This book is divided into six parts, corresponding to particular topic groups. The lessons within each part should be read one right after another, with each lesson building on the information found in those before it:
Part I, "Laying the Groundwork," provides a quick start guide to installation and also walks you through the installation and configuration of MySQL, Apache, and PHP in-depth. You'll need to complete at least one version of these lessonseither the quick start installation or the longer lessonsbefore moving on, unless you already have access to a working installation of these technologies. Even if you don't need to install and configure MySQL, Apache, and PHP in your environment, you should still skim these lessons so that you understand the basics of their interaction.
Part II, "PHP Language Structure," is devoted to teaching you the basics of the PHP language, including structural elements such as arrays and objects. The examples will get you in the habit of writing code, uploading it to your server, and testing the results.
Part III, "Getting Involved with the Code," consists of lessons that cover intermediate-level application-development topics, including working with forms and files, restricting access, and completing other small projects designed to introduce a specific concept.
Part IV, "PHP and MySQL Integration," contains lessons devoted to working with databases in general, such as database normalization, as well as using PHP to connect to and work with MySQL. Included is a basic SQL primer, which also includes MySQL-specific functions and other information.
Part V, "Basic Projects," consists of lessons devoted to performing a particular task using PHP and MySQL, integrating all the knowledge gained so far. Projects include an address book, a discussion forum, and a basic online storefront, among others. These examples are built in a black-and-white environment, meaning the aesthetic display is minimal. This allows you to focus on the programming and logic involved in building the structures rather than making these items aesthetically pleasing.
Part VI, "Administration and Fine-Tuning," is devoted to administering and tuning Apache and MySQL. It also includes information on virtual hosting and setting up a secure web server.
If you find that you are already familiar with a topic, you can skip ahead to the next lesson. However, in some instances, lessons refer to specific concepts learned in previous chapters, so be aware that you might have to skim a skipped lesson so that your development environment remains consistent with the book.
At the end of each chapter, a few quiz questions test how well you've learned the material. Additional activities provide another way to apply the information learned in the lesson and guide you toward using this newfound knowledge in the next chapter.