In short, my review is this: overall, the book detailed everything I can think of (and more) about phpMyAdmin – I learned about some features in phpMyAdmin that I was not already aware of. I would ask for less screenshots, more how-tos and less “we/our” speech for the next revision, but if there are any questions I have about phpMyAdmin, the answers are in this book.
I use phpMyAdmin only occasionally, when I can’t get direct access to the database in question (I’m a console jockey – there’s nothing like the thrill of tappity-tapping away, knowing that you’re doing Important Stuff and …well, yeah – geek).
I’ve used phpMyAdmin since forever, so was familiar with its common uses – importing/exporting databases, running simple queries, etc. I was interested to see if there was anything that I might have missed. And who better to show me than one of the developers, Marc Delisle.
The table of contents was large, spread over 12 pages. I feel it would have been easier to read if there was one page detailing just h1 listings, followed by 2-3 pages of h2 listings. The h3 and h4 listings could have been shown at the beginning of the concerned chapters.
Disregarding that, scanning the contents showed some features that I was not aware of. Did you know that phpMyAdmin has a built-in relations manager? Even if the engine used is MyISAM, which does not manage referential integrity, phpMyAdmin will protect you and manage it for you if queries are run through it.
Screenshots are provided for everything. This makes some things much easier to understand. Sometimes it made interesting features stand out even more. Did you know that phpMyAdmin can generate PDFs of the relational schema of a database? Some screenshots in chapter 15 show examples of this feature.
Marc obviously knows his stuff. As a major contributor to phpMyAdmin since the early days, he is an ideal person to talk us through configuration details and the various tools that phpMyAdmin offers.
There are, however, a number of things which detract from the readability of the book.
This is the first edition for this title, so the following are probably “teething” problems for the author. However, I think they should be taken care of for the second edition, to make the book easier to read. Although, the second edition would most likely have a different title (why is the version number in the title?)
The book is written from a 1st-person-plural point of view – now we do this, now we do that, our table, our server. This distracted and annoyed me while reading the book.
It is too detailed in places, at the expense of readability. For example, chapter one goes through a blow-by-blow account of how phpMyAdmin came to be, with version numbers and even dates! I feel this should have been left to an appendix. The first chapter of any book should introduce a reader gently to the subject; not pummel the reader with historical facts.
The author sometimes forgets that the reader does not know the subject and its community’s habits. As an example, on page 28 the configuration value “PmaAbsoluteUri” is described, but afterwards, I was not sure a) what “Pma” is, or b) what the variable was supposed to do (the book described how it should be configured, but not what it was supposed to do). It isn’t until page 33 that the book pointed out that “pma” is an acronym for “phpMyAdmin” used by the community. I don’t feel stupid for not getting this immediately, as there is an awkward mixture of letter-cases going on there. By rights, “Pma” should stand for “Phpmyadmin”, not “phpMyAdmin”.
The sheer number of screenshots was a bit confusing. I feel that screenshots should only be used where the subject is not clear from the text. Two images on every page (almost) has the effect of breaking your concentration when you’re trying to read.
The book exclusively deals with how to use phpMyAdmin, but I think there should have been more about how to deal with MySQL itself, using phpMyAdmin. For example, chapter 17 details phpMyAdmin’s coverage of character sets and collations. As a person who knows the pain of upgrading a database from MySQL 4 to MySQL 5 while switching character sets, I was looking forward to seeing how this case is handled (which I am sure is pretty common in one form or another). However, the chapter describes the problems with character sets and does not offer any solutions to those problems.
Overall, the book was detailed, and I learned a lot of new stuff from it. I’d recommend it for administrators that are not comfortable with CLI MySQL and want a reference for the best web-based MySQL administration tool out there.