one.
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on 20 December 2014
I tried to rush through this book - but that's no good. You really do need to take each section slowly and one step at a time. At times it can be tuff to understand the meaning links and affect of some of the script. That's not because the book is poorly written. In fact the opposite is true - it's the best vendor Neutral php book I studied. I have three and this is the only one that eventually got me to a place where I could create a registration site. If you take each chapter one step at a time you will soon get to grips with the writers style. A very useful manual which can last the test of time
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