Open source frameworks reduce the details to make web development a lot simpler. One of the oldest PHP frameworks is Zend, an open source project with thousands of contributors.
Learning Zend obviously requires a foundation in PHP development. But you don’t need to master OOP or MVC to dive into Zend. As long as you have passion and a willingness to learn you can pick up Zend from any number of places.
In this post I’ll share the best Zend framework books to help you on the road to PHP mastery.
It’s tough to say where someone should start with Zend because everyone has different levels of experience with PHP. But I think Learn ZF2: Learning By Example is a great intro book because it covers all the vital topics in great detail.
You learn the absolute fundamentals of Zend starting from a raw installation and moving through a bare-bones application development process.
Every chapter includes some source code that you can copy and practice with on your own.
Chapters cover routing, pagination, user authentication, database management, and a slew of other similar ideas. The last chapter covers performance tips for building Zend apps that fly.
If you’re brand new to Zend I would highly recommend this book. You should already be comfortable in PHP but you don’t need to be an expert to get started.
One big reason I recommend Easy PHP Websites with the Zend Framework as a study guide is the price range. It’s super affordable and it’s very easy to read through when you’re just getting started.
A complete beginner with PHP could pick up this book and follow along with ease. Just so long as you understand loops, functions, and classes you should be able to keep up.
Fundamental topics include the Zend installation process, creating web forms, handling e-mail, and connecting with other API services through Zend.
Some chapters may be confusing to newcomers if they’re not already familiar with databases. In this case you might be better off with Learn ZF2, although most Zend books will require some prior database knowledge.
The latest version of Zend as of this writing is 2.4 and continues to churn out new features with every release. It’s hard to recommend code cookbooks because so many features change with each update.
But the Zend Framework 2 Cookbook is a worthy investment for any Zend PHP developer.
It covers all the newest features along with classic Zend recipes for building common web solutions. Content focuses mostly on MVC architecture which you learn as you move through the book. Topics include views, controllers, and modules for extending Zend functionality.
In total you get 340 pages with dozens of recipes for installing, configuring, and debugging your Zend apps. This is the ultimate book of Zend solutions that’ll save you time and frustration in the long run.
It may not be the best choice for absolute beginners because it does assume prior knowledge of Zend. But many of the recipes are somewhat rudimentary so you don’t need to master Zend to get value from this cookbook.
I genuinely adore the Manning books because they’re always so practical. This is very true of Zend Framework in Action which behaves like one big tutorial for learning Zend PHP.
You start by learning the MVC hierarchy and the overall anatomy of a Zend PHP webapp. This is crucial for beginners who need to understand the raw basics before moving into technical details.
Later chapters cover web forms, Ajax, user authentication, caching, and other similar features based on Zend’s many modules. You learn best by doing and this book really teaches you how to “do” Zend the right way.
Note this title comes with both a paperback and digital version for each purchase. So you can have one for your bookshelf and another for studying on the go.
Another ZF2 book I’d highly recommend is Zend Framework 2 Application Development written by Christopher Valles. The book walks you through all of Zend’s MVC architecture and overall file system.
The author does suggest using Vagrant but you can use MAMP/WAMP instead. The author teaches you how to setup Zend from scratch and how to code a working social networking app with an API and OAuth.
In total the book hits about 270 pages which is respectable for an intro guide. I would’ve liked to see more detail in some areas like routing and networking. But the practice lessons in this book will teach you how to think about MVC development and how to build properly on top of Zend.
Overall it’s a great book and it’s a healthy option along with Zend Framework in Action.
If you’re looking for a book with less hand-holding check out Zend Framework 2.0 by Example: Beginner’s Guide. This is certainly a simple intro guide to Zend but it also moves pretty quickly.
You’ll learn about creating classes and views for the backend of a web application. The author gets into detailed subjects like creating a search feature and handling online payments through a payment gateway.
Zend 2 is powerful and once you know how to use it you’ll be able to create almost anything. The tricky part is knowing where to start.
This book is not great for an absolute beginner because the difficulty ramps up quickly. However if you already have working knowledge of PHP and some Zend/MVC knowledge you should learn a lot from this book.
Cheap yet effective is the best way to describe Web Development with Zend Framework 2 by Michael Romer. This targets beginners and experts alike as it teaches the fundamental principles of Zend 2.
You get 450 pages of Zend goodness with tons of live examples and source code. It’s also probably the cheapest book in this entire post, so it’s the best choice for a developer on a budget.
This was originally published in German and the book did so well it got translated into English. Unfortunately the translation is not great so writing is not as pristine as you might expect. You can definitely get through the book, however there are clunky sentences and lots of strange grammar.
While you can open this book with absolutely no Zend experience, I think you’ll learn a lot more if you start with a complete beginner’s book first. Or even read through the Zend documentation just to acquaint yourself with the basics. You’ll have a much easier time with the choppy translation if you already know some of the fundamental topics.
As you can imagine from the title, this book is not made for beginners. However it is a complete guide to advanced Zend development using the conceptual project of building a custom CMS from scratch.
Pro Zend Framework Techniques spans 500 pages of intense tutorials walking you through the power of Zend. I personally do not like the tutorial example of building a CMS. It does cover a lot, but it’s also amazingly complex with far too much verbosity in the code samples.
However this is one of the very few advanced Zend books out there so I do feel I have to include it in the list.
But if you’re already an expert Zend developer I would try to find premium courses online instead of getting this book. However it’s not a bad read if you’re willing to give it a try.
The Zend Certification Study Guide offers the best tips, learning materials, and sample questions posed during the Zend PHP 5 certification. You might think this is just a Zend thing but the certification is real and it’s used as a barometer to gauge PHP competence.
Zend’s cert doesn’t just cover Zend as a framework, but all of PHP. The current version is PHP 5.x so this book will get you up to speed on everything you need to know.
You do not even need to know Zend to pick up this book. If you’re looking to get the certification and have a basic background in PHP then you will learn quite a bit.
But remember this is not a practical guide for mastering PHP or Zend. It’s a study guide to help you pass the exam and earn your Zend Certification. To learn more read through the certification page to see if this book would help you pass.
Once you move onto a framework it’s almost impossible to go back to raw PHP code. Many devs prefer Laravel but I’m still a big fan of Zend for the community and the documentation.
If you have no idea where to start I definitely think the books in this post will help you.
Two titles I would definitely recommend: Learn ZF2 and Zend Framework in Action, both of which can help you move from a complete novice up to an intermediate-to-advanced Zend developer quickly. There will always be more to learn but once you understand the foundations you’ll have a much easier time teaching yourself.