Best free PHP learning resources for beginners

PHP is a web scripting language that powers many of the popular open source applications and websites. PHP was among the most used languages until recently, and although other languages like Ruby-on-Rails have been gaining users, PHP still remains useful.

I started learning PHP recently, with the aim of building my own web apps and CMS some time in the future. Finding ideal, free resources were not easy, and delayed the learning process quite a bit. This post serves as a one-stop-shop for resources that I found useful – if you have recommendations, please do so in comments.

Install PHP on your computer for local dev/testing has a detailed page on installing PHP for various OSes. On *nix systems, you only need to learn how to use PHP, as it is installed by default or easily available via package managers.

PHP beginner resources

W3Schools beginner PHP tutorials

W3Schools has detailed articles and even a quiz for PHP topics – describing everything from PHP language constructs and syntax to database access.

Zend Developer zone PHP website

Zend Dev Zone has a beginners’ guide to PHP – categorized to 15 parts.

Diving into PHP beginner video tutorials

I should admit, while reading through the above articles, I did hit brick walls quite a few times. On such occasions, the Diving into PHP video series by Themeforest blog helped greatly. Sometimes, a visual explanation makes sense of something that you couldn’t figure out even after spending several minutes on.
That page lists only the first 11 videos, you can view the remaining videos with this search page.

Bonus tips: Use, W3Schools forum and Google to lookup answers when you have doubts. It may seem obvious, but a lot of people waste their time thinking rather than trying to solve problems (myself included, in early days).

PHP books

These are not free, but I thought that they should be included due to one reason – if you have lots of time to spare, while on a commute to work or such, books can help. Reading books is not as effective as diving into code itself, but if you can spend more time on a book than on your computer, this might be useful.

Learn PHP books

O’Reilly has books called Learning PHP 5 and PHP Cookbook (which contains practical problems and solutions).

Recommended PHP learning books resources

Also, this thread on Stackoverflow has lots of recommendations and critiques of PHP books. Stackoverflow is frequented by knowledgeable programmers, so you can be sure they know what they are talking about.

This post discussed only websites and resources to get started with PHP. Soon, I will also be writing posts rounding up useful resources for those who know the syntax and basics, and are looking for intermediate/advanced tips, security tips and well-coded PHP applications that can help you learn best practices. Click the email/RSS link in the box below to subscribe for updates regarding the same.

Recommended for designers
  1. Nokadota said at 2:26 am on July 25, 2009

    I am working on enhancing my skillset so I can be more balanced as a designer/developer and I think this post has helped me immensely. CakePHP sounds like a nice framework as well, but being grounded in PHP first looks like the way to go.

    Thanks a bunch for this post!

  2. vickie said at 3:00 pm on August 24, 2009

    In my opinion, you can start learning PHP by selecting an appropriate framework to make you develop a site easily. I would recommend DooPHP because I saw their benchmark and demo, seems like the performance is much more faster than CakePHP, Yii and others. I think you can see the benchmark comparison at

  3. ahmed said at 8:46 pm on April 11, 2010

    thank you so much
    it is so great

  4. Vaclav Koyelka said at 3:38 pm on June 10, 2010

    DooPHP is bad framework. Benchmark is good, but look into api. this framework only rewrite clean PHP to objects, e.g.:
    PHP: strlen($string)
    DooPHP: String::length($string)

    and if you look into content of function length in String class you will see: return strlen($string);

    if you recommend framework, so you MUST have experience with it

    But for my recommend, using framework as beginner is bad practice, because he need to learn language not framework.

    if you want to build a house, you must have experience with building :-)

  5. neha said at 10:02 am on July 18, 2010

    i need a book of php for learning and understanding

  6. Colin Boyd said at 4:54 am on September 14, 2010

    The video tutorials on PHP where quite good, the downside was the screen size I found it very hard to focus on the topics being taught, shame, because the author was quite good. I’ve seem some tutorials on PHP / MySQL on the website, these also where excellent and the screen size was far larger. Maybe if you could expand the screen a little next time.

  7. Franklin Scharber said at 5:06 pm on May 18, 2011

    Great info thanks! What language is close to php as far as functionality and ease of use?

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