Some PHP examples

I recently wrote a couple of PHP Pages for my site:

UK Area Code Search which searches my database for a specified full or partial area code or town


Crossword Solver  which searches for possible matches to a partial word.

It’s been a while since I’d done any PHP (all of the recent web-dev stuff I’ve written has been either JSP, Python or CGI) so I thought I’d keep some notes on my own ‘refresher course’ and do a brief write up of the main steps involved.

Both of these apps are basically quite similar; they take some user input, search in a database, then display the results on a web page.

For tasks that need done repeatedly, like sanitising user inputs, it’s worth creating a simple function:

function cleanvar($input){
if (strlen($input) > 1){
$input = ‘_’;
return $input;

this allows you to quickly create, populate and sanitise a variable in one go like so:

$mynewvar = cleanvar($_POST[‘userselection’]);

When the page loads, you can check if there is anything to process or not by looking at the “submit” element:

# do posty type things…

iterate through and clean up all passed parameters:

$myquery = “”;
foreach($_POST as $vblname => $value)
$myquery = $myquery . $value;

with some text replacements:

$myquery = str_replace(“Unknown”,”_”,$myquery);
$myquery = str_replace(“Search”,””,$myquery);

alternatively you could use the Request object to get each passed var explicitly, e.g. $_REQUEST[‘myparam’]

Connecting to a database is very nice and easy in PHP:

$con = mysql_connect(“myservername”,”myusername”,”mypassword”);
if (!$con)
die(‘Could not connect: ‘ . mysql_error());
mysql_select_db(“myschema”, $con);

Once connected, execute a query – I use a hard LIMIT to avoid returning all data:

$result = mysql_query(“SELECT lcase(word) as word FROM mytable where word like ‘$myquery’ LIMIT 0, 200”);

you could change the LIMIT parameters to create “paging” for your results, so the next page would show

LIMIT 200, 400

and so on.

Check for results and iterate through them:

while($row = mysql_fetch_array($result))
echo “Found ” . $counter . ” records: ” . $row[‘word’] . “”;
# etc etc

remember to close the MySQL connection when done:


And that’s about it – some sanity checking and error handling is needed, plus outputting the HTML part, but for a quick and simple PHP page that takes user input, queries a database and shows results, the above steps should do the job.

As I’m using WordPress I wanted to get my PHP pages looking like they “belong” (getting my custom PHP pages to use the current WordPress Theme and CSS etc); there are several solutions for this like WordPress plugins for custom PHP pages and creating custom WordPress Templates. For now I have just included my PHP examples in an iFrame and explicitly use the site’s CSS to make them fit in, but I’d like to investigate what works best for me and sort this out “properly” at some point.



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