Guide to the PHP Manual

The PHP Manual has everything about PHP, very organised and very clear. The only trouble is, since it has everything, it's pretty overwhelming! After one look at it, you may decide to go to bed and pull the covers over your head.

So – after you get up and have a tea and a deep breath ... how to know where to start, and what to leave for later? That's what this page is for.

On this page:
Manual OverviewCHM ViewerManual SectionsFunction summary

manual overview

Here are the two best ways to look at the PHP Manual:

  1. As a Windows .chm file. (Works on all systems.) Get it here or at
    Advantage: Index, searchable, can save bookmarks, don't need internet connection.
  2. Online at
    Advantage: Comments from experienced users. Is also searchable.

Here we will explore the manual in chm format. Probably you'll get the best use out of this, if you open up your own manual and follow along!

CHM Viewer tabs

Your CHM Viewer has four useful Views for using your PHP Manual. You will see them as tabs across the top of the Viewer:

Contents tab

The main view! Here you find everything. You can expand and collapse the different sections of the manual.

Very useful for finding something, if you know the first few letters.

Search tab

This gives the headers of manual pages that have your search string in them. I haven't found this super-useful, as there are so many pages found!

You can save bookmarks to sections of the manual that you refer to often.

Main Sections of the Manual

The PHP manual has 11 sections but you only really need to look through 5 of them. There is only one section that you will be using often: the Function Reference.

The five manual sections to look at, with the two you use the most:

This is something to read through once. It is an overview of how PHP works and what it can do. It also has a nice tutorial, which can be useful to work through and get the basics.

"Language Reference" section

This section tells you about how the PHP language works, such as variables, operators, and flow (control structures). I have ticked in yellow the things to get familiar with. The orange (Classes and Objects) can come later. The other things are more advanced. You will come to them when you need them — and when that happens you will be way past me, and i hope you will teach me!

This is something to read through, and come back to it when you need it.

"Features" section

The most useful parts in the section are about Sessions, and File uploads. The other things you might use when more advanced, or not at all.

Here is the meat of PHP! There are hundreds of functions. We use about 10% of them most of the time. All the others are there, for special cases — most of those you will never use.

Here are the actual functions within each category that you would use regularly. Read their descriptions in the manual, and try them out, to see what they do.
(The numbers aren't part of the manual ... i put them there to give us an idea how many functions there are that we need to know.)

About 118 very useful functions — that's all! :)

It would be great to have Tibetan and Chinese translations of this page. Can you help? Contact us!