Symfony

The Six rules to be a perfect PHP 5 switcher

It’s so strange to hear about PHP 4, while PHP 5.3 is out there. Probably because there are a lot of frameworks and cms having a PHP 4 fallback.

The first steps you need to know to be a perfect PHP5 switcher, are easy:

  1. Be OOP
    It can be useful read some books, like the most important one Thinking in Java, which is free. Java apart, It explains you the importance to build your library and your works in blocks. You always should try to create your code in small pieces and reusable objects, and use classes and methods instead functions, if you can.
  2. Be DRY
    Every time you write your code, spend a little time to discover if it can be reusable and what you need to do that.
  3. Be organized
    You MUST know about MVC (Model/View/Controller) patterns and Design Patterns. Putting code in the right place it’s more simply than you think
    For example:
    If you are acting on db, you are in Model pattern
    If you are handling user input or you are using fetched data, you are in the Controller pattern
    If you are writing the interface, you are in the View pattern
  4. Don’t feel alone
    Think every time you write your code someone could be working with it:

    • use explanatory names for your methods, classes, functions, variables, constants (ex. do_coffee(), $total_smiles, LIGHT_SPEED) and avoid using numeric variables (ex: $sql1, $sql2…)
    • smart comments on your code. Write the proposal and avoid a simply code translation
    • learn PHPDoc
  5. Be version controlled
    What happens if you lose your code or some changes? Don’t be fool, use Mercurial or Git. Subversion at least. You can have your free repository, if your server hasn’t one.
  6. Be unique but not stupid
    Before writing your code, put down a schema and try to not write your code from scratch. Use frameworks or reusable libraries and help their communities, if you can. Take a look to : Symfony, Zend Framework, Pear

Suggested books:

Django, Rails, Symfony – A different point of view

It’s easy to find a blog that lets you know which one makes the best things among these frameworks, but I want to point this observation in a different way. The framework community.

First of all, it doesn’t matter which framework  you will choose, these three are all at the same quality level and production ready. So, in order to choose the right one for you, you have only to think about how it fits your needs and if you feel comfortable with it.

I think about Ruby on Rails as Obama in USA. You were hoping something was going to change. You believed the web programming wasn’t ugly and boring anymore. Sure, you haven’t braces any more and you finally got your blocks, but almost everything is the same, you only changed your language.
The good news is that it has the biggest community of the three frameworks.  Thanks to that, you can find almost everything as a gem. The bad news is that sometimes you can find a related project made by a novice or a user that doesn’t understand well the language or the main project.
I suppose this community is like the PHP developers ten years ago. Approaching to it is very easy, and it lets you think you can do whatever you want with smallest effort. But this isn’t the real world. And when you realize the truth, you have already done projects that you need to keep alive. So, they suppose the rules don’t exist and they start thinking as they always do. And obviously it is not the right way.

Django uses Python, which I like most. But not the community. They have a rigid mentality and they would never want to break the rules and when it happens, they are ashamed and they punish themselves (or others). Normally they don’t care about graphics and fancy things, so all the releated projects you will find are “minimalistic”: no graphic, no frills. Sometimes also the documentation is minimalist. Often you need to explore the code, because they assume you already know the whole Python philosophy and its rules (pep). And obviously the IT world.

Symfony is like a fairy tale. You can’t believe it’s true. Free published ebooks, excellent online documentation, great community support. Where’s the trick? There’s no trick. You get what you see. The common problem of the PHP community is to see it like the rest of garbage. They think Wordpress or Drupal will conquer the world and they don’t understand anything about OOP, DRY principle and MVC layers. So, they simply suppose Symfony is hard to understand. But, the real Symfony community is open and the members do understand the importance to break up old rules and start thinking new ones (Design Pattern).

A little mention about Zend Framework. Although it’s under the big Z’s wing and it is almost to v. 2.0 step, it’s still immature.  I mean, it has a great library but, although they inserted a “looks like” CLI interface, to do a complete project (backend+frontend)  still an hard work. And, personally, I dont’ understand the use of “.ini” file configuration instead of normal PHP file.
But I’m sure all the people have got the Z patent, will improve it (if they are able to think).

A polite person doesn’t tell you his favorite, because you have to choose it by yourself. The real man does.
I prefer Django. As I said, because of Python and because I always try to be minimalist when I write my code and because sometimes you need a set of rules to build a good project.
My second choice is Symfony, because I was born as PHP developer. I think it is the state of the art of “MVC” thinking in PHP.
Speaking of which, you know well that there are a lot of PHP frameworks out there, but if you think CakePHP and CodeIgniter are alternatives, maybe you have choosen the wrong job.