Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Best free PHP learning resources for beginners

PHP is a web scripting language that powers many of the popular open source applications and websites. PHP was among the most used languages until recently, and although other languages like Ruby-on-Rails have been gaining users, PHP still remains useful.
I started learning PHP recently, with the aim of building my own web apps and CMS some time in the future. Finding ideal, free resources were not easy, and delayed the learning process quite a bit. This post serves as a one-stop-shop for resources that I found useful – if you have recommendations, please do so in comments.

Install PHP on your computer for local dev/testing has a detailed page on installing PHP for various OSes. On *nix systems, you only need to learn how to use PHP, as it is installed by default or easily available via package managers.

PHP beginner resources

W3Schools has detailed articles and even a quiz for PHP topics – describing everything from PHP language constructs and syntax to database access.
Zend Dev Zone has a beginners’ guide to PHP – categorized to 15 parts.

I should admit, while reading through the above articles, I did hit brick walls quite a few times. On such occasions, the Diving into PHP video series by Themeforest blog helped greatly. Sometimes, a visual explanation makes sense of something that you couldn’t figure out even after spending several minutes on.
That page lists only the first 11 videos, you can view the remaining videos with this search page.
Bonus tips: Use PHP.netW3Schools forum and Google to lookup answers when you have doubts. It may seem obvious, but a lot of people waste their time thinking rather than trying to solve problems (myself included, in early days).

PHP books

These are not free, but I thought that they should be included due to one reason – if you have lots of time to spare, while on a commute to work or such, books can help. Reading books is not as effective as diving into code itself, but if you can spend more time on a book than on your computer, this might be useful.

O’Reilly has books called Learning PHP 5 and PHP Cookbook (which contains practical problems and solutions).

Also, this thread on Stackoverflow has lots of recommendations and critiques of PHP books. Stackoverflow is frequented by knowledgeable programmers, so you can be sure they know what they are talking about.
This post discussed only websites and resources to get started with PHP. Soon, I will also be writing posts rounding up useful resources for those who know the syntax and basics, and are looking for intermediate/advanced tips, security tips and well-coded PHP applications that can help you learn best practices. Click the email/RSS link in the box below to subscribe for updates regarding the same.
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