I’m not new to programming or web programming, but I was new to PHP. This book is much better as a reference than an intro to PHP, however, even there it has its limitations.
I bought this book, read the first 5 chapters (130 pages), and then stopped reading it because I was learning too slowly (ie, reading too many pages and picking up too little usability). As an introductory text, I would rather this book moved at a greater breadth but less depth — it goes through dozens of specific functions, making it feel like a dictionary. There is also little attention brought to the functions you will be using soon over the ones you will not use for awhile yet. In that sense, it was very frustrating to spend a lot of time reading several chapters and still not feeling like I was getting anywhere or able to use much of the power of PHP.
In my frustration, I decided to revisit w3schools . com, and I found their tutorial immensely useful as an introduction to both PHP and MySQL (I needed both and I needed them quickly). That choice allowed me to start writing some PHP code within an hour and start working with databases quickly as well (nothing is mentioned about MySQL until Chapter 24 of this book).
So now, instead of use this PHP/MySQL book as a learning tool, I use it as a reference. The index isn’t ideal*, so it still isn’t a great reference, and the MySQL layout has not been helpful. I will be buying some PHP cookbooks to get a better feel for the capabilities of PHP and how to use its functions properly, and I will report back in this review after I find a better reference to recommend over this one (hopefully by mid-January).
*The index is HUGE, but I still have a difficult time finding things I need since I look for a lay-word over the word that is listed. If I already knew the word that is listed in the index, I may not even need to look in the index.
This book was written for new programmers that want a programming introduction to PHP and was not written for web programmers new to PHP. Although I program, I want features of a web programming book when I buy a web programming book.
What I consider a feature of a (good) web programming book: Chapters are split into a quick intro to the most commonly used fuctions of the chapter’s topic (5-10 pages) and a longer part for use as a reference (15-20 pages). The book’s format has good eye catching sections so readers do not waste time finding what is important if we just want to skim things so we can get into doing some web programming quickly. Commonly used functions are not buried in a bunch of uncommonly used functions.