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Evolution of PHP Programming: Drupal, Joomla, WordPress for Web Development

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PHP Development

PHP (recursive acronym for PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor) is a widely-used open source general-purpose scripting language that is especially suited for web development and can be embedded into HTML.

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Evolution of PHP Programming: Drupal, Joomla, WordPress for Web Development

As we dive into PHP programming, we would like to go back in history a little bit, as it pertains to other web development technologies that have been spearheaded as a result of PHP; it is no secret that the birth of Drupal, Joomla, and WordPress is attributed to PHP. We need to also pay homage to other web technologies, including HTML, that have made it that PHP could be what it is today. Website development has come a long way. Prior to PHP, most websites were largely static with HTML source code. You could type image file names (with their file/type extensions and locations) in the HTML source using its HTML image tags, run the page, and those images would populate in your browser. You can as well launch a PDF file now and again in a browser, as long as you have the location of the PDF file set in the reference tag. But other than that, there pretty much was not a two-way user interaction on an HTML website in those days, we're talking early 1990s here. Eventually, the inclusion of CGI (Common Gateway Interface) scripts allowed for fancier interactions within an HTML page. CGI made available the creation of dynamic web content and was often written in programming languages like Perl and others. CGI Scripts Embedded in HTML popularized user interaction with databases, and performed other server-specific tasks based on website user input (this was a golden era). JavaScript was born about fours years after HTML, it brought a little bit of civility to the client-side of HTML designs. Javascript is also embedded in HTML code, it introduced user interactivity on the client-side, an experience which entailed that if a button was pressed on the HTML design, then some JavaScript code would run to process user input. JavaScript was, and still is, a necessary scripting language for web development, as it helps to validate user input, thereby limiting unnecessary interactions with databases. For CGI-enabled websites that needed form validation, JavaScript provided an easier solution. CGI scripts then could simply concentrate on doing server-related calls, like that of a database and other server-specific requests. As one example, if a user's input was incorrect or an input box on a CGI-scripted HTML form was empty, developers could throw a JavaScript alert so the the user is aware that some information needs to be inserted in a textbox in order for the form to be submitted successfully.

CGI Scripts in HTML Source, JavaScript Validation, and PHP

As a developer, you are going to need to safeguard your application designs to ensure that certain requirements are met before a database call is made. The best way to think about it is, if millions of people are making the same error at the same time on your website, where a textbox is left without data, or the information submitted is not of the right data type (i.e. numerics vs text), and the front-end design does not have a way to validate the information, then your database will work harder to process the requests; which means it might actually crash. Thus, JavaScript's infancy was a great language to be added to HTML code as a guard-dog for CGI scripts, because CGI itself was not pretty great at making muliple requests at one time. Having that in mind, it only made sense that a developer would not want to let users reach their database back-ends until validation was satisfatory. Obviously, with every passing year, and each hurdle with developing interactive web applications, other programming languages were born to make life easier for developers, introducing PHP (or Hypertext Preprocessor). PHP offered a number of advantages over CGI, it was generally faster, it does process high user traffic better, it currently is more efficient and it is the chosen programming language for interative web development today.

Why PHP Became a Better Choice for Web Programming

The emergence of PHP helped to kick things up a notch in web development. Interactive website development is again energized since PHP is also a server-side scripting language that is embedded in HTML. Thanks to other scripting languages like Perl, C programming, and Shell Scripting, PHP has evolved in a more robust language for its ease of use in HTML. PHP drew inspiration from Perl, especially in terms of syntax and regular expression support, which further solidified pattern matching and text processing tasks, necessary to validate user input. Another influential programming language that set the stage for PHP is Python, for its clear syntax and emphasis on readability. Although Python is a general-purpose language, its use in web scripting paved the way for PHP’s capabilities in web application development. PHP also stands on the shoulders of Tcl, a language designed for embedded use in applications, Tcl was a precursor to PHP, meaning that, it showed developers the benefits of embedding a scripting language within an application for ease of development. All of these scripting languages have prepared PHP to pick up the baton for dynamic web application in HTML. PHP's simplicity, speed, and flexibility empowers web developers to create faster and better dynamic content to interact with databases right from the HTML design. Since PHP processes user data before sending back an HTML response to the user’s browser, it does make it easier for developers to pre-plan a personalized web page to be served back to a website page based on user input. A developer can write HTML tags within a PHP script to provide database results as a formatted HTML table, send back a confirmation page after user input has been submitted to a database, or create a fancy data report with database values. The dynamic nature of PHP's response from user input is one of the reasons why it is so popular among web developers.

Give PHP a Place to Flourish like HTML and Eclipse, Let it Run Wild

PHP Programming, with the help of HTML code has, without doubt, revolutionized web application development. PHP beautifully extends HTML. Since it can be easily embedded into the HTML source. Web browsers, whether locally hosted or online, can handle HTML independently, but the server portion must use a PHP interpreter to run PHP scripts, then the interpreter takes the response and generates a corresponding HTML. Currently there are a number of ways to create PHP web applications. You can download a vast array of open souce tools on the Internet to build PHP applications from scratch. What you will find is that PHP just like any other programming languages will undergo many iterations. They will be revisioned or enhanced to provive developers additional functionality, to work better and more efficiently in development environments or to introduce additional web security patches. HTML has also evolved a lot from what it was in the 90s. As of this writing, the version of HTML that developers are designing web applications with is HTML5. This is important because if you are using the latest version of an IDE, your HTML sounce may be malformed thus may produce design errors. An open source tool that comes to mind for PHP development with HTML5 is the Eclipse software, an Integrated Development Envvironment (IDE) widely used by developers to create applications to be launched in a LocalHost environment. In this case, Eclipse would still need to be configured with a local web server to launch a PHP-enabled HTML page. Unlike strict HTML code that can run on a browser served by any computer's File Explorer, PHP needs an actual web server, even though it will be running locally (LocalHost server).

Build it in PHP and Eclipse, View it in Tomcat, Nest it in MySQL

Another open souce option that is popular and available to help serve PHP applications to a browser locally is the Apache Tomcat Server. There are tons of instructions online to assist a developer to configure the Eclise IDE with Tomcat. If a developer is able to successfully configure Eclipse with the Tomcat web server, and run a PHP site via a LocalHost address, then the next venture should be to just dive into a database connection. Here too, you have a number of open source options. However, because we have done some of the leg work for you and that we know what will work seamlessly with Eclise and Tomcat, we're suggesting that you download a MySQL database. MySQL is a relational database management system (RDBMS), that has significant cost savings as compared to other/proprietary databases. If you are a web developer just starting out, you should be prudent about cost, or at least be smart about your choices. At the end of the day, you want to make sure that from the outset you chose the right database platform for the right project. Otherwise, you will be spending untold amounts of time figuring out why you are not getting ahead in your project, because the tools that you are using do not play well together.

All-Inclusive PHP Development Club: Including Drupal, Joomla, WordPress

DRAFT:: As mentioned above, the opportunities for creating a PHP web application are endless. Most developers do like to create PHP applications with the Eclipse IDE, in fact they prefer it. They might even download other flavours Eclipse to create other types of applications like Java, because they simply like the IDE. We've also mentioned that a developer should always do the the research to understand what will be best work for the project at hand, especially if there is a need for scalability. If developer is tasked to create a PHP application for a client who wants to administer own web server, to keep everything in-house, by all means, continue to create and complete the application in the Eclipse environment. A client could want to create an Intranet website temporarily, then convert to an outward-facing front-end, this would require additional security, but that is doable. However, if the client's objective is to, one day, purchase web hosting from a hosting provider to serve the PHP web application to the public, then the best option is create the PHP web front-end on an environment that can easily be migrated to a hosting service. And, you've guessed it, there is a recipe for that too, you have yet another open source tool in your arsenal, XAMPP. This is a cross-platform web server solution that comes pre-packaged with configured PHP classes, an Apache HTTP Web Server, and a MySQL database (MariaDB). How does that help developers? that is a great question... This means that once a developer creates a PHP application in XAMPP all files can be migrated to the client's hosting service online, this includea all code samples, all image and documentation files, and all MySQL database files, including the accounts that had been created. Moreover, if the client also wants to create a Content Management System (CMS) such as Drupal, Joomla, and WordPress, the XAMPP platform is setup for developing CMS sites, you can just download and configure them right in XAMPP. Similarly to the PHP and MySQL web application you created, you can run the CMS site(s) via a LocalHost environment or the client's in-house server box to be migrated to the online hosting service as necessary. For additional informaiton about CMS and other web technologies mentioned in this document click the links or go to our How-To pages.

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How-To build a website using HTML, CSS, PHP, & MySQL

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Green Coding Habits

Make your work count, add comments and instructions to your code, thoroughly test your samples before submission (mention what may still need additional testing), try not to be a litter bug in your community or forum, help save time and effort. Be Green! After all, what is the purpose of your submission if it cannot be used or comprehended. Might be a good idea to also mention, or at least give credits to works being used in your submissions.