The goal of this book is to introduce the concepts and techniques needed to produce dynamic multimedia content. The extensions covered are Ming, GD, ImageMagick, PDF, and FDF. Each technology is thoroughly explained from installation through example use. A case study is then given to go into further detail on the use of each extension.
I especially enjoyed the fact that they provided installation instructions for these extensions. One of the biggest hurdles people have with using Ming, GD, and the others is the installation process. Once someone gets past that stage they can at least experiment with how the extension works. It can be very frustrating when you can't even get something installed. Hopefully this book will help ease some of that frustration.
The case studies used by the authors are superb. These are real would applications that people want to create every day! They include a headline grabber with Ming, a mobile web coffee shop finder with GD, an image gallery using ImageMagick, and a PDF template system. Each one of these case studies is designed to get you thinking. Sure, they you the code needed for the application, but they also show you how the design process works and detail possible enhancements.
The one thing I found lacking in this text was some type of common problems section. Invariably, people are going to have difficulties when it comes to installation or use of these extensions. A simple google search will show the abundance of problems related to these technologies. A small chapter, or a section in each chapter, detailing some of the most common problems encountered, with their fixes, would have been great.
Overall, this book is great. If you are looking to develop multimedia applications in PHP, it is a must have.
The book is organized nicely. As a "Professional" book, it assumes a decent understanding of PHP. This assumption saves you lots of time and unnecessary hand holding. There is a brief PHP refresher chapter for those who aren't quite as familiar with PHP as necessary, but after that refresher chapter, you're expected to understand things. You bought this book (or will, anyway) because you already know how to program in PHP but are not familiar with the various multimedia extensions.
The next several chapters each dedicate themselves to a specific extension concept: Ming, Ming with ActionScript, GD, ImageMagick, PDFLib, and FDF.
Each chapter gives an overview of the library, it's uses and limitations, and gives lots of example source code giving examples of all the functions in an extension and how they are used together.
The next few chapters are full-fledged application case studies. Though you may not agree with the authors' coding styles, these case studies walk you through (from start to finish) several different applications to show you how the libraries can be used within the scope of a larger PHP application, not just example toy scripts.
Following the case studies are several appendices. Each appendix is a language reference for a multimedia extension. Most of the information in the appendices is found online in the PHP manual, and I, for one, find it more convenient to look it up there, but having it in the book is a nice bonus.
Another wonderful addition is a full-color screenshots gallery index, which shows you what various scripts from within the chapters should look like when run. This is great for two reasons: 1) You can "check your work" as you write the applications and sample code in the book, and 2) You can see the results of functions in the book while reading it away from the computer.
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is thinking about writing even just ONE application in PHP that will manipulate any supported multimedia (Shockwave, images, PDF/FDF, etc.) The time you save by having this book as a companion will more than pay for the cost of the book.