Make your Web applications more feature rich with PHP

In an interview, Steven Holzner discusses PHP and some of the ways it can make your Web applications more feature rich without increasing overall development difficulty.

For many of us old timers, our first Web page was really no more than just a list of URLs we felt were important to remember. Those quaint days have long since passed. Web pages today rely on a certain level of sophistication, even those sites existing on a purely personal levelâ€"sites only used by the creator and a few close friends and relatives.

Features like site logins, perpetual cookies, buttons, blogs, checkboxes, user tracking, and database connections are common-place aspects on some of the most basic of Web sites. Achieving these features requires the use of some sort of programming or scripting language that goes beyond simple HTML tags. This is where PHP comes into play.

PHP is generally considered to be a powerful yet relatively simple language to learn and use. The continued growth in its popularity is a testament to that. In his book, Spring Into PHP 5, Steven Holzner explores the power of PHP through feature-specific practical examples. A free PDF download of Chapter 3, Handling Strings and Arrays, is available from TechRepublic.

In the following interview, Steven Holzner discusses PHP and some of the ways it can make your Web applications more feature rich without increasing overall development difficulty.

Title: Spring Into PHP 5
Author: Steven Holzner
Publisher: Addison Wesley Professional
Chapter: Chapter 3, Handling Strings and Arrays
ISBN: 0131498622; Published: Apr 12, 2005; Copyright 2005


[TechRepublic] Downloads and articles concerning PHP have seen a recent up-tick in popularity on TechRepublic. What is it about PHP that so many find appealing?

[Steven Holzner] People really want to get online more and more these days, and PHP is simply the easiest way to do it! That's why PHP use is soaring so much.

[TechRepublic] What advantages does PHP offer over other scripting languages such as Perl and JavaScript? Are there certain tasks that PHP does not perform well; tasks that other languages can perform better?

[Steven Holzner] Perl is a great language, but the syntax is very difficult for a beginner. You can do all kinds of powerful things in a single line, but if you don't know what you're doing, you could also create serious problems. As to JSP—JavaServer Pages (instead of JavaScript, which works in the browser, not online in the server)—that's PHP's principle competitor, but to write JSP, you need to know Java, and that's a heck of a lot more complex than PHP. So PHP makes the entry into the online world simpler than any other such language. PHP also has been designed to easily connect to databases, and that's proven very popular with the online crowd.

[TechRepublic] Web services are increasingly important to the TechRepublic membership, how does PHP and scripting fit into XML, SOAP, and other B2B protocols?

[Steven Holzner] PHP can work with XML and SOAP, of course, but it's more a popular language with the home page developers at this point, and Web services are something that is more usually handled by compiled apps—Java or C# and so on.

[TechRepublic] Besides reading your book of course, what course of action do you recommend for application and Web developers contemplating a move to PHP from other scripting languages? Is there a single piece of advice you can give that will make the transition smoother?

[Steven Holzner] If you're making the transition from another language, such as Java or JSP, you're already half the way there. PHP has taken the best of other languages and added its own improvements. It's quick, it's easy, and it's powerful. If you already know a programming language, you not only know most of PHP already, but you'll be impressed by how PHP was built to make things even easier.

About Mark Kaelin

Mark W. Kaelin has been writing and editing stories about the IT industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to,, and TechRepublic.

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