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PHP stands for Hypertext Preprocessor (used to be Personal Home Page) and it’s one of the most widely used server side (server side means that the compilation/processing is done on the server not on the client’s browser, the server side is also known as the backend of the web development environment) programming languages; WordPress, Joomla, Drupal and many other contents management systems and websites are based on PHP.

PHP is mainly used to create dynamic content for the web. It’s highly recommended to know the basics of HTML before starting PHP, if you don’t know where can you learn HTML then you should start from here.

Learning PHP can be helpful in many ways; if you’re a WordPress, Joomla or Drupal user then PHP would be a great asset for you as it’ll help you understand the nuts and bolts of the CMS you’re using. If you want to find a better job then learning PHP can open a huge market for you, finally if you’re a front end (HTML/CSS, JavaScript, jQuery) web developer then knowing the basics of PHP would be of a great value for you.

This post will present and compare between the best free online sources that beginners can rely on to start learning PHP from scratch. Two points are worth noting before starting; first, the courses stated here are for beginners so you don’t need to have any prior experience to programming in order to start from them and follow along. Second, the sources stated here are for complete fully structured courses so you won’t find a link to a single video or a reply on a forum.

If you just want the bottom line (the road map to learn PHP) and you don’t wish to read the entire article then go to the “Bottom Line” section at the end of the article.

Start Leaning PHP for free from Scratch

The New Boston

The New Boston is the first free online outlet where beginner can start learning PHP, the course on this outlet is well-structured and organized for beginners. You don’t need to register in order to have access to the course, just go to the website and you’re ready to go.

Structure: The course is divided into 200 video tutorials that cover every topic in PHP, starting from installing XAMP on your local computer.

Interface: The interface is very simple, just go to the website and click on the topic you’re interested in and you’ll be directed to the video’s window.

The New Boston PHP Course, learn PHP online, learn PHP free, how learn PHP, PHP tutorialsNow, the pros and cons:

Pros

  1. Free.
  2. The course is well-structured and organized for beginners.
  3. The course covers the majority of the topics in PHP.

Cons

  1. The course is available as video only which might be a problem for those who prefer text material.

Verdict: This is the go to place for those who’re willing to learn PHP for free.

HTML.net

HTML.net is an excellent online outlet to learn PHP; it doesn’t require registering to have access to the course. The site is structured in an excellent way that makes it very easy for a beginner to start and follow along.

Structure: The course is divided into lessons; and each lesson covers a certain topic in PHP, the course is written in a simple language that makes it both easy and interesting to learn.

Interface: The interface is very simple as seen below. The list of available lessons is on the left of the screen, you click on the lesson and you’re interested in and you’re ready to go.

HTML.net PHP Course, learn PHP online, learn PHP free, how learn PHP, PHP tutorialsNow, to the pros and cons:

Pros

  1. Free.
  2. The tutorials are well-structured and organized for beginners.
  3. Good source to revise certain topics and commands.

Cons

  1. It’s available as text only, so there are no video available which might be problem for some.

Verdict: HTML.net is a valuable source where beginners can quickly revise a certain topic or command.

The PHP Basics

The PHP Basics is the third outlet where beginners can start learning PHP for free through video tutorials. The course is well-organized for beginners; you don’t need to register in order to have access to the tutorials.

Structure: The course is divided into 21 lessons each lesson has a video tutorial that covers a certain topic in PHP, after each lesson you shall find a quiz to test your understanding of the lesson. One unique feature in this outlet is that the code used during the video tutorial is available just under the course.

Interface: The interface is very simple as seen below, just click on the lesson you’re interested in and you’ll be directed to the lesson window where you shall find the video and the quiz.

The PHP Basics PHP Course, learn PHP online, learn PHP free, how learn PHP, PHP tutorialsNow, to the pros and cons

Pros

  1. Free.
  2. The course is well-organized for beginners.
  3. The quizzes help in measuring your understanding.

Cons

  1. The course is available as a video tutorial only, which might be a problem for those who prefer text tutorials.

Verdict: This source is suitable for beginners who prefer to test their understanding of the lessons through quizzes.

Codecademy

Codecademy will be the fourth free source to learn PHP. It’s an online outlet where you can learn many programming languages and PHP is among them. Joining Codecademy is pretty simple; just register using your email and you’re ready to go.

Structure: The course on Codecademy is divided into sections and each section is divided into lessons. At the end of each lesson there’s a small quiz that you’ve to solve in order to proceed to the next lesson “don’t worry; there are helpful tips that will guide you”.

Interface: The user interface on Codecademy is quite simple; the course page is divided into 4 sections:

  1. Lesson body section (explanation).
  2. Quiz section, you shall find the tips just under it.
  3. Body section; where you type your code.
  4. Your code output section (how your code would appear in the browser in real life).

Codecademy PHP Course, learn PHP online, learn PHP free, how learn PHP, PHP tutorialsYou’re awarded with badges for the lessons you finish, which is really encouraging “not only for kids”. Now to the pros and cons:

Pros

  1. Free.
  2. The course is well-organized for beginners,
  3. Badges are encouraging.

Cons

  1. The course isn’t well explained and some of the quizzes have some glitches (at the time of writing this article).

Verdict: The bugs in the quizzes are a big problem for beginners, also the explanation isn’t clear.

Learn PHP Tutorials

Learn PHP Tutorials is the fifth outlet where beginners can start learning PHP for free through video tutorials; you don’t need to register in order to have access to the tutorial.

Structure: The course is divided into 2 levels; each level has a group of video tutorials that covers certain topics in PHP. The course is well-organized and structured. The course dives directly into practical applications which might be a problem for some beginners.

Interface: The interface is very simple, just click on the level you’re interested in and you’ll be directed to a new window where you shall find all of the available lessons, just click on the lesson you’re interested in and you’ll be directed to the lesson’s video window. Learn PHP Tutorials PHP Course, learn PHP online, learn PHP free, how learn PHP, PHP tutorialsNow, to the pros and cons

Pros

  1. Free.
  2. The course is well-structured.
  3. The course dives directly into the practical applications of PHP.

Cons

  1. The course dives directly into the applications of PHP in web development which might be a problem for beginners.

Verdict: The course is good for those who have previous programming experience and want to learn PHP.

Bottom Line

The recipe for learning PHP

  1. The New Boston is the go to for any beginner.
  2. If you prefer text tutorials then HTML.net is your way to go.
  3. If you prefer books then the free book “Practicable PHP Programming” is an excellent choice for you, it’s an online book.
  4. There are many other sources where you can PHP for free (e.g. W3Schools, Zend.com, etc.) but these sources aren’t as well-structured and organized for beginners as the sources stated in this post.

Remember that the first step is always the toughest step, and the aim of this post is to provide you with resources that will help you take your first step in PHP.