Anyone running a WordPress website or blog is sure to come across talk about PHP. This guide explains what PHP scripting language is in plain English and how WordPress exploits it. There are a few things about PHP that every site administrator needs to know.
What Is PHP—Exactly?
PHP is a recursive acronym that means Hypertext Preprocessor. That's the last time we'll refer to its long name. PHP is an open source (more here on open source) server-side scripting and programming language. Its primary use is for creating dynamic content for interactive blog posts, websites, online stores, and WP plugins. Most of WordPress' core software is written in PHP.
There are several versions of PHP. It's always wise to have the latest version on the server for security reasons. That goes for all scripting languages, not only PHP. Updated versions typically include new features and fix any identified security vulnerabilities.
Hypertext Markup language (HTML) or PHP?
You don't need to study HTML web design to learn PHP, but it's recommended. HTML is a novice-friendly markup language and the foundation of web development. HTML glues a website's main structure together using elements, attributes, and content. Learning about HTML before PHP helps you to understand the whole concept of programming and constructing web pages.
It doesn't take keen students long to grasp HTML and become a coder. And once you move to PHP and learn the basics, you go from coder to programmer.
PHP VS Other Programming Languages
Internet giants like Yahoo, Facebook, Wikipedia, Flickr, and many others are built from PHP. It's among the most widely used programming and scripting languages, but it's not the only one.
Here are seven other popular server-side languages, though there are others:
- Python: often used for AI applications
- C++: an oldie but goodie, still used in operating systems and browsers
- C#: widespread use for mobile applications and games
- Shell: common with IT departments
- Ruby: simple programming language favoured for meetup type applications
As you can see, programmers like to use some types of code for specific applications. Each has its plus and minus points, depending on usage and who you ask.
PHP Code Selling Points
There are lots of reasons to love PHP. The most popular WordPress uses include:
- It's free to use
- PHP is super easy for budding programmers to learn
- Developers use PHP for WordPress themes and plugins
- Supported by an enormous worldwide community
- PHP is portable, meaning it works with other platforms and servers
- PHP scripts are fast compared to other programming languages
PHP Appeal for WordPress Developers
The WordPress core development team love PHP because it's easy to access. Moreover, PHP development is flexible, highly compatible, and consumes less time. It's also scalable and offers free support and updates. It's not without critics, but there's much more to like than dislike.
What PHP Does
Here are some of the things PHP does to help WordPress site administrators:
- Generate webpages and other PHP files dynamically
- Create, open, read, modify and close files on your server
- Collect web data via online forms, e.g., user details via input fields
- Restrict unauthorized site access
- Send emails and newsletters to site subscribers
- Send/receive tracking cookies
- Store, modify and delete data from databases
- Encrypt data for secure online transmission
The list goes on.
Where to Learn More About PHP
If you're a budding website developer, then PHP is going to serve you well.
The software developer community is vast and supportive. There are many free PHP tutorials online or paid courses if you prefer human support. You will learn where to start, what mistakes to avoid, and build your knowledge through practical exercises.
But first, you'll want to set up a local development environment. You also need to install a code editor to write your code. The thing that surprises most newbies is just how easy PHP is to learn, especially the basics of.