Customer Reviews: PHP Objects, Patterns and Practice (Expert's Voice in Open Source)
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on March 20, 2008
I've owned PHP Objects, Patterns, and Practice for over a year, and it's still one of those books I go back to. It's a well written, generally well executed book on what constitutes Object Oriented Programming in the PHP5 environment.

First, the good news:

This book is a crash course on OOP design and thought. It borrows heavily from two monumentous texts in the field - the Gang of Four's book, and Java Enterprise Patterns - and condences their essences into an easy to swallow form. The basics are all here: how to create well designed classes, how to instantiate objects, etc. There's a hidden gem in the introductory portion of the book: the Reflection API. This API is built into PHP, and gives the coder unparalleled access to the guts of the classes and objects in a given project. It definitely has its uses.

The patterns are all generally useful, with the only exception perhaps being the Interpreter pattern. I'm just not convinced that creating one's own command line interface syntax is necessary, given that PHP projects aren't usually interactive. It seems like something best left to an appendex, or extra web content.

Now, for the bad news:

Some sections of the book, especially some of the code examples, could've used a better editor. Small things, the kinds of things that can trip up inexperienced coders, crop up. Using private properties instead of protected. Using the wrong variable name between examples. That sort of thing.

There's also a lack of a satisfying conclusion, so-to-speak. Zandstra himself claims that generating objects is perhaps the hardest thing to demonstrate. Yet, most of his examples (excepting the patterns late in the book) are canned. Objects and classes exist only to drive the theory behind a pattern home. Few real world examples are given. Admittedly, some patterns are simple to transfer to a real project, but concrete examples of that nature could serve to further cement his point. For example, it's not difficult to see how the Composite pattern would work well for dealing with an XML document, but would there ever be a need for a Visitor object to act on one?

Finally, and in continuation of my last criticism, Zandstra never touches one of the things PHP is used the most for: form handling. Can forms be represented by classes? Could forms be generated by objects (perhaps using a Factory pattern)? What about form validators? Wouldn't the Strategy or Decorator pattern work? Supplementing his online Civilization game and CLI/quiz examples with this would've really put the book over the top.

Still, with that said, PHP Objects, Patterns, and Practice is still a text that gets far more right than wrong. It's definitely a must-buy for those PHP coders looking to write modular code.
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on February 16, 2011
In terms of content, this is an excellent book. It is probably a little too heavy for absolute PHP beginners, unless you're already well-versed in other modern programming languages. For people who only know PHP, or who don't know any languages and are looking to start with PHP, you should make sure you have a strong grasp of procedural PHP before heading this way.

That being said, the Kindle version has one major issue: the code samples. They look like someone printed them out with a dot-matrix printer, then scanned them at 150 DPI, saved as BMPs to preserve all the visual errors on the scan, and pasted them into the book as images. In other words, the code samples are not text at all - they are really, really crappy images and you will often find yourself squinting to make out all the details of the fuzzy "text".

This isn't a dealbreaker - after all, any programming book you buy today has downloadable samples of all code available somewhere on the Internet... but it IS an annoyance. Why they couldn't produce the code in real text with an alternate font I have no idea. Why they couldn't present higher quality images of the code I also have no idea.

Suffice to say, if you buy this for the Kindle, expect 5 star content with 3 star presentation - thereby bringing us to 4 overall.
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on March 18, 2008
This is the best book I've read on Object Orientated PHP. This book does a great job of explaining the ins and outs of OO in PHP 5. As a self taught PHP developer of 5 years, I had lots of questions about "am I doing this right", "how should this be done" and the book has answered most of those questions.

I'd recommend the book to those who already have an advanced PHP knowledge but are looking to take their code another step forward by improving it's re-usability. It's also a great read if you want to find out the power that PHP 5 has over PHP 4.

Note: this book doesn't contain code that you can use. It teaches you the principles that you should use in your own projects.
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on May 16, 2011
PHP Objects, Patterns, and Practice is the book I've been looking for. As a novice PHP developer it answered a lot of the questions I've had about the next steps to becoming an effective developer. Through the PHP object model, design patterns, and then putting it all together this is a must have book for any one wanting to take the next steps in their PHP knowledge.

The PHP object section is worth the cost of admission alone with this title. Not only covering the updates to PHP 5.3 but showing how to use them. From the coverage of the php "magic functions" to those of you struggling to put together a solid object model this is one of the most clearly written descriptions I've read. The examples of how to use abstract classes and inheritance effectively are especially helpful and setup a great transition to working with design patterns.

Design Patterns make up the meat of this book, and rightly so. I finally get the purpose of design patterns and how to use them with my work. Although, I'm by far not an expert on the topic, from a learning perspective, it is a spot on effective at teaching the principles of this sometimes complicated area.

The Practice portion of this book is the only area I could see some better coverage on. While the topics and tools are covered expertly, it feels dated. From my experience with the PHP/Open source community, the tools covered are being eclipsed by distributed version control, and tighter IDE support. While I know folks are still using SVN, it would have been nice to see an updated chapter on using git or Mercurial.

PHP Objects, Patterns, and Practice is an excellent book. If you are wanting to learn more about the very important topics covered, then this is probably the best starting point out there.
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on November 17, 2008
It's been about a year and a half since I've read this, I have the first edition, but I think most of what I write is still relevant for this second one.

At the moment, very few php books come close in trying to actually present the language as a real contender for serious and professional web development. This book attempts just that.

PHP has come a long way since its inception, but the teaching material has not really caught up and the community is still pestered with bad code, architecture and practice. This book is an eye opener as it presents php for what it can be: a convenient and flexible tool that, in the right hands, can tough up and allow a programmer to get work done efficiently. It's not to say that php can do everything, but before you blame it as the root of all evil, you should definitely understand how you, the programmer, can work at improving the quality of your code. This text offers some insight into tried and true practices, usually well established in other more mature communities.

There are 3 parts:

The Objects part is a nice introduction to many goodies in the new PHP5 object model (the whole thing is php5 centric).

Some of the topics covered in the section matter more than others imo, since in your practice you'll encounter and will definitely draw some values from them. So pay particular attention to: Autoloading, Exception handling, magic methods, namespaces, reflection.

Because PHP is still a language in search for an identity, it borrows features, coding styles and development philosophy from other languages. Despite the fact that the two are fundamentally very different, Java has heavily influenced PHP's OO design and syntax. However, some of the PHP reimplementation just ended up being "simili" stuff, rather than the real thing. That is, it has the Java flavor, but doesn't actually carry any caffeine. Unfortunately, the book doesn't dig into those details and just serves the Kool-Aid as is.

Another complaint is that you are shown many tools and given a description of how they work, but there is little depth as to when to actually use them. Java and Python programmers borrowing PHP for a project might have an easier time translating this knowledge into actual practice, since their community would have likely previously exposed them to situations these tools were meant for.

If I had to pick one particular topic that I felt was missing from the Objects section, it would be an intro to the SPL. Look for it.

If you would allow me some personal and opinionated advices (be forewarned that a lot of these go against the current dogma in PHP):
- private/protected/public: it's definitely useful to understand the _idea_ behind having a public and a private programming interface, but it's a bit of a fallacy to enforce this with actual language constructs in a dynamic technology like PHP, since it doesn't actually provide much benefits to the interpreter. Who are we then "protecting" the code from exactly, the programmer? When other concepts like inheritance get involved, things get even more cumbersome, because PHP is missing some features that allow a technology like Java to get away with it all (method overloading anyone?). An alternative approach is to leave everything public and then follow the widely adopted _convention_ to prefix what is considered private with an underscore. Programmers using your API will get a hint that the $_purifiedData property was probably not meant to be directly accessed, but in case they decide to transgress that rule, they can. If you still insist on enforcing visibility though, then only use the protected and public keywords, forget private altogether.
- inheritance: learn how it works, but most importantly, learn when to avoid it and remember to strive for "Composition over Inheritance" (see Patterns section).
- interfaces: Learn about type-checking and type-hinting and use interfaces for that purpose specifically. You can declare constants within your interfaces, but I'd recommend against also declaring methods in them. It will only constrain your APIs, since PHP doesn't allow method overloading like Java would (this is one thing many PHP so-called experts are completely oblivious about when they merrily sprinkle their code with interfaces). Another route altogether would be to simply stop relying on interfaces and type-hinting and adopt 'duck-typing', an approach more natural to dynamically-typed languages such as Python, Ruby and I dare to say, PHP.

The next section of the book is on Patterns. It's not so much about PHP than it is an attempt at making a less crappy programmer out of YOU. If you're relatively new to programming and you've chosen PHP to make your first steps, please read this section of the book, for the sake of minimizing the damage you certainly will do. This is an intro to better code organization and to the world of design patterns as they can be applied to php. If you've heard of such things as Singleton, Observer, Registry, Controller, MVC and are still scratching your head, this could apply to you to.

The Practice section was a bit of a let down. If the author cares for some suggestions:
- forget CVS: there are currently a number of popular and very good open source SCMs, Git and Mercurial currently leading the pack. At the very least, teach the increasingly outdated SVN, but this book would actually gain some value if you only just mentioned the concept of revision control, without actually naming CVS.
- forget PEAR: instead have a chapter on frameworks, which nicely ties up with what the book tries to teach.
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on October 17, 2010
While Matt Zandstra does a fairly good job of introducing, explaining, and showcasing a good number of useful design patterns for use with PHP 5, PHP Objects, Patterns and Practice just doesn't read very well. My main gripe isn't with the content, but rather with the visual presentation of it. Typographically, the book is not very well designed; the body text is typeset in paragraphs with way too many characters on a single line, and not nearly enough space between the lines. This makes the book tiresome to read for more than a few pages at a time.

I bought this book partly because of I was already familiar with another book in this Apress series, namely The Definitive Guide to SQLite, which is not only very well written, but also pleasant to read. I was surprised to learn that two books from the same series could differ so much in terms of visual quality.

A revised edition would benefit from having a professional editor or typographer redoing the layout.
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on February 20, 2009
One of the only truly professional PHP books out on the market that we recommend at Sevenforty [...] to other developers. Most PHP books are written by authors with very little professional development experience and are filled with horrific coding practices and bad "cut and paste" examples. Matt's book breaks that mold with solid object-oriented examples, logical explanations, plenty of design pattern examples and shows PHP right at home with the MVC design pattern.

This book is not for folks just starting out in programming. It takes a prior understanding of how design patterns fit into professional web development. However, for those developers who want to make the transition from amateur PHP coder to professional, enterprise level PHP developer, this book is the starting point.
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on August 18, 2010
This book is well written and the concepts are well explained. The examples are not well introduced and explained, however, so that it is difficult to follow as well as generalize the example to a broader concept. This is a problem that I've found with pattern books before however. This is not a beginner book by any means and extensive OOP PHP experience is required.
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on January 29, 2016
Just yuck. I've struggled with this book for a long time and it's not due to my lack of php knowledge. The pages read fluidly and the content is very easy to understand until you take one look at the code samples. This book tends to leave out 90% of the code in it's examples and expects you to figure out what's inside it's non-existent methods and objects as it steers you slowly down the road towards insanity. Just try any other book. I could have learned twice this content in half the time if it had been done properly.
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on February 12, 2012
I rather like this book. PHP is not well served by intelligent discussions of advanced OOP design -it's a pragmatic but ugly language so most of the really smart hackers tend to congregate around the elegance of Ruby or Python. Matt Zandstra is a good PHP programmer and fills this gap quite well.

The structure is logical, moving from OOP syntax and basic concepts through tactical object patterns to their application in more strategic enterprise and data patterns. It closes by surveying more general areas of good development practice such as testing and version control.

Covering so much ground the pace is rapid, so you'll likely struggle unless you are fluent with basic PHP and have a smattering of OOP knowledge.

The reason for my 4 star rating is the way that Matt highlights the practical value and application of the patterns he covers. The general approach is to show how a seat-of-the-pants approach can get you into trouble as your system evolves, and how the judicious application of patterns can strengthen separation of concerns and flexibility. I have a couple of other pattern books, but they are more academic and leave you wondering how you would actually use these ideas. Matt's approach is more successful.

I've dropped a star because there are too many areas where the writing could be clearer, particularly in the Enterprise Pattern section. And there are areas where I feel he has backed the wrong horse - for example the version control section focuses on Subversion, while these days the OS community seems to centre around Git and GitHub.

But if you are an intermediate developer you should emerge from the process with significantly stronger skills.

There is however, a major caveat. I have read many thousands of books in my time, and THIS IS THE MOST ILLEGIBLE LAYOUT I HAVE EVER HAD TO CONTEND WITH. The font is too small, the lines are too long, and the leading is too crowded. It's incomprehensible that a professional publisher should treat their readers with such contempt. They should either add more pages or cut some of the more specialised content (for example there are long sections on creating PEAR packages and Domain Specific Languages which most readers will find little use for).

All in all, though, a decent effort full of practical ideas you will find yourself using in your day-to-day work.
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