Monday, 6 August 2001
Features sell, but who uses them?
The box of a software development tool shows features, bells and whistles. This packages is fantastic. Yes, it may not be cheap, but it offers so much! The productivity of the software developer will rise to previously unknown heights. It certainly is value for money. Buy this package! PHP does not come in a box. The features are on the internet. It is cheap, open source software. Hmm, so it probably will not offer much. And I bet it is not productive. Penny wise is pound foolish. Stay away from it.
Prejudices aside though, an abundance of features just scares me away. Please give me for a start:
  • the capability to talk SQL to a database
  • the syntax of a while loop and if statement
  • the capability to generate some screen output, HTML for example.
That is all I ask. And I'll use a simple ASCII editor to type the code.

Still, somehow I succumbed to the temptation and recently acquired a box. However, once unpacked I can't even see the forest in the jungle of features.

Sorry, but I do not have the time to acquaintance myself with the specialities of a tool. There are lots of tools around, each with their specific uses. The time is over when I could focus on a single tool and get to know all its ins and outs.

And woe betides me when I do explore every nook and cranny. It seems that as soon as I master all the features, a new version of the software is released. So: Features Go!

For the last couple of weeks I worked on web-based roster planning software. I use PHP for the simple data entry functions, supported by a MySQL database. PHP is light, pleasant, easy to learn, even without formal training. The syntax is clear, similar to Java.

  • It's easy to connect to a database for SQL processing.
  • The syntax of a while loop and if statement are java look-a-likes.
  • Generating HTML is very, very easy.
So, PHP was a pleasant surprise for me. It lacks the redundant bells and whistles, but does offer everything you need. I expected just a simple scripting language, but PHP surprises with its completeness Flights on a day, HTML generated with PHP on a MySQL database Even a Gantt type of chart is quite easy to program by a combination of:
The PHP array (
is a wonderful combination of the Smalltalk Array and Dictionary, Vector and Hashmap in Java.
Date and time functions
are very powerful, save a lot of work.
The online function reference (
is perfect. No thick manuals, no trouble with redundant features. Quickly search online, to the point, and most of the time a hit within a minute.
And the cherry on top: PHP allows OO programming. Hmm, how far will these open source software tools take me? Before long I say goodbye to Smalltalk and Java!
Who buys a box full of features? I've seen the light. No more productivity drain for me because of an abundance of complexity. Long live lightness!

Till next week,