Useful PHP Learning and Tutorials Websites

Throughout my own learning of PHP, I have found the following websites to be useful.  This list will be added to as I find more available resources. Naturally, I hope that PHP5 becomes a great resource as well.

List of PHP Resources:

A Simple Tutorial

Here we would like to show the very basics of PHP in a short, simple tutorial. This text only deals with dynamic web page creation with PHP, though PHP is not only capable of creating web pages. See the section titled What can PHP do for more information.

PHP-enabled web pages are treated just like regular HTML pages and you can create and edit them the same way you normally create regular HTML pages.

Table of Contents

What do I need?

In this tutorial we assume that your server has activated support for PHP and that all files ending in .php are handled by PHP. On most servers, this is the default extension for PHP files, but ask your server administrator to be sure. If your server supports PHP, then you do not need to do anything. Just create your .php files, put them in your web directory and the server will automatically parse them for you. There is no need to compile anything nor do you need to install any extra tools. Think of these PHP-enabled files as simple HTML files with a whole new family of magical tags that let you do all sorts of things.

Let us say you want to save precious bandwidth and develop locally. In this case, you will want to install a web server, such as » Apache, and of course » PHP. You will most likely want to install a database as well, such as» MySQL.

You can either install these individually or choose a simpler way. Our manual has installation instructions for PHP(assuming you already have some web server set up). If you have problems with installing PHP yourself, we would suggest you ask your questions on our » installation mailing list. If you choose to go on the simpler route, then» locate a pre-configured package for your operating system, which automatically installs all of these with just a few mouse clicks. It is easy to setup a web server with PHP support on any operating system, including MacOSX, Linux and Windows. On Linux, you may find » rpmfind and » PBone helpful for locating RPMs. You may also want to visit » apt-get to find packages for Debian.

What can PHP do?

Anything. PHP is mainly focused on server-side scripting, so you can do anything any other CGI program can do, such as collect form data, generate dynamic page content, or send and receive cookies. But PHP can do much more.

There are three main areas where PHP scripts are used.

  • Server-side scripting. This is the most traditional and main target field for PHP. You need three things to make this work: the PHP parser (CGI or server module), a web server and a web browser. You need to run the web server, with a connected PHP installation. You can access the PHP program output with a web browser, viewing the PHP page through the server. All these can run on your home machine if you are just experimenting with PHP programming. See the installation instructions section for more information.
  • Command line scripting. You can make a PHP script to run it without any server or browser. You only need the PHP parser to use it this way. This type of usage is ideal for scripts regularly executed using cron (on *nix or Linux) or Task Scheduler (on Windows). These scripts can also be used for simple text processing tasks. See the section about Command line usage of PHP for more information.
  • Writing desktop applications. PHP is probably not the very best language to create a desktop application with a graphical user interface, but if you know PHP very well, and would like to use some advanced PHP features in your client-side applications you can also use PHP-GTK to write such programs. You also have the ability to write cross-platform applications this way. PHP-GTK is an extension to PHP, not available in the main distribution. If you are interested in PHP-GTK, visit » its own website.

PHP can be used on all major operating systems, including Linux, many Unix variants (including HP-UX, Solaris and OpenBSD), Microsoft Windows, macOS, RISC OS, and probably others. PHP also has support for most of the web servers today. This includes Apache, IIS, and many others. And this includes any web server that can utilize the FastCGI PHP binary, like lighttpd and nginx. PHP works as either a module, or as a CGI processor.

So with PHP, you have the freedom of choosing an operating system and a web server. Furthermore, you also have the choice of using procedural programming or object oriented programming (OOP), or a mixture of them both.

With PHP you are not limited to output HTML. PHP’s abilities includes outputting images, PDF files and even Flash movies (using libswf and Ming) generated on the fly. You can also output easily any text, such as XHTML and any other XML file. PHP can autogenerate these files, and save them in the file system, instead of printing it out, forming a server-side cache for your dynamic content.

One of the strongest and most significant features in PHP is its support for a wide range of databases. Writing a database-enabled web page is incredibly simple using one of the database specific extensions (e.g., for mysql), or using an abstraction layer like PDO, or connect to any database supporting the Open Database Connection standard via the ODBC extension. Other databases may utilize cURL or sockets, like CouchDB.

PHP also has support for talking to other services using protocols such as LDAP, IMAP, SNMP, NNTP, POP3, HTTP, COM (on Windows) and countless others. You can also open raw network sockets and interact using any other protocol. PHP has support for the WDDX complex data exchange between virtually all Web programming languages. Talking about interconnection, PHP has support for instantiation of Java objects and using them transparently as PHP objects.

PHP has useful text processing features, which includes the Perl compatible regular expressions (PCRE), and many extensions and tools to parse and access XML documents. PHP standardizes all of the XML extensions on the solid base of libxml2, and extends the feature set adding SimpleXMLXMLReader and XMLWriter support.

And many other interesting extensions exist, which are categorized both alphabetically and by category. And there are additional PECL extensions that may or may not be documented within the PHP manual itself, like » XDebug.

As you can see this page is not enough to list all the features and benefits PHP can offer. Read on in the sections about installing PHP, and see the function reference part for explanation of the extensions mentioned here.