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Keywords: PHP, web programming
Title: Spring Into PHP 5
Author: Steven Holzner
Publisher: Addison Wesley
Verdict: A fast paced introduction but somewhat lacking in depth
Spring Into PHP 5 is the first of Addison Wesley's new 'Spring Into?' series that we've seen here at TechBookReport. Experienced technical author Steve Holzner, (author of one of our recommended Eclipse books), provides this fast-paced introduction to web programming with PHP 5. The aim of this book, and the series as a whole, is to provide the reader with quick results but without stooping to a patronising 'for dummies' level. So does it succeed?
The first thing to note is that the book is structured around a series of 'chunks'. These are specific tasks or items and a tackled in a couple of pages. It certainly makes for a highly modular read, the bite-sized chunks make for the easy digesting of material. Of course not everything can be tackled in one chunk and so more complex topics are broken down into discrete sets of chunks that build up across a chapter.
The first four chapters cover the basics of PHP, starting with the absolute basics and progressing as far as functions, with flow control, strings and arrays all covered in some detail. Every topic is illustrated using very simple snippets of code, enough to show how things work but no more. More elaborate examples would have been useful, both in terms of showing more of the flexibility of PHP but also because the code just ended up being predictable and so not very interesting.
Chapters five and six step up a level and start looking at how PHP can be used to create forms and form controls. Again the chunked approach gets results quickly but at the expense of complex examples or extended code.
The biggest problem with the get results fast approach manifests itself in chapters seven and eight, object-oriented programming and databases respectively. The use of objects in PHP only makes sense when building complex applications or when using other people's components. Unfortunately neither of these things is covered in the book. The examples in the earlier chapters do not extend beyond a few lines of code, there is nothing about how to create applications, nothing about code reuse, building code libraries etc. The treatment of databases suffers similar problems, it's very simplistic and does no justice to what is a complex area.
The final chapter covers cookies, email, FTP and sessions. Finally the material starts to become more interesting and useful …
The book does have some strengths: the design is clean and easy to follow, the text is simple without being simplistic, the structure makes it easy to dip in and out of the book. But there's a cost to this simple structure (and the bite-sized chunk approach) and that cost is a loss of context and the missed opportunity of providing more complex and ultimately more useful examples.
For the reader after a very simple introduction to PHP then this is certainly a book worth looking at. However, for anyone looking for something with a bit more depth then either Core PHP or PHP 5 Power Programming are still our preferred titles.