Web Database Applications with PHP and MySQL, by Williams and Lane

Reviewed by: Paul Schneider, Ph.D., send e-mail
Published by: O'Reilly, go to the web site
Requires: N/A
MSRP: $44.95

I was beginning to wonder when O'Reilly would come out with a PHP book. For those who are unaware of it, PHP is one of the faster growing web development languages and is akin to ASP and Cold Fusion. O'Reilly answered my question not once, but thrice, with three different books that deal with PHP and/or MySQL. (MySQL is an Open Source database program that is also quite popular). Web Database Applications with PHP and MySQL, or the platypus book for short, approaches the topic in a novel manner.

Instead of a traditional how-to or build-from-the-basics programming book, Williams and Lane chose a single application, a wine store. They teach you from start to finish how to develop this project. Following this path, they do provide you with a solid base of knowledge about PHP and MySQL, but the focus remains on the development of this major application. As such this book is not recommended for beginners, but for those who already have database and/or programming background and some knowledge of PHP.

The chapter rundown is as follows, Database Applications and the Web, PHP, MySQL and SQL, Querying Web Databases, User-Driven Querying, Writing to Web Databases, Validation on the Server and Client, Sessions, Authentications and Security, Winestore Customer Management, The Winestore Shopping Cart, Ordering and Shipping at the Winestore, Related Topics, and of course several Appendices, Glossaries, and Indices. Like all O'Reilly books, the obligatory CD does NOT come with the book, but instead they point you to a web site where you can obtain the equivalent information.

From the get-go Williams and Lane introduce the book's focus, your online wine store. The first several chapters contain bits and pieces of the wine store application, but these are largely used to introduce some core concepts and additional related information. The concepts introduced here are important ones and can be used in almost any large web-based application. The subsequent chapters continue to do the same, but as you move forward, it is the core wine store elements that receive the focus. In the end you cover everything ranging from handling large numbers of people to security and e-commerce.

I couldn't find much to complain about in terms of the book's coverage, style or otherwise. Though this may have been due in part to the influence of the wine I sipped as I wrote my review. This was done, mind you, strictly in the celebration my new online wine store - honest! The authors' approach to teaching these tools was admirable. E-commerce is one of the most popular applications on the web and the development of such an engine employees a great many skills in terms of programming and database design. Important elements such as security, multiple users, managing inventory users, and multiple pricing thankfully received ample book time.

What this book is not is PHP and MySQL for dummies. Granted you don't have to be a smartie, but some experience will certainly aid you in digesting the book's concepts. One thing that was not present that I would like to have seen was some time spent on application presentation. The wine store application, while not ugly, is rather plain. I would have liked to see the authors delve into setting up system wide configurable images and colors so as to enhance the overall look and feel of the product while retaining the flexibility a database application provides.

I suppose the best way to sum the book up is that I now feel fairly confident about developing my own online store, though I'm hoping it will be a wine store, or at least something that has different vineyards!

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