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November 11, 2005

PHP in a Nutshell: The Hard Facts and More

Sebastopol, CA--If you ask a group of PHP programmers why they use PHP, you'll hear a slew of answers ranging from "it's fast" to "it gives you more than one way to do it" (always an attractive feature in a programming language). You'll hear other reasons for its deployment, such as database connectivity, powerful extensions, and rich object-orientation, but, above all, nearly everyone agrees that PHP is just plain easy to use. And if that were not enough, there is even an official online PHP manual for programmers to access. Although the manual is generally considered excellent, it has its limitations, as Paul Hudson, the author of PHP in a Nutshell (O'Reilly, US $29.95), points out.

"Everyone knows the official online PHP manual is of very high quality, but its online nature limits where you can read it," Hudson explains. "Furthermore, you often only find the 'hard facts' there rather than hints and tips to guide you along your way and save you hours of work. Much of the usefulness of PHP in a Nutshell lies in its conciseness: PHP is a fast language to program with, and people need a fast reference guide on hand."

This newest "in a Nutshell" guide doesn't compete with or replace the existing online documentation, but provides the depth and breadth that can't be found elsewhere. The book is a complete reference to the core of the language, as well as the most popular PHP extensions. It focuses on the functions commonly used by a majority of developers, and eschews the filler and extras that many manuals contain. PHP in a Nutshell also provides the much-needed direction that so many programmers look for as they try to make informed decisions about their code.

"I think PHP is now approaching the critical mass where it's no longer clear which functions are best to use for a given task," Hudson notes. "Choice is never a bad thing--as we've seen in Perl--but it does mean that programmers need to spend more time researching their code before using it. Books like PHP in a Nutshell cut back all the fluff that can confuse people and concentrate on known best practices--what works, why it works, and how you can make it work for you."

The book details all of the latest technologies available in PHP 5, such as SimpleXML (the fastest and easiest way to parse and work with XML in PHP) and SQLite (an embedded database). Other topics include: object-oriented PHP, networking, string manipulation, file manipulation, database interaction, multimedia creation, and mathematics.

Installed on more than twenty million Internet domains around the world, PHP is the undisputed king of web programming languages, and it's clear that it's not going away. "PHP 5 has been hugely popular across the web, particularly as people are increasingly using it outside of just web scripts. The continued support from companies such as Zend, and plans to link PHP to other server-side technologies such as Java, have combined to provide a compelling business case for widespread enterprise deployment of PHP," says Hudson. "That's given a big boost to the community, as there's a whole new group of people coming to the language with fresh ideas and fresh use cases to explore, so the whole PHP community is really abuzz right now with new things to try."

New to the language or with years of experience, PHP developers will find this book to be a complete, compact, and portable reference guide, and a valuable addition to their libraries.

Additional Resources:

PHP in a Nutshell
Paul Hudson ISBN: 0-596-10067-1, 352 pages, $29.95 US
order@oreilly.com
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