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Nov 25 / kkrizka

How To Start Learning Web Programming

azeem left an interesting question on my free programming advice offer (offer which is still valid, by the way) and it read as follows:

Hi, I am interested in web programming.
Actually i have experience in ABAP programming (SAP (ERP) proprietary lang ) .
But I am interested in coding on the side.
What should i start with?

Since you already have programming experience, learning another language shouldn’t be that hard. You might not even need to purchase any books, and instead read tutorials on the internet. However I still recommend getting at least one book, because they can also serve as a great reference and document many features in detail. If you wish to concentrate on web development, there are three topics you should look at: PHP, XHTML/CSS and MySQL.

Of course you need to know XHTML/CSS, because that is used to format the pages you see on the World Wide Web. You could also learn HTML, but I am strongly against that. There are no good books on XHTML and CSS, because they are very simple typesetting languages. But I can recommend a very good website, W3Schools, that offers a tutorial on XHTML, CSS and loads of very useful reference tables.

I am quite sure that you don’t want to write only static pages, so you should learn PHP. PHP is one of the most popular server-side web programming languages out there, and it is supported by almost every webhost (even the free ones). This basically means that a program on your web server will interpret the PHP code first, and spit out XHTML code to the browser. The book I would suggest is the WROX: Professional PHP. The book might be very thick and contain a lot of topics you don’t need, but it is organized in such a way that you can pick what sections to skip and return back to them when you need them. There is also a “Beginning PHP” book from the same publisher,  but I have never read it so I cannot vouch for it.

You will also need a database, and MySQL is the best choice since it is free and quite powerful. If you are going to be doing just simple web programming, then you do not need to know much about the more complicated syntax so there is no point in buying an entire book on it. The WROX: Professional PHP book mentioned earlier has an excellent chapter on the MySQL language, and I believe it also documents other databases too.

Finally you will need a web host to show off all your pages to the world. For testing, I suggest installing a web server on your desktop computer, because this maked editing files much easier. The popular Apache web server is free for download, and the WROX: Professional PHP book includes instructions for configuring PHP to work with Apache. For your production server, I suggest starting out with a free web server until you get used to it. I suggest using FreeHostia, because they offer professional services on their free hosting accounts.


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  1. azeem / Nov 26 2007

    Thanks a lot for the detailed and step by step help . I found this link :
    This should help me set up PHP, MYSQL and APACHE.

    Hopefully I will be able to progress quickly in PHP.

    Thanks once again.

    Another thing that I noticed is that if I do not enter the captcha i get an error as ” Incorrect Try Again” . Thats fine but what I wrote in the comments box is wiped off too.

    So earlier I had a large appreciatory note for your guidance on web programming but since it got wiped out I just typed in a short one.

    But thanks for the help. It makes a lot of sense to me to start with PHP.

    I will update you on my progress although that may be slow bcoz of my full time job.

    • Karol Krizka / Nov 26 2007

      Thanks for the tip on the CAPCHA. I didn’t know that could happen, because I am using plugin made by someone else. I’ll see if I can fix it somehow.

      Keep me updated on your progress, because I might blog about it if you release something interesting. :)

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