Beginners Guide to a Programming Language: Php

Not a bad language in itself, and definitely nicer than the perl CGI scripts that preceeded it, it’s a very commonly used language and an absolute necessity if you want to get into web programming. This and Microsoft’s ASP.NET are literally the two dynamic languages around on the web at the moment. Sure there’s others, but these two rule the roost, most open source (and a lot of closed source) web apps use this – mediawiki, drupal and joomla to name just the first 3 that came to mind. It’s also pretty easy to pick up, but it’s not as much of a running joke as VB tends to be and doesn’t let you slip into quite as many bad practices.

That said, it still does let you slip into lots of bad practices, and while you can quite happily “tame” these if you’ve been programming in a nicer language already it’s perhaps not the wisest move to expose yourself to them from the word go. There’s also the obvious point that PHP is a web based scripting language and not a general purpose “traditional” programming language (which, depending on what you want to do, could be a pro or a con.) Again, because it’s so widely used and pretty easy to pick up, you also get a lot of badly written and sometimes plainly wrong tutorials around for it – though at least the W3C provide some good, certified ones that you can be sure are accurate and reliable. (2)

So should you go with it as an initial choice of language? Unless you only ever want to do web based stuff I’d steer clear, and even then I’d be careful. I’m no PHP expert but I can do bits in it and MySQL that I need to, and coming from Java background it didn’t take me more than a couple of weeks to comprehensively pick the basics up and get going with it in a useful way. It’s a possibility, but I honestly wouldn’t recommend starting with a web based language unless you only ever intend to do web based work. Migrating from a “normal” language to a web based one is pretty trivial, the other way round tends to be rather more difficult.

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