PHP Unleashed By: John Coggeshall Published by Sams
PHP 5 Unleashed, published by Sams and written by a team of 7 authors with John Coggeshall as lead, offers a great representation of how powerful PHP can be. It covers a wide variety of topics from the standard databasing and form handling to handling XML, encryption and even direct input/output to an underlying unix operating system.
The first part of the book covers PHP's use in general web development, covering basic syntax, working with strings, arrays, forms, cookies, sessions and using templates. The second part discusses more advanced web development issues, such using packages from the PEAR library, working with XML and XSLT, performing user authentication, encrypting sensitive information, generating email messages, handling errors, optimizing code and scripting in the Object Oriented paradigm.
The third and forth sections is where the potential power of PHP is realized by discussing web services, network programming, low-level system calls and console scripting. Part five shows how to work with SQLite, dba files and MySQL through the new mysqli functions. The sixth part reviews generating graphics using the GD library and generating PDF and RTF documents. The final section of the book is made up of several appendixes full of information on the installation process, migrating from PHP 4, good programming practices and resources for help and more information.
There was only one chapter I felt could have been omitted, Chapter 19 - Building WAP-Enabled Websites. WAP pages are different from HTML documents, but the process of generating them with PHP is the same. It didn't make sense to spend 38 pages on it. I would liked to have seen the space devoted to working with GTK+'s PHP bindings or something else.
The sections I found most interesting were those covering the new mysqli extension, direct I/O to the underlying operating system, and console scripting. I seem to like pushing PHP to the limits, which is why direct I/O and console scripting drew my attention. And though a lot of work has been done recently on PHP's database functions, but many people still aren't familiar with the improvements and so it's nice to see that coverage as well.
Another section I found interesting was the discussion on optimizing one's code. All too often books seem to talk about optimization by making use of Zend extensions or caching/templating libraries. PHP 5 Unleashed goes further and illustrates how variables are interpolated in loops and such. Certainly optimization techniques and theory could fill volumes so the coverage can't go too in-depth, but the break from the usual rigmarole is refreshing.
John Coggeshall's PHP Unleashed is an excellent book which literally shows the power of this scripting language which can be unleashed. A programmer at any level can pick up this book and find something helpful. In fact, it's so content-rich that it now holds the place of honor as my primary PHP reference book.
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