What You Need to Know Before Learning PHP

PHP is a global language used by several out-of-the box website solutions and plenty of customized web-based applications. PHP is one of the most common languages to learn, because it’s free and works great with Linux and Apache. It also runs in the latest versions of Windows Internet Information Services (PHP). Before getting started, you need some basic foundations to learn PHP.

Programming Foundations

All programmers start somewhere, which are the basics for any programming language. There are some common syntax and industry language you need to know before getting started. If you start off with a beginner’s learning course, they likely go through the basics for you. However, if you want to start at a little more advanced level, you need to know some programming fundamentals.

First, variables are a part of any programming language. Variables are the key components that hold data you want to manipulate. You give each of these variables a name that helps you remember the data that the variable is storing. For instance, “$firstname” in PHP tells you that a customer or user’s first name is stored in the variable. Variables are passed throughout the application to display data in the web page, retrieve data from forms, or store the data into a database.

Functions are also a traditionally fundamental part of programming. Functions are the procedures you run in your code. The advantage of functions is that a parameter is passed to the function, and the function returns data. You don’t need to retype the same code over and over. Instead, you use the function to calculate a value. For instance, you might need to calculate two numbers in several different parts of the code, and this can be done in a function.

Since PHP is based on web application programming, you also need to know HTML. HTML is the language that browsers translate to the application on the user’s computer. HTML is the foundation for web applications, and the latest version is HTML 5.

Tools for PHP

Every programmer has his own set of tools, and PHP programmers are no different. You need a development environment to practice and develop applications, and you need some tools to actually develop in PHP. One common tool to do the coding is Notepad++. Notepad++ offers you a way to develop for several different syntaxes including PHP.

Next, you need an Apache server or a desktop that runs Apache or Windows IIS. Apache is the most common web hosting platform for PHP development, but it can be configured to run on Windows IIS as well. Newer versions of Windows IIS that come with Widows 7, Windows 8 and Windows Server 2008 run PHP natively, so you don’t need to install any extra software. (Lynda’s course takes you through that entire process)

PHP Hosting

Once you create a PHP website, you need to host it. This is true for personal use or if you want to display it to clients. Several hosts offer cheap shared hosting to give you the ability to deploy the PHP application to the Internet. Shared hosting only costs a few dollars a month, or you can decide on a virtual private server (VPS). A VPS gives you better control of your server, and you can configure several websites on one server, though I strongly recommend you NOT to start with a VPS if you are a beginner.

Personally I use BlueHost.com. They are easy to setup and have great support (I’m using its online chat all the time).


Getting started with PHP is fun, but it’s a challenge. Make sure you watch a video or practice the new language. If you don’t practice, you won’t be able to keep the information you learned.


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