Introduction to PHP

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Getting Started with PHP

Welcome to this introduction. PHP is an exciting, easy-to-learn programming language and we hope that with this guide we will be able to kickstart your adventure of learning this language.

PHP is an acronym for PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor language. It is an open-source general-purpose scripting language that is used to build dynamic websites. It is well suited for building almost any website.

PHP is a cross-platform language, which means it can run on different operating systems such as Windows, Linux and Unix and it supports different databases like MYSQL, Microsoft Access and Oracle. Due to its cross-platform and open source nature it is versatile and useful.

PHP FEATURES

PHP is packed with great features. Below are some of the more important features of PHP.

  • It is cross-platform and open source.
  • PHP has a small learning curve. It is a language that is very natural and logical.
  • Have you ever visited the PHP community? Not only does it cover any possible subject, but also it is well supported.
  • To integrate PHP with HTML (or even CSS or Javascript) is very easy.
  • It has built-in support for web services.
  • It can be easily extended with other programming languages.
  • PHP is integrated with a number of different databases like MYSQL, Oracle and Informix.
  • It supports a large number of major protocols such as POP3 and LMAP.
  • PHP is secure and flexible. 

PHP uses

But how can PHP be used in real life? Let’s explore that next.

  • One of the most common uses of PHP is to design server-side applications.  
  • Did you know that PHP is used in nearly 80^% of the websites?
  • And did you know that WordPress has been built on PHP?
  • PHP makes it extremely easy to use server side databases.  
  • If you want to send and receive emails this is something that can be easily done.
  • Furthermore, PHP can be used to build membership sites.
  • It is open source which is why it has a large community support system.

Latest version of PHP

PHP was first developed in 1994. After that many improved versions have been released.
The latest version is PHP 8, which was released on November 26, 2020. It has some important new features which we discuss over here.

Learning PHP is relatively easy and interesting. Two things are needed to get started with PHP. 
One is a development environment to run the PHP script and another is an editor to write the PHP code. Before you learn PHP it is recommended that you have some basic knowledge of HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language) as PHP code is often embedded in HTML code. 

The file in which you write your PHP code is called the PHP file. It has the extension: .php;
A PHP file can be mixed with other languages. For example, you can output PHP variables in Javascript or CSS code, making it very versatile. 

Best text editors for PHP

A good programmer knows how much an efficient text editor or an IDE (Integrated Development Environment) helps in productive programming and managing code. There are a good amount of free text editors and IDEs available for programming in PHP.
An IDE differs from a text editor by offering smart code completion and error validation.
Below we will discuss a few of these editors. 

Sublime Text Editor

The sublime text editor supports many programming and markup languages. You can expand its functionality by adding different plugins. Its user interface is customizable. It is a multilanguage, multi-operating system editor. 

[ website | download ]

Dreamweaver

Dreamweaver is a popular PHP editor, it allows you to create and manage websites.
It has many useful features, like:

  • A built-in HTML validator to validate your HTML tags.
  • You can select a grid layout so you can quickly and easily build a responsive website.
  • DW allows you to expand your workspace to multiple monitors.
  • Access to many fonts through Adobe Typekit.
  • Collaboration by using Git.
  • JQuery UI widgets.

    [ website | trial ]

PhpStorm 

PhpStorm is a cross-platform IDE built for PHP. It is very suitable for large-scale projects and dynamic applications. Its main features are testing, debugging, code analysis, intelligent coding assistance and code navigation. 

[ website | download ]

Apache Netbeans 

Apache Netbeans is one of the most popular platforms used to create applications in PHP and Java. It is free and cross-platform. It supports all standard features such as syntax highlighting, code completion, editor warnings, code navigation and others. 

[ website | download ]

Notepad++

Notepad++ is a very simple and easy-to-use tool. It supports multilingual environments so it can highlight syntax for different languages like HTML, CSS and JavaScript. 

[ website | download ]

Development Environments for PHP 

As discussed earlier we need two things to start working with PHP. First of all you need the development environment and secondly the editor. We discussed a couple of editors for PHP scripting. Now let’s continue to the development environment.

Since we know PHP is a server-side scripting language we need a server to run PHP code. For developing PHP applications we can create a local server. There is a number of local servers such as XAMP, LAMP, WAMP and MAMP. Let’s discuss LAMP and XAMP. 

  • LAMP

LAMP is one of the most common solution stacks. It is an acronym for Linux (operating system), Apache (HTTP Server), MYSQL (database), and PHP. It is an open-source development environment used to build dynamic applications and sites. It was one of the first open-source software stacks and is still considered by many to be the platform of choice for developing new apps.

  • XAMPP 

XAMPP is a stack of open source packages that are installed together to build a WordPress site offline on a local web server. It is an acronym in which X stands for cross-platform, A stands for Apache, M stands for MySQL, P stands for PHP and the second P stands for Perl (a language not often used anymore). 

In the next tutorial, we will discuss setting up the environment. 

For a more extensive introduction to PHP we recommend that you watch the following video:

Getting Started with PHP

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