Before we try to work with PHP we need understand the role it fills – what problem does it address. The World Wide Web is built on a client-server model. A client computer requests a page which is supplied by a Web Server. The browser then renders the page for the user to view. The simplest type of pages contain static (unchanging) content. The server could serve plain text files, and the browser wouldn't have any trouble rendering them.
HTML is a markup language that lets us describe attributes of the text and blocks on our pages. This works great for simple requests, making pages much more interesting than plain text. However it leaves us with a very simple structure. One page from One url (address) results in one rendered content (every time this url is requested, the output is the same).
The very first thing you _must_ do before getting started with PHP is get a good grasp of HTML (and CSS). Many webmasters use a tool like Dreamweaver, Expression Web or KompoZer. To
work with PHP it is important that you understand the underlying HTML code. You will be modifying this code so you need to be able to understand the HTML well enough to understand what you see.
Now that you understand the markup language which is what is sent to the browser (HTML) you are ready to tackle the server side use of PHP.
Jeremiah Stover is a Software Developer at Pragmatic Development. He specializes in client communications. While PD does offer a full range of IT services and consulting, they are currently specializing in website development in PHP/MySQL.
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