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The PHP Anthology, Volume II: Applications
December 24, 2003
Week: 43 All time: 22
manuellemos.netTraditionally, general purpose PHP books have followed a common structure. Usually it consists of starting with several chapters of an introduction to PHP and the functionality provided by the its base extensions, and then ends with several chapters of case studies, which are usually small applications that demonstrate how to implement practical solutions to common Web development problems.
"The PHP Anthology" book is also a general purpose PHP book that follows this structure, except that it was split into two volumes.
This fact seems to reflect a certain level of maturity in PHP book publishers, as splitting the book into different volumes gives the reader the choice of just purchasing the volumes that address the aspects they are more interested in, and so spend less then if they had to buy the whole book in a single volume.
The volumes of the book are named respectively "Foundations", which was previously reviewed, and "Applications". This review is about this latter volume.
This volume comprises 7 chapters that focus on the most important aspects that PHP developers usually have to deal with developing Web applications.
It starts with a chapter about controlling the access of users to sites using authentication, keeping track of user access data in sessions, building a user registration system, and tracking which users are online.
The following chapter is about XML, and addresses access to XML documents with SAX and DOM APIs. It demonstrates how to use them to parse and generate RSS feeds. It also addresses the conversion of data between XML documents and SQL databases, and accessing and providing Web services using the SOAP and XML-RPC protocol.
The chapter about alternative content types focuses on generating PDF documents directly or converting from HTML, generating a vectorial graphics document in the SVG format, WAP pages with WML and user interfaces with XUL. Unfortunately, it does not cover generating Flash animations which is something that has a reasonable demand among the Web developers community and would be a perfect fit in this chapter.
Then there is a chapter on visitor statistics and tracking user accesses, and another chapter on several techniques for caching content to reduce server load.
The final two chapters focus on good practices to improve software development quality and productivity. The first covers code optimization techniques, structuring applications in layers, reading and generating documentation and setting up automated tests to verify that applications conform to their requirements.
The last chapter covers software design patterns. As an aside, design patterns is a matter that this book author, Harry Fuecks, has been cultivating in the PHP community with his site phpPatterns.com . The author believes that the PHP developers should learn and follow more standardized software design methods so the PHP language can achieve greater acceptance, especially in the corporate world.
This is indeed a very important concern. Fortunately, since the phpPatterns.com site has become more popular in the PHP community, many PHP developers have started exhibiting a healthy mania about following design patterns in their PHP applications and components.
In this chapter, the author describes several of the most used design patterns and explains how to implement them in PHP, mostly using classes.
Overall this is an excellent book that provides practical solutions to many common problems that PHP developers need to solve when implementing Web applications. It is a good complement to the first volume about the PHP foundations. Although interested readers can purchase both volumes with a significant discount, either of the volumes can be purchased separately for people who are interested in just one of the volumes.
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