Book Image

AJAX and PHP: Building Responsive Web Applications

By : Mihai Bucica, Cristian Darie, Bogdan Brinzarea, Filip Chereches-Tosa, Philippe Wauthier
Book Image

AJAX and PHP: Building Responsive Web Applications

By: Mihai Bucica, Cristian Darie, Bogdan Brinzarea, Filip Chereches-Tosa, Philippe Wauthier

Overview of this book

Assuming a basic knowledge of PHP, XML, JavaScript and MySQL, this book will help you understand how the heart of AJAX beats and how the constituent technologies work together. After teaching the foundations, the book will walk you through numerous real-world case studies covering tasks you'll be likely to need for your own applications: Server-enabled form-validation page Online chat collaboration tool Customized type-ahead text entry solution Real-time charting using SVG Database-enabled, editable and customizable data grid RSS aggregator application A server-managed sortable list with drag&drop support using the JavaScript toolkit The appendices guide you through installing your working environment, using powerful tools that enable debugging, improving, and profiling your code, working with XSLT and XPath. From the Author, Cristian Darie AJAX and PHP: Building Responsive Web Applications is mainly a book for beginners, but when designing its contents we tried to find the ideal blend of topics that would help both novice and experienced web developers make a big step forward. One customer was very kind to let us know, through a review, that we succeeded: "The theory behind all the technologies used is very clearly explained, without boring you with details about obvious things. Right from the first chapter you start learning by examples. The examples can be easily adapted to many web projects and they cover stuff that is both useful and fun." Here are a few examples of such "useful and fun" things that you can find in this book: details on using proxy scripts to work around the security measures in modern browsers client-side and server-side code that doesn't break when fed with special characters (such as <, ", etc) code that works efficiently with Internet Explorer 5, 6 and 7, Firefox, Opera, Safari, and others a very quick introduction to SVG, the new rebel kid of the web (and of the house) client-server communication based on message queues that guarantee that your messages aren't lost on the way, and arrive in the intended order at the destination server-side state management techniques that use query string parameters and database records to keep track of your client's activity simple yet effective error-handling structures that combine JavaScript code and PHP code to report when something bad happens on the client or on the server a live errata page that is updated as soon as anyone reports a suggestion or a correction a friendly AJAX tutorial and many case studies that teach you how to use JavaScript, PHP, MySQL and XML together in order to achieve wonderful results The book's authors and the publisher are listening to your feedback, and appreciate when you invest some time to let them know what you think. The first result of this collaboration is an updated version of the AJAX Chat case study that uses (and teaches) JSON instead of XML. Find this new chapter in the code download or on my website. Thanks for reading such a long message. Have fun!" Cristian Darie.
Table of Contents (17 chapters)
About the Authors
About the Reviewers

Delivering Functionality via the Web

Web applications are applications whose functionality is processed on a web server, and is delivered to the end users over a network such as the Internet or an intranet. The end users use a thin client (web browser) to run web applications, which knows how to display and execute the data received from the server. In contrast, desktop applications are based on a thick client (also called a rich client or a fat client), which does most of the processing.

Web applications evolve dreaming that one day they’ll look and behave like their mature (and powerful) relatives, the desktop applications. The behavior of any computer software that interacts with humans is now even more important than it used to be, because nowadays the computer user base varies much more than in the past, when the users were technically sound as well. Now you need to display good looking reports to Cindy, the sales department manager, and you need to provide easy-to-use data entry forms to Dave, the sales person.

Because end-user satisfaction is all that matters, the software application you build must be satisfactory to all the users that interact with it. As far as web applications are concerned, their evolution-to-maturity process will be complete when the application’s interface and behavior will not reveal whether the functionality is delivered by the local desktop or comes through fiber or air. Delivering usable interfaces via the Web used to be problematic simply because features that people use with their desktop application, such as drag and drop, and performing multiple tasks on the same window at the same time, were not possible.

Another problem with building web applications is standardization. Today, everything web‑accessible must be verified with at least two or three browsers to ensure that all your visitors will get the full benefit of your site.

Advantages of Web Applications

Yes, there are lots of headaches when trying to deliver functionality via the Web. But why bother trying to do that in the first place, instead of building plain desktop applications? Well, even with the current problems that web applications have with being user-friendly, they have acquired extraordinary popularity because they offer a number of major technological advantages over desktop applications.

  • Web applications are easy and inexpensive to deliver . With web applications, a company can reduce the costs of the IT department that is in charge of installing the software on the users’ machines. With web applications, all that users need is a computer with a working web browser and an Internet or intranet connection.

  • Web applications are easy and inexpensive to upgrade . Maintenance costs for software have always been significant. Because upgrading an existing piece of software is similar to installing a new one, the web applications’ advantages mentioned above apply here as well. As soon as the application on the server machine is upgraded, everyone gets the new version.

  • Web applications have flexible requirements for the end users . Just have your web application installed on a server—any modern operating system will do—and you’ll be able to use it over the Internet/Intranet on any Mac, Windows, or Linux machine and so on. If the application is properly built, it will run equally well on any modern web browser, such as Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Opera, or Safari.

  • Web applications make it easier to have a central data store . When you have several locations that need access to the same data, having all that data stored in one place is much easier than having separate databases in each location. This way you avoid potential data synchronization operations and lower security risks.

In this book we’ll further investigate how to use modern web technologies to build better web applications, to make the most out of the possibilities offered by the Web. But before getting into the details, let’s take a short history lesson.