Archives For design

I just recently discovered the Web site LayoutIt!. LayoutIt! provides a Web-based drag-and-drop interface for creating HTML layouts using the Twitter Bootstrap framework. For someone like me, with no design skills whatsoever, Twitter Bootstrap and this new LayoutIt! tool are wonderful inventions.

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Some time ago I stumbled upon the WWW SQL Designer, an online database modeling tool, created by Ondrej Zara. It’s built in JavaScript, and runs in the browser, although PHP is required for some functionality. You can download the code from its Google Code home page so that you can run it in from your own computer, but to see a demo of it in action (a completely usable demo), head to

There’s not much in the way of documentation, but the tool is pretty straightforward, and there’s a YouTube video, if you want. To start, just create a new table, giving it a name. The tool will automatically create the autoincremented primary key for each new table. Then you can add other columns and indexes (aka keys). Add more tables as needed, and you can easily indicate the relationships between tables by marking foreign keys. Once you’re done with the design, you can export the SQL. The tool supports many different databases, including MySQL, SQLite, Oracle, and PostgreSQL. The outputted SQL is also nicely broken down, separating, for example, the foreign key statements and table properties (e.g., the character set, collation, and storage engine) into standalone ALTER queries, allowing you to use whatever commands you need when you actually go to create the database in your database application. The generated SQL even provides demo INSERT statements for the tables. Alternatively, you can save the design as XML, allowing you to reload that design in the application for further editing at another time.

I’m always on the lookout for a good database design tool, so was pleased to find this one. It’s particularly useful when I’m not on my primary computer, such as when I’m at a client’s office, and need to whip up some SQL on the fly. Check it out for yourself and see what you think. The price—free—is right!

Designing Databases

December 3, 2009

A few months back I came across a resource for designing databases (it was posted in a MySQL discussion list). Database Answers has tons of sample designs (a.k.a., models) for various situations. What the site lacks in attractive design in more than makes up for in its usefulness. There are hundreds of designs for you to consider, covering everything from “dog whisperer” to event reservations to online banking. Definitely worth looking at when you’re thinking about the database scheme for your next project.

Later this year I’m going to write an e-commerce with PHP and MySQL book for Peachpit Press. This is a topic that’s often been requested by my readers and one I’m happy to finally address. I have written e-commerce chapters in my PHP 6 and MySQL 5 for Dynamic Web Sites: Visual QuickPro Guide and PHP 5 Advanced: Visual QuickPro Guide books, but not to this extent. Specifically, those examples were unable to demonstrate the payment gateway system, as that’s so particular to each individual situation. This new book, whose title is still being determined, will cover everything you need to know to create an e-commerce site using PHP and MySQL. I’m going to describe my intentions for the book here, then ask for any questions, comments, and suggestions that you, the potential reader, may have.

UPDATE: I’ve just posted the rough table of contents. My apologies for the delay on this and my sincerest thanks to those interested in the book!

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