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Top 10 phpmyadmin Tips and Tricks You May Not Know

by: W. Jason Gilmore
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February 8, 2011

First released in 1998, phpMyAdmin is one of the longest running and most popular PHP projects on the planet. One of the first utilities mentioned within PHP and MySQL tutorials, and ubiquitously available on Web hosting providers, over the years phpMyAdmin has grown to be an indispensable tool within every PHP developer's toolbox.
Despite approaching its 12th birthday, phpMyAdmin is still under active development, with at least one significant version released every year since the project's inception. In fact even after almost a decade of use I still marvel over discovering features which I had no idea existed. In this article I thought I'd highlight 10 useful phpMyAdmin features which may have escaped you during your daily interaction with this fantastic utility.

1. Manage User Privileges

MySQL offers a powerful user privilege management system which allows you to manage a user's ability to interact with MySQL at the database, table, and even column level. These privileges are managed using two MySQL commands, namely grant and revoke, and unless you work with these commands on a regular basis, it's almost guaranteed you'll be consulting the MySQL manual in order to recall the syntax.
Save yourself the hassle by clicking on phpMyAdmin's Privileges tab, located on the application's top ribbon. There you'll be able to add and delete users, and use a simple series of checkboxes to set and later modify a user's privileges.

2. Backup Your Databases

PhpMyAdmin is able to export a database or even select tables within a database to 16 different formats, among them CSV, Excel, XML, YAML, and even to a PDF file. Export a database by selecting a database after navigating to the Databases tab, selecting the desired database, and then clicking the Export tab. There you'll be able to select the desired tables to export (by default all are selected), and choose the desired export format. You also have the option of exporting just the table structures, just the data, or both.

3. Change the Theme

PhpMyAdmin's default theme is optimized for productivity, but in my opinion isn't particularly eye-appealing. Did you know it's possible to change the theme to fit your particular artistic tastes? In fact, the phpMyAdmin website points to several well-designed themes. All you need to do is download and unzip the theme into the phpMyAdmin themes directory.

4. Monitor Server Status

MySQL tracks practically every conceivable aspect of its operation, monitoring all manner of server traffic and query statistics. You can peruse this data by clicking on phpMyAdmin's Status tab, located on the application ribbon at the top of the page. Here you'll find a laundry list of server and query information, including visual cues indicating which statistics might require further investigation.
MySQL's query statistics can be quite confusing at first glance. However, getting a grip on their purpose and tuning the associated configuration parameters can be one of the easiest ways to boost performance. For more information about MySQL's statistics, see this article, and additionally watch this presentation.

5. Enable the Relational Designer

Despite having been a feature for several years now, phpMyAdmin's relational designer is one feature which I've only recently managed to discover, likely because it isn't enabled by default. Once enabled, you'll be able to create foreign key relationships which link two tables together using additional features integrated into phpMyAdmin's table structure view.
While a fair bit of configuration is necessary in order to enable it, the process is fairly straightforward. The phpMyAdmin wiki contains detailed instructions here (this is known as enabling phpMyAdmin's configuration storage).

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