Aug 07

CakePHP RC2It has been a while since I’ve written much about CakePHP (let alone anything on my blog), but I thought I’d update the world with my latest thoughts in case anyone was interested.

I’ve come a long way since I first started using CakePHP.  In fact, I’ve now used the product on some fairly high end sites and had really good luck with it.  There have been minor quibbles here and there (still revolving around documentation mostly), but I’m now a solidified “Baker” through and through.

I will save you some time looking elsewhere and reading the reviews about all the different PHP frameworks; use CakePHP, it’s the best.  In my humble opinion, the only better framework available is Ruby on Rails (which I’d also highly recommend); but if you are stuck using PHP – CakePHP is your best bet.

This framework will encourage (and teach) you to follow through with good web development habits.  These skills are both in programming style (using standardized naming conventions, proper variable scope, documentation, et cetera), but also in technical areas as well (proper database modeling, mvc  code separation, secure user input validation and cleaning, and efficient function development).

Now that I understand the majority of the tenants of Cake, I can say with confidence that it’s a quality product.  1.2 RC2 solved almost all of the minor/major problem I had with the framework and it seems stable as all get out.  Cake will help you use fast, efficient, and complex SQL queries without a sweat.  It will allow you to create fancy “web 2.0′ esque” sites using AJAX and fancy doo-dads with ease.  It will easily validate your input data without the need for you to much of anything.  It provides easy ways to offer web services, shell scripts, and test your code quickly and easily using SimpleTest.  …And that’s just scratching the surface.  The other advantage is it’s super easy to pull in outside code into your projects using components and helpers.  The framework is rigid where it needs to be and flexible in the areas that are key.

In simple terms – “Cake Saved My Life“.

So How Do I Learn It?

You need to learn the basics of PHP first; I think this writeup is an excellent starting point (though I wouldn’t recommend wasting any time with the Zend framework).  I’ve seen a few people on the web talking smack about CakePHP, when the problem was that they really didn’t understand PHP.

Once you have mastered the basics of PHP, go to book.cakephp.org and read the whole thing on version 1.2 of Cake (currently RC2); don’t waste your time learning 1.1.  You can read it in just a few hours and you don’t have to understand it all at that point.. just try to grasp the basics.  If you’ve never worked with the MVC design pattern, then read those sections over a few times until you get it.  Then, install it using the specific directions in the book (read it carefully).  Now is the time to start using Apache2, MySQL, and PHP 5 if you aren’t yet.  I don’t care if you are Windows, UNIX, or Mac… use the products that are the most popular and you’ll make your life easier.

After you get it installed, make up a wild test application in your head and sit down and code it.  Don’t worry about making it pretty; just learn how to code it right.  Learn how HABTM’s work, learn how automagic form validation works, learn the ajax helper details — learn it all!

So to review:

Dustin’s tips to mastering CakePHP:

  1. Learn PHP (Don’t waste your time messing with Zend though)
  2. Read The Book (learn version 1.2)
  3. Install It (Use Apache2, a recent release of MySQL, and PHP 5… no matter what OS you are on; break your IIS addiction or PHP 4 addiction NOW)
  4. Create a test site in your head and finish it within a reasonable time frame.  Force yourself to finish it.
  5. Love it

Almost every problem you’ll come across should be answered in the CakePHP book now; so no excuses for not being able to get it going.  If you have configuration problems, make sure you search through the Google Group; it’s a vastly helpful resource.

Also, don’t forget to look through the Bakery, you can find a ton of code in there to help you solve common problems.

Jul 15

The Future of PHPIf you are a fan of language “X” and think it’s better than PHP, here’s your chance to convince me. After some discussion with colleagues, I’m very interested to find a general consensus as to which web development language (server-side) is the true “future of web development”. My research reveals that PHP is the most popular web development language currently. Even though it’s clear that PHP is widely accepted, how long will that be true? Is PHP dying?

Now please don’t get me wrong, PHP is a great language that I use daily. It’s powerful, widely supported, popular, and pretty darn stable. Recently, I’ve even had even more success with PHP by supplementing it with CakePHP, a powerful PHP framework that makes development a bit more painless.

Still, even with frameworks and new versions of PHP coming soon, how long can the trend last?

Are you wondering why I care so much?

The reasons are fairly mundane: job security, stability, trends, and money.

I value my career and work as a web developer. We (web developers) provide content to the voracious users of the web and I love being a part of the “internet revolution”. I also enjoy keeping up on the latest trends… I tend to prefer being near the bleeding-edge at all times. Why? Because it’s more fun. Also, I’d say that having a grasp of where the future is headed in web development can be very valuable indeed.

Back to my point: I’ve played with a few alternate languages outside of PHP, but I’m not convinced of their long-term popularity… they just don’t offer anything revolutionary. Maybe I’m expecting a revolution that isn’t gonna happen. Or, maybe I missed the revolution boat already.

So, you tell me; what’s the next revolution? Has it even been invented yet?

Jun 23

Perl?Recently at work, a brief discussion with a co-worker about Perl vs. PHP encouraged me to do some “reading” about the topic.

Honestly, I had never really considered that people were still using Perl on a regular basis for web applications in the year 2007.  However, my research quickly proved contrary.  Truthfully, I haven’t touched Perl since I was a freshman in College nearly six years ago, so I suppose I’m a tad out of the loop.

This is what I can say though.  Perl is powerful, I’ve always known that.  See… I admit it, I respect Perl.

However, my life as a web developer is easier with PHP (and associated frameworks) than it would be with Perl, at least in my humble opinion.  In fact, if you consider my recent switch to CakePHP (a powerful & flexible PHP framework), I’d venture to say that I could never get the amount of rapid work, prototyping, and other efforts completed if I was forced to use Perl; no matter how many Perl modules I had access to.

I know it’s not fair of me to say that (since I’m no Perl expert), but still… if you are a die-hard Perl addict, you should take a moment to try PHP for your web applications; and take extra care to try CakePHP.  I’m betting you’ll be blown away by the time you save and the efficient code you generate.

Apr 13

cakephp.gifIf you are interested in using CakePHP on an IIS server, you may have experienced a few problems here and there. Mostly, the problems arise when you are trying to integrate Cake with an existing IIS server and PHP infrastructure that is large or complicated.

Regardless, I have accumulated a few tid-bits of knowledge that may save someone an immense amount of head-scratching, so hold on to your hats.

Note: I still think Apache is the preferred server for a lot of reasons, but if you are absolutely locked into IIS, then please read below. If you think you might be moving over to Apache/Linux sometime soon, seriously consider biting the bullet now. It’s sorta like saving for retirement… the more you do early on, the less of a headache it will be later.

Dustin’s Beginner Guide To CakePHP on IIS

I am assuming you have installed PHP properly and have tested your IIS + PHP configuration for correct functionality prior to attempting the Cake install. Installing PHP on IIS is outside of the scope of this tutorial, sorry.

Configuring IIS

I used Windows XP Pro IIS 5.1 for the instructions in this guide. As I roll Cake apps onto different IIS servers and versions of Windows, I’ll be sure to share what I learn in the different environments.

- Make sure that IIS isn’t checking to see if a script exists before executing.

1) Go to your server admin panel, right-click on the web server (ex: Default Web Site) and click on properties.2) Go to the Home Directory tab at the top and click on the Configuration button near the bottom of that page.

3) Find the .php extension listed in the “Application Configuration” page that appears; click on the .php extension and then click the edit button near the bottom of the page.

4) You should be on the “Add/Edit Application Extension Mapping” page: simply uncheck the “Check that file exists” box at the bottom of the page.

5) Click OK, Click OK again, Click OK once more (you should’ve closed all the windows).

6) Now restart IIS (ie: command prompt -> IISReset).

This little process fixes a few problems and was a sort of ‘magic bullet’ for many of my troubles. If you look into how Cake works and what this check box in IIS does, you’ll have a “no duh” moment like I did.

- Double check your security permissions for the Cake folders/files you dropped into your web root. Just remember that something unzipped to the desktop and copied into your Inetpub directory will often have security permissions that will prevent the server from accessing some files properly.

- Remember that the app/temp folder must be writeable by the web server (for caching). That particular problem had me scratching my head once or twice.

Configuring Cake

1) Drop Cake somewhere inside your web root.2) Go to the APP/Config folder within your cake directories. Simply un-remark (‘BASE_URL’, env (‘SCRIPT_NAME’)) at the top of the core.php config file.

You should now have a working CakePHP application inside an IIS environment. I have assumed that “pretty” URLs aren’t of great concern to you. If you absolutely must have pretty URL’s, consider a good mod-rewrite filter for IIS like Helicon Mod-Rewrite. It’s easy to use and configure, lightweight, and free for most users. If you need it, it can be done.

If you have any hints, tips, problems, or suggestions… please contribute by leaving a comment below. I am certainly not the end-all resource here as my experience is limited to a few versions of IIS (I mostly run Apache anyways).

Share your knowledge, and help make CakePHP a viable option for everyone!

Apr 05

cakephp.gifI spent some time working with a few of the “cool” features of CakePHP this week.

I again noted that Cake is a capable PHP framework in ways that aren’t obvious at first glance. In fact, I found myself fairly impressed by their AJAX and Script.aculo.us support.

For the particular application I was working on, a drag & drop interface was going to be particularly handy. Having spent time previously implementing drag & drop interfaces with Script.aculo.us, Yahoo UI, and Rico, I was hoping the process would be a bit easier using Script.aculo.us as an extension on top of Cake and I was pleasantly surprised with the results. I walked away with a functional drag & drop interface in an amazingly short amount of time with very little coding.

Important Note: A CakePHP beginner should be able to get this tutorial working, but I am still assuming that you have a basic understanding of Cake in order to implement this tutorial properly. If, not please see this article to get started.

In this example, we’ll use a very simplified page of widgets that are “draggable” to change their order and save the changes to a MySQL database in real time.

Make sure you have a recent version of CakePHP (I used version 1.1.14.4603). The document root of your web server should probably be set to:

SERVER-PATH/CAKE-ROOT/app/webroot/

Now, you just need to grab the latest stable version of Script.aculo.us (I used v1.7.0 for this example). For my set up, I extracted the files in the following manner:

CAKE-ROOT/app/webroot/js/scriptaculous/lib/prototype.js
CAKE-ROOT/app/webroot/js/scriptaculous/src/scriptaculous.js (and remaining “src” files)

Also, for this example, I used a MySQL database called “widgets” with a table called “widgets” that contained three fields: “id”, “title”, and “order”.

Here’s The Code:
———————————————————-
Widgets Controller
[ --controllers/widgets_controller.php ]
class WidgetsController extends AppController
{

var $name = ‘Widgets’;/** These are the needed helpers **/
var $helpers = array(‘html’, ‘javascript’, ‘ajax’);

/** Implements the index view **/
function index() {
$this->pageTitle = ‘Widgets Index’;

//status message to be used later
$this->set(‘status’, ‘Widget Ordering Succesfully Saved!’);

//assign widgets to view sorted by the ‘order’ field
$this->set(‘widgets’, $this->Widget->findAll(null,null,’order’,null,null));
}

/** Receives ajax request from index **/
function order()
{
//loop through the data sent via the ajax call
foreach ($this->params['form']['widgets'] as $order => $id)
{
$data['Widget']['order'] = $order;
$this->Widget->id = $id;
if($this->Widget->saveField(‘order’,$order)) {
//we have success!
} else {
//deal with possible errors!
}
}
$this->autoRender=false;
}

}
?>

/*
The data comes to your order action in this format:
Array (
[0] => 19
[1] => 16
[2] => 7 )
where the array indexes ([0],[1],[2]) are the “orderings” and the array values (19,16,7) are the actual “id’s” of each question.
*/


Widget Model

[ --models/widget.php ]
<?php
class Widget extends AppModel
{

var $name = ‘Widget’;

}
?>

Index View
[ --views/widgets/index.thtml ]
<?php
if (isset($javascript)) {
echo $javascript->link(‘scriptaculous/lib/prototype.js’);
echo $javascript->link(‘scriptaculous/src/scriptaculous.js’);
}
?>
<div id=”status” style=”display: none;”><?php echo $status; ?></div>

<ul id=”widgets”>
<?php foreach ($widgets as $row): ?>
<?php echo ‘<li id=”widget_’ . $row['Widget']['id'] . ‘”>’ . $row['Widget']['title'] . ‘</li>’; ?>
<?php endforeach; ?>
</ul>

<?php echo $ajax->sortable(‘widgets’, array(‘url’=>’order’, ‘before’=>”Element.hide(‘status’);”, ‘complete’=>”Element.show(‘status’);”)); ?>

———————————————————-

Take special note of the “before” and “complete” ajax helpers to show and hide the status message. Read more about them here under the heading “AJAX”.

And that’s it! You now have a drag & drop interface that will serialize your form data and save it to the database quickly and easily. Isn’t that a little too easy?

A few important side tips:

- Use Firebug to do your debugging. It’s an invaluable tool that you should use if you don’t already.
- For debugging Cake errors, make sure you have debug level 2 set in [core.php] for some additional help.

If you have questions or comments about this tutorial, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom and I’ll do my best to answer what I can. Remember, this was intended to be a basic tutorial with as much elegance as possible while still remaining clear to differing skill levels. I’m also fairly new to CakePHP myself, so feel free to offer suggestions to make the code better!

I was going to offer a zip download of the source code, but I’d rather you type it out or copy & paste– maybe you’ll learn something in the process.

Feb 23

cakephp.gifAfter literally weeks of tenuous back and forth rhetoric with myself (internally) and my fellow co-workers, I have finally, humbly, and assuredly concluded that CakePHP is the best PHP Web Framework in the world!

I could argue the benefits of Cake vs. other Frameworks again, but I’ve already done that, twice (though I originally decided differently).

Instead I’m hoping to help the Cake community a bit today. I’m not a “Cake expert” yet, but I think I can contribute a few things that can possibly ease some of the few frustrations that might occur when getting started with Cake.

Dustin’s CakePHP Beginner’s Guide!

I’m gonna try and keep it simple (K.I.S.S.) for ya’ll and do my best to actually offer any Cake newbies out there some advice that can help get the ball rolling quicker.

After showing it off to my co-workers and going through the manual a few times, here’s my

reccommended approach to the learning process:

First, Some Installation Tips:

- Use Apache… it’s just easier than IIS and it’s time to make the switch if you haven’t yet. Make sure mod_rewrite is enabled; again to make things easier.
- If you must use IIS, check out my writeup to help you get the ball rolling.
- “Make sure that an .htaccess override is allowed in your
httpd.conf (Apache), you should have a section that defines a section for
each Directory on your server. Make sure the
AllowOverride is set to All for the
correct Directory.”
- Don’t mess with the production install of Cake yet; just do a development setup.


Second, do the basic blog tutorial:

- Prepare for the inner excitement that will soon come.
- I know it’s not the recommended order of learning, but I think it works better to give a real-world example right off the bat before anything else.

Third, save that blog code and start working your way through the manual:

- Start at the very beginning, don’t skip any sections, and read every word.
- When you get confused (which you probably won’t much), re-read!
- It’s not a big manual, you’ll be done in an hour or two.


Fourth, go watch a few of the screencasts:

- Especially: Building The Bakery & Admin Routing

Last, start your own basic project and see where you get.

Here’s a few more helpful tips:

- Explore the Bakery for cool stuff.
- Get the ‘Cakesheet‘, it can save some serious searching time.
- Use the Cake Google Group, en excellent option for help.
- Remember to search through the User Manual, API, the web (2.1 million results for Cakephp on Google), and the entire Google Group BEFORE asking a question. You’d be surprised how often I see thread’s on the group posted that look something like: “Cake N3wbie – How do I connect to a database”. I know it’s easy to just ask and be lazy, but trust me, there’s a really good chance it’s already been answered. Don’t wear out the Cake experts prematurely with the simple stuff.

Ok, now you have enough to get started, so why are you still here reading this?

By the way: Let me know how Cake works out for you!

Feb 09

cakephp.gifLately, I’ve been taking some serious time out of my schedule to sit down and really examine a few of the top PHP Web frameworks (CakePHP, Symfony, & Zend) even more than I had previously. After a bunch of reading, tinkering, and playing around, I can now officially declare: “I think CakePHP is the best”. There I said it, I hope I won’t regret it… heh.

In fact, after actually sitting down and expanding on the basic blog tutorial offered in the manual, I am tepidly excited about the prospects of implementing something cool and truly useful in Cake (I may even switch The Weber Report over to my new, fancy, Cake-Powered, conglomeration that I created during the learning process) and really start taking advantage of the MVC Design Pattern.

Now that I have read through the manual a few times, I can humbly offer some of my favorite parts of the Cake experience:

Powerful Associations Between Models

“One of the most powerful features of CakePHP is the relational
mapping provided by the model. In CakePHP, the links between tables are
handled through associations. Associations are the glue between related
logical units.

There are four types of associations in CakePHP:

- hasOne
- hasMany
- belongsTo
- hasAndBelongsToMany

When associations between models have been defined, Cake will
automagically fetch models related to the model you are working with.
For example, if a Post model is related to an Author model using a
hasMany association, making a call to $this->Post->findAll() in a
controller will fetch Post records, as well as all the Author records
they are related to.”
Powerfully Flexible Data Validation Features

“Validations are defined using Perl-compatibile regular expressions,
some of which are pre-defined in /libs/validators.php. These are:

- VALID_NOT_EMPTY
- VALID_NUMBER
- VALID_EMAIL
- VALID_YEAR

But custom validation (outside of regular expressions) is also extremely easy. If you’d like to perform some custom validation apart from the
regex based Cake validation, you can use the invalidate() function of
your model to flag a field as erroneous. Imagine that you wanted to show
an error on a form when a user tries to create a username that already
exists in the system. Because you can’t just ask Cake to find that out
using regex, you’ll need to do your own validation, and flag the field
as invalid to invoke Cake’s normal form invalidation process.”


Stringent Security Component

“The Security component is used to secure your controller actions
against malicious or errant requests. It allows you to set up the
conditions under which an action can be requested, and optionally
specify how to deal with requests that don’t meet those requirements.

So if a request doesn’t meet the security requirements that we
define, what happens to it? By default, the request is black-holed,
which means that the client is sent a 404 header, and the application
immediately exits. However, the Security component has a
$blackHoleCallback property, which you can set to the name of a custom
callback function defined in your controller. Rather than simply give a 404 header and then nothing, this
property allows you to perform some additional checking on the request,
redirect the request to another location, or even log the IP address of
the offending client.

Every time the Security component is loaded, even if it is not
being used to protect an action, it does the following things: First, it
generates an authentication key using the core Security class. Then, it
writes this key to the session, along with an expiration date and some
additional information (the expiration date is determined by your configuration file).
Next, it sets the key in your controller, to be referenced later.

Then in your view files, any form tag you generate using
$html->formTag() will also contain a hidden input field with the
authentication key. That way, when the form is POSTed, the Security
component can compare that value to the value in the session on the
receiving end of the request. After that, the authentication key is
regenerated, and the session is updated for the next request.”

Cool Scaffolding (Similar to Rails)

“So cool that you’ll want to use it in production apps. Now, we
think its cool, too, but please realize that scaffolding is… well…
just scaffolding. It’s a bunch of stuff you throw up real quick during
the beginning of a project in order to get started. It isn’t meant to be
completely flexible. So, if you find yourself really wanting to
customize your logic and your views, its time to pull your scaffolding
down in order to write some code.

Scaffolding is a great way of getting the early parts of
developing a web application started. Early database schemas are
volatile and subject to change, which is perfectly normal in the early
part of the design process. This has a downside: a web developer hates
creating forms that never will see real use. To reduce the strain on the
developer, scaffolding has been included in Cake. Scaffolding analyzes
your database tables and creates standard lists with add, delete and
edit buttons, standard forms for editing and standard views for
inspecting a single item in the database.”

Remember, these are just some of the highlights. There is a LOT more in the manual to get you excited. In the near future, I’d really like to contribute a bit to the Bakery and really begin discovering the power of Cake in ways I can’t yet foresee.

You know you want to check Cake out, so stop wasting time… take the leap!

Jan 25

cakephp.gifOver the last few weeks, I have been attempting to learn two major PHP frameworks: Symfony & CakePHP.

Originally, I had decided (in a bit of short-sighted wisdom) that Symfony was the obvious champion. I think I may have been wrong. I spent nearly a week tinkering with Symfony off and on. I came to a simple conclusion: I’m confused.

The Symfony framework is so huge and poorly supported that it confused the heck out of me. Their basic “sandbox” tutorial doesn’t work in any way close to what the documentation states. And the documentation, oh the documentation; what could be the best part of this huge framework fails because of one fatal flaw: no one updates it for the new each new revision that (sarcastically) seems to come out every other day.

After seeing my co-worker struggle with the installation process for days and my own copy just barely functional (with hardly a thing to show from it), I called it quits. At least until I read this (from The Symfony Blog):

“You know that we spent the last months writing a complete guide for
symfony that will be released in bookshops on January 29th. We also
mentioned the fact that the content of this book would become the
official symfony online documentation and be published in HTML on the
same date.”

So, it looks like I’ll put Symfony off until this new-fangled documentation goes live, then I’ll give it another swing.

In the mean time, I’ve been working with CakePHP and genuinely lovin’ it. After tinkering around with it for a while, here are my thoughts about the two frameworks:

Documentation
- CakePHP: Up to date, but not totally complete and somewhat difficult to search through. They also have an extremely helpful CakePHP Google Group that helped most problems I ran into quickly (almost instantaneously during normal business hours) and efficiently. You can’t beat live support that’s free.
- Symfony: Until the new release, not all that helpful because much of the content is dated. However, what is there is easily searchable and they have an active forum that seems to be full of knowleable (yet somewhat arrogant) people.

Installation
- CakePHP: Very easy to install. For the most part, just copy it into your web root and you are good to go (provided you have Apache and mod re-write previously enabled). Once it’s in there, all you really have to do is setup the DB connection and you can be off and running.

- Symfony: Ouch… this is my major sticking point here. I know people that would say, “If it’s not hard, it’s not worth doing”. I agree with that idea, but this is one tough cookie to crack. There are so many little tricks, files, variables, and directory permissions to set-up… it’s a wonder I even got to the point I did. Their basic tutorial, “my first project“, wouldn’t work by following the given instructions… no matter what I did. They also rely on Pear to deliver the goods, which is inherently fraught with little tricks to keep it all running smoothly.

Directory Structure
- CakePHP: It makes sense and it’s extremely logical for almost anyone. You don’t have to be the creator of the framework to understand what each directory is used for. The framework code is in a separate directory totally away from all of your own code. Props to these guys, it works well.

- Symfony: File and directory overload. We’re talking a huge amalgamation of directories buried within directories and files scattered all over the place. When I started really digging, it left me dazed. Truthfully, after spending countless hours working with Symfony, I still haven’t figured out what all the directories are there for (which could be because the framework kinda mixes it’s own libraries in with the programmer’s code).

I could go on for hours, but I think you get the picture. For the time being, I have revised my opinion on the matter of PHP web frameworks. In my somewhat humble opinion, I think CakePHP is the current champion. However, Symfony may present some good competition just as soon as their new release comes out on the January 27th, 2007. Only time will tell I suppose. Rest assured, I’ll be choosing one or the other.

UPDATE: My mind is made up – CakePHP wins! Please read this, and this.

Jan 18

symfony-logo.gifThanks to a great mentor (Greg) in my starting days of web development and a strong background in Computer Science from several excellent professors in college, I had a good start at web development a few years back. My original skills for PHP featured an Object oriented approach, secure validation & error reporting, some nice Pear DB functionality (with MYSQL), and the Smarty Templating Engine. My skills and knowledge regarding PHP have continued to grow each day (especially regarding efficiency and security).

Recently though, I began playing with the big new talk of the town: Ruby on Rails. I have to admit, the process hasn’t been as easy as I thought. Most of the slowdown revolves around the fact that I don’t know Ruby all that well. Combining a totally new realm of development (the Rails framework) with a new language makes the switchover difficult for me. Regardless of the difficulties, I certainly see the power of Rails and understand how it’s framework can make the development process amazingly more agile and efficient.

With that being said, at Consumer Testing Labs we’ve been talking extensively of doing some major changes to how we code. We thought it would be a great idea to implement a standard templating system (like Smarty) for everyone to use, develop some internal libraries that all the developers could agree on and use frequently, and even strong rules on everything from coding practices to directory structures to design patterns. I think we all sorta hit a no duh moment when considering how to implement all these ideas effectively: a PHP MVC framework!

The discussions at work piqued my interests enough to send me on a quest of nightly rituals over the last week or two discovering, testing, and playing around with the nearly fifty frameworks that currently exist for PHP. Ok, I didn’t try them all out, but I did try out the best of the best according to my reading (and the ones that seemed to fit into the MVC layout). After tinkering around with CakePHP, Zend Framework, and Symfony, I did a lot more reading on these types of agile development packages.

Here are my conclusions on things at this point in time (01-17-2007):

CakePHP: Had a great basic install and easy to implement first run of things. I really liked being told what to do from the Cake code itself. Sorta like a wizard. Getting into more advanced coding had me pulling my hair out though. Mostly, the documentation was at fault – but not that it was all lacking. I just thought it was sorta scattered and hard to follow. Some tutorials I found helped a bit, but I was still left confused much of the time.

Zend Framework: Where do I begin? I had an icky feeling from the get-go with this thing. First, I’ve been a little off put by Zend for trying to commercialize something that has for so long been open-source… at least for the most part (PHP). In my opinion, the problem with the Zend Framework is that it appears to be a half-hearted attempt at a framework. It seems like it’s more like a collection of libraries than a true framework. When I compare it to Cake and Symfony or even Ruby on Rails, it just doesn’t feel quite right. There are lot’s of specific reasons I feel this way, but anyone’s attempt to convince me otherwise would simply be futile, heh. I don’t think Zend would ever be the type of framework I would want to use on a daily basis (at least until they make some major revisions or enhance it a bit more).

Symfony: If you hadn’t guessed it yet, Symfony was the winner in my book. I saw a lot of true similarities here between it and my reference: Ruby on Rails. Now, don’t get me wrong; it isn’t a straight-up clone of Rails, but the good parts are all there. So what does this mean to me? It means I get to use all the power of the Rails framework (albeit a tad different) without having to learn an entire new language (Ruby). It’s the best of both worlds!

So, if you are out there looking for a well-rounded and properly executed PHP web framework, be sure to check out Symfony.

UPDATE: I have actually changed my mind! Please read this, this, and this.