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Keywords: PHP, web development, CGI

Title: Core PHP

Authors: Leon Atkinson and Zeev Suraski

Publisher: Prentice Hall

ISBN: 0130463469

Media: Book

Level: Introductory to advanced

Verdict: An essential purchase

This latest edition of Core PHP has been fully revised and expanded for PHP 5, ensuring that it remains an essential reference for web developers interested in using the language. This new edition includes coverage of design patterns, object orientation, XML, design principles and much more. The new material complements the core reference material, and it attests to the increasingly diverse usage of the language.

The book consists of four parts, starting with a solid introduction to the language. Variables, control statements, functions, arrays, classes and objects and file and disk I/O are all covered in some detail. This section of the book provides a solid introduction for anyone new to the language or anyone needing a refresher. This is followed by the core of the book - the function reference, which is spread across 13 chapters. These range from browser I/O, interfacing to the operating system, network I/O right through to math, time and date and string encoding and decoding functions. Particularly useful is the database chapter, which looks in detail at functions for linking to MySQL, Postgres, Oracle, ODBC, SQL Server and other RDBMS.

The third section of the book moves on from a functional view of the world to look at algorithms. Here the emphasis is on using PHP to perform specific real world tasks. These include network access - such as HTTP authentication, email address verification etc. The database chapter looks at taking query output from a SELECT query and turning it into a HTML table. As with all parts of the book each topic includes code, but here the code is at a higher level and is immediately usable in your own projects (it can be downloaded from the associated web site).

The final section of the book is called Software Engineering and it looks at such topics as design patterns, design methodology, development and debugging and so on. While this last section of the book may not appear as immediately useful as some of the other more practical sections, it contains much useful information that people ought not to skip.

Overall the content, though wide-ranging, is of a consistently high quality. It's accessible, occasionally terse but always useful. Full credit is always given to the people who have contributed this or that library, in best open source tradition.

This is reference and tutorial in one, and it remains an essential purchase for anyone interested in using PHP.

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