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First published: 17th September 2002

Book Review: Professional PHP4 XML

There are lots of books about PHP and there are lots of books about XML, but there are very few books about PHP and XML. Wrox Press have attempted to fill this niche in the market with "Professional PHP4 XML".

A brief introduction is followed by a pair of chapters covering the fundamentals of PHP and XML which, while comparatively short, are densely packed and serve as good introductions to the two technologies. Chapter 4 presents concise summaries and example uses of all the major XML derivatives and vocabularies and is followed by four chapters detailing SAX, DOM, XPath and XSLT in enough depth to enable users to make informed choices as to which is the best tool for the job in hand. As well as the expected tutorials and examples, each of these chapters also explores why you would use the method in question and describe how to install and enable any PHP extensions that are required.

Chapter 9 describes a number of third-party packages and classes which simplify application development, and Chapter 10 presents a number of common tasks and explains the pros and cons of using different methods to complete them. The remainder of the book builds on the information covered thus far, exploring such topics as content syndication using RSS, XML storage solutions, and various web services technologies such as WDDX, SOAP and XML-RPC.

My main issue with this book is its disjointedness: there are seven authors cited on the front cover and it is blatantly obvious that the chapters were written by different people and that very little integration work was done. The differences are mostly stylistic, although the chapters on XML-RPC are frankly awful and cast a shadow over the rest of the book. The only other issue I had was that the book is a little verbose, although this is more a matter of taste: if you enjoyed other books in Wrox's "Programmer to Programmer" series then you'll have no problems with this one.

Weighing in at very nearly a thousand pages this is not a book that you'll lose down the side of the sofa, but the sheer size of its subject area means that the priority is breadth rather than depth of coverage. And that's no bad thing: after absorbing the core of the book you'll be in a fine position to choose the correct tool for the job in hand. You'll also have a head start in locating and understanding more in-depth information on the techniques that you decide to use.

This book is targeted at people with some PHP experience and no XML knowledge and it is well paced for its target audience; readers with no PHP or XML experience will probably find it hard going. Although the book is written like a tutorial it has a number of useful appendices which will ensure that it remains a useful reference long after you finish reading it.

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