At close to 500 pages there's plenty of space to cover each new topic in detail. Detail that includes numerous images, code examples, tips, notes and advisory warnings. All supplemented with wise best practice advice and informative background information.
Despite the book's length a clean layout and bold page headers ensure flicking back and forward to specific areas of interest is undemanding and rapid. As the content is intended to be consumed in a practical, hands-on manner, it's good to find a complete set of code examples available for download at the Missing Manuals website.
Brett has a light and entertaining style of writing, which he combines with a gentle wit. New information is presented in a fluid and coherent manner, even when introducing some of the more complex topics.
Structurally the book's thirteen chapters are divided into four main sections. While each section has its own well defined domain, they join together to form a smooth, interactive journey. A journey to assemble real-world PHP and MySQL-based web pages from scratch.
The first section successfully guides you through the basics. As you'll have to download the necessary software, instructions are provided for both Microsoft Windows and Apple Mac. This is followed by a step-by-step overview of the PHP and SQL languages, and the MySQL database product.
Located in the middle two sections are numerous web page examples, each designed to explore a specific element of server-side development. By the end of these sections you'll have the knowledge to create key elements for a typical website, and be able to dynamically retrieve, display and manage database-stored content. Any page you've created can be subsequently modified to address your own design requirements.
Important topics such as error handling are not only included, but covered in some depth. And Brett doesn't shirk from the more complex areas, such as regular expressions and managing database blobs (binary objects). However, this book isn't intended to be a PHP or SQL language reference and doesn't attempt to cover object-oriented programming or other advanced PHP techniques.
The final section covers the creation of a secure user authentication page - another essential website element. It builds upon the knowledge learned in earlier chapters, while introducing new topics such as authentication headers, credential validation, encryption, cookies and user sessions.
In summary, if you're after an excellent, straightforward, yet comprehensive introduction to web server application development, this certainly hits the mark.