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What is PHP?

PHP stands for "Hypertext Preprocessor".

It is a widely-used for Web development. It can be embedded into HTML and make the static HTML dynamic web page. See the following example:

<html>
<head>
<title>PHP Test</title>
</head>
<body>
<?php echo '<p>Hello World</p>'; ?>
</body>
</html>

PHP is server-side script. The client would receive the results of running that script, with no way of determining what the underlying code may be.

The best things in using PHP are that it is extremely simple for a newcomer, but offers many advanced features for a professional programmer.

What can PHP Do?

Anything. PHP is mainly focused on server-side scripting, so you can do anything any other CGI program can do, such as collect form data, generate dynamic page content, or send and receive cookies. But PHP can do much more.

There are three main areas where PHP scripts are used.

  • Server-side scripting. This is the most traditional and main target field for PHP. You need three things to make this work. The PHP parser (CGI or server module), a webserver and a web browser. You need to run the webserver, with a connected PHP installation.

  • Command line scripting. You can make a PHP script to run it without any server or browser. You only need the PHP parser to use it this way. This type of usage is ideal for scripts regularly executed using cron (on *nix or Linux) or Task Scheduler (on Windows).

  • Writing desktop applications. PHP is probably not the very best language to create desktop application with a graphical user interface, but it can!

  • cross-platform applications if you know PHP very well.

PHP can be used on all major operating systems, including Linux, many Unix variants (including HP-UX, Solaris and OpenBSD), Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, RISC OS, and probably others.

PHP has also support for most of the web servers today. This includes Apache, Microsoft Internet Information Server(IIS), Personal Web Server(PWS), Netscape and iPlanet servers, Oreilly Website Pro server, Caudium, Xitami, OmniHTTPd, and many others.

For the majority of the servers PHP has a module, for the others supporting the CGI standard, PHP can work as a CGI processor.

So with PHP, you have the freedom of choosing an operating system and a web server. Furthermore, you also have the choice of using procedural programming or object oriented programming, or a mixture of them.

PHP 5 fixes the OOP related weaknesses of PHP 4, and introduces a complete object model.

With PHP you are not limited to output HTML. PHP's abilities includes outputting images, PDF files and even Flash movies (using libswf and Ming) generated on the fly.

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