How to Read This Book
Appendix A, "Obtaining and Installing Software," indicates where you can obtain all the necessary components and has instructions for installing them.
If you're a complete newcomer to MySQL or to SQL, begin with Chapter 1, "Getting Started with MySQL and SQL." This provides you with a tutorial introduction that grounds you in basic MySQL and SQL concepts and brings you up to speed for the rest of the book. Then proceed to Chapter 2, "MySQL SQL Syntax and Use," and Chapter 3, "Working with Data in MySQL," to find out how to describe and manipulate your own data so that you can exploit MySQL's capabilities for your own applications.
If you already know some SQL, you should still read Chapter 2 and Chapter 3. SQL implementations vary, and you'll want to find out what makes MySQL's implementation distinctive in comparison to others with which you may be familiar.
If you have experience with MySQL but need more background on the details of performing particular tasks, use the book as a reference, looking up topics on a need-to-know basis. You'll find the appendixes especially useful for reference purposes.
If you're interested in writing your own programs to access MySQL databases, read the API chapters, beginning with Chapter 5, "Introduction to MySQL Programming." If you want to produce a Web-based front end to your databases for easier access to them, or, conversely, to provide a database back end for your Web site to enhance your site with dynamic content, check out Chapter 7, "Writing MySQL Programs Using Perl DBI." and Chapter 8, "Writing MySQL Programs Using PHP."
If you're evaluating MySQL to find out how it compares to your current RDBMS, several parts of the book will be useful. Read the SQL syntax and data type chapters in Part I to compare MySQL to the version of SQL that you're used to, the programming chapters in Part II if you need to write custom applications, and the administrative chapters in Part III to assess the level of administrative support a MySQL installation requires. This information is also useful if you're not currently using a database but are performing a comparative analysis of MySQL along with other database systems for the purpose of choosing one of them.