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HTML versus PHP

PHP is a widely used, general-purpose scripting language that is well suited for Web development. PHP script elements can be run standalone or they can be embedded into HTML pages. In a nutshell, these two technologies interleave well. We'll see an example of this a little later on.

To get started with PHP, you need a server that supports the use of PHP files (.php is the default extension for these files on most servers). Once you've figured out that your server supports PHP, then you can start creating and running .php files. This is done by placing the files in your web directory, and the server then automatically parses them.

With PHP, there's no need to compile any files; nor do you need to install any extra toolkits (aside from a compliant Web server). You can think of the PHP-enabled files as simple HTML files to which you add an array of special-purpose tags. These tags enable you to do all sorts of clever server-side things.

It is, of course, perfectly feasible to use the (de facto standard) Apache Web server for your PHP work. To do this, you'll have to complete a number of Apache configuration changes. I'll admit I tried to do this myself three times but gave up in the end. I don't think it should be so difficult to get a piece of software running—and when it starts to make my head hurt, I usually look for an alternative unless I'm absolutely committed to that toolset. Fortunately, EasyPHP is true to its name: It provides a simple, ready-to-use PHP solution that doesn't require the attention of a professional system administrator.

So, let's get started on the five steps to PHP success.

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