Book review: PHP Hacks Tips & Tools for Creating Dynamic Websites

Posted on in Categories Book Review last updated January 24, 2006
PHP hack books

PHP is an acronym for PHP Hypertext Preprocessor. It is an open-source programming language used mainly for developing server-side applications and dynamic web content (See netcraft PHP usage page). If you visit documentation page, you will get A-Z PHP programming and API references along with sample code. However, it lacks the PHP programming techniques to develop robust PHP applications. This book is an excellent practical reference for learning and creating world-class PHP applications. It explains everything systematically from HTML and Ajax to code generation.

Jack Herrington has done an extraordinary work to put together PHP hacks. Jack has tons of experience in the cutting edge of web development. His ideas and techniques will kick-start you to write your own PHP applications in minutes (no I am not kidding…).

The book is divided into ten chapters:

Installation and Basics
Without PHP you can not type programs and execute them or use all those programs presented in book. Therefore, this chapter explains how to install PHP on Windows, Mac OS X and Linux/UNIX systems under Apache and IIS. It also explains how to install or access the vast PEAR source code repository to find cool functionality to add to your PHP applications. PEAR is like CPAN modules.

Web Design
Most of us love to use Gmail, because of its superb user interface. This chapter provides user interface hacks, that you can perform with HTML using PHP. For example, building tabs based user interface and boxes to give a professional look to your PHP application (to be frank when I saw this first chapter in bookstore I immediately pick the book).

As most of us aware, that DHTML is nice cocktail of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. This chapter is all about DHTML to create interactive interfaces for web applications. It includes hacks to create spreadsheets, dynamic graphs, pop ups, slideshows, vector graphics, use JSON to make Ajax easier to implement and much more all-using PHP.

Well first, I thought PHP is just a scripting language for HTML or database driven sites. However, after reading this chapter I truly come to know powers of PHP graphics capabilities. This chapter explains how to use the GD graphics API in PHP to create thumbnails of your images, create dynamic graphs from your data and so on. An excellent chapter I must agree. For example, currently I am working on poll software for this web site and now I know how to generate those nice graphs 🙂 Even you can access your iPhoto pictures with PHP.

Databases and XML
Generally, MySQL/XML is use for data storage. The hacks in this chapter will help you to develop code for database access and for your work with XML. It also provides the technique (or single class) that will talk to any database. It also covers other file format such as MS-Word and Excel to access data from PHP.

Application Design
This chapter is all about application design. You will quickly learn how to create login system, shopping cart, formatting text (wiki like formatting), building ad redirector system, security, and roles, password management and many other practical application designs so on.

This chapter covers software engineering set of patterns of object structure and intraobject structure, which was adopted from building architecture and was smoothly applied to programming. The author follows Design Patterns book as reference. It provides solid architectural foundations, as well as sources of inspiration for your own code. It is a good read, IMPO.

Application testing is part of development. This chapter is all about testing your PHP code. It starts with unit tests, and then covers automatic generation of unit tests and other techniques. It also explains how to use robots to test your applications through the Web.

Alternative UIs
Well if you thought, PHP is only limited to web then think again. This chapter will take your PHP skills to your desktop. No matter what you use (Linux, Macintosh, Windows, or even PlayStation Portable (PSP)) you will see how to use PHP as UI tool to build GUI. You will learn to generate flash movies on fly, IRC web application, Search Google link graph and much more.

Fun Stuff
As a name suggest it is fun stuff to impress your friends. It covers creating of Google maps, building an MP3 server, uploading Wikipedia to your PlayStation Portable (PSP) and so on. Excellent stuff if you are a hacker.

With this book, I got couple of good ideas for building graphs for poll system and creating secure login and session system for custom application. The credit goes to authors for putting all cutting edge of web development information in this book. It really offers more than solutions. A must read for all of new and intermediate PHP programmers, it will encourage you to take the ideas presented here and extend them, hacking them further to create world class PHP application.


PHP hack books

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Posted by: Vivek Gite

The author is the creator of nixCraft and a seasoned sysadmin and a trainer for the Linux operating system/Unix shell scripting. He has worked with global clients and in various industries, including IT, education, defense and space research, and the nonprofit sector. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+.

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