Mastering phpMyAdmin 3.1

Last year, I reviewed Mastering phpMyAdmin 2.11 for Packt, and said it was overall a comprehensive book, but with a few points that I would change.

I was sent a copy of Mastering phpMyAdmin 3.1 a few weeks ago and after reading it, I can see that most of the points I mentioned have been addressed, and I know from other sources that the points that were not changed have good reasons for them (screenshots and we/our speech are very good for people that are not familiar with the subject).

There are many reviews of this book already, so I will mostly describe how this edition is different from the previous one. In short, though, I would say that this version is much more readable, and is still the best book to buy if you want a book on phpMyAdmin. The reviews I’ve read here all agree with my own assessment that phpMyAdmin is a surprise – right when you think you know what it does, a book points out a load of stuff you didn’t know it did.

Things that are improved

I suggested last year that the 5 page date-by-date history of phpMyAdmin’s delivery be moved from the front of the book to an appendix. At the time, the book didn’t have an appendix. The new edition has two appendices – the first one is for the history, as suggested, and the second contains the old book’s chapter 20 on Troubleshooting. The short history of MySQL at the beginning of the MySQL 5.0 chapter has also been removed – it had no purpose.

A few of the unnecessary screenshots have been removed. I understand the need for screenshots, as they sometimes describe better than mere text what the author means when he says something, but my complaint from last year was that screenshots that were simply not necessary had been put in apparently just to take up space. This has been improved this year, with many of the redundant images removed.

SQL code screenshots have been replaced with just the text of the SQL. This makes the examples much easier to read.

Language issues, such as switching collations, had originally been a full chapter, but is now spread out in the book, where appropriate. This is good, as when exporting a backup (for example), you don’t want to have an important part of the explanation, collation, hidden away at the back of the book.

A lot of the “since 2.6.1″, “since 2.6.0″ wording has been removed. This is good, as the reader of the book is obviously using version 3.1 or higher. The author does sometimes mention the version number when adding new text, and I think that’s unnecessary – the reader really should not need to know what version of phpMyAdmin a new feature was introduced in. If you really want, add another appendix listing dates of improvements, but it’s really not needed; that’s what changelogs are for.

phpMyAdmin itself has a number of new minor features that are detailed in the new book. For example, exports (SQL dumps) can be done to Texy! text format, the search wizard has been improved to allow searches for empty/non-empty fields. Support for the PBXT storage engine is added, public query bookmarks, the default browse view’s query can be customised

There are a number of major features which also make their debut here. New features include database partitioning, scheduled events, streamable blobs (for videos, etc). I’m looking forward to making use of streaming blobs!

Things that are not improved

The table of contents is even longer. At 13 pages (versus 12 last year), I still feel it’s too large. My comment last year was that maybe just the higher level headers should be shown, with more detailed contents at the beginning of each chapter. As an example, under the user management section, there is a header for adding a user. That should be enough. Instead, we then have headers describing the username, the password, the hostname, etc. That sort of thing makes the front of the book very heavy. I feel that most readers when opening the book for the first time wonder to themselves when will the contents end and the content begin.

Most of the screenshots have been redone, but in some cases, shots which were perfectly sized in the old book have been exploded up to larger images in the new one, making them huge relative to the content they portray. For example, on page 78, the top screenshot has a total of about four lines of text in it, but takes up almost two inches of page space (and is pixelated), compared to the original on page 75 of the old book at only one inch. I can see this in a lot of cases in the new book (another is the 3 inch bottom image on 132 vs the perfectly legible 2 inch one in the old book’s page 128) and wonder if that helped to add to the number of pages. The new book has 326 pages versus the old book’s 318. On the good side, in some cases, the new screenshots reduced the size of the old ones.

I didn’t mention it last year, but remember puzzling over it at the time. The last part of the Troubleshooting appendix (chapter 20 back then) discusses future enhancements to phpMyAdmin, but the goals are very vague. “improved support of mysql”, “internal code improvements”; these should not be considered goals – they should be considered givens! Besides which, it’s not productive to discuss future events that may or may not happen. They’re not available yet, so shouldn’t be written about in a manual which is about /existing/ work.

Conclusion

I noted a number of improvements, and a number of failures. The improvements outnumber the failures. Each edition of this book gets better and better.

If you are new to phpMyAdmin and are looking for a book, I really do recommend buying this.

bootnote: I have my own Packt book coming out in a few months. I hope that reviewers of that book (PHP And jQuery) will be as critical as I try to be in my own reviews – I feel that criticism is good, and can only help to improve future editions. This year’s edition of Mastering phpMyAdmin is better than last year’s, and I feel that it is because the author was receptive to criticism and improved his book based on it. I hope I can be just as receptive when my own time comes!

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