PhpLinkDirectory: A Review

PhpLinkDirectory is the most widely used software for running one’s own link directory web site. It’s entirely written in php and uses Mysql as the database. Most people use the free version, which is a much older edition (2.2) of the software, which obligates you to display a link back to phplinkdirectory.com. If you want the latest version, 4.0, you have to pay either 30 dollars with the link back, or 80 dollars without the link. Each download is for one site only, so if you want to create two different directories, you have to buy two licenses. In my case, I chose to buy two 30 dollar licenses, as I planned to create two directories and didn’t mind giving them the link back.

I started regretting my purchase decision right away, as the steps I had to go through to buy the software proved to be the most long drawn and twisted I’ve ever had to endure buying anything over the web. The first step was the payment, no problem there, but then you’re obliged to register for a site account and wait for a confirm email in which you’ll click on a link, before being able to download anything. Then you’re asked to sign-up for the phplinkdirectory forum (yet another confirm email), which it turns-out is the only means for support. You’re also asked to enter the URL of the site where you’ll install each download of the software, which is the only place where you can install it, you’re told. Maybe you didn’t get a domain yet? Too bad! If you’re not already exhausted by the convoluted buying process, now you have to wait for each package to be generated and appear in your online account page. This can take a while, you’re told. Why is it I can buy software from Microsoft online with a few clicks, but acquiring a mere php script package from phplinkdirectory feel like you’re being screened for the Pentagon? It would seem the program’s author is excessively worried about being scammed, treating every comer as a potential terrorist.

Installing the software appeared to be simple, but the instructions appear to have been scalped from an older version and contain errors. For instance, you’re told to change permissions on a configuration script that doesn’t exist yet — you have to rename another file, but you’re only told to do this further on. When I overcame this small (but sloppy) obstacle, I launched the web-based installer and sailed through the rest of the installation process until the last screen, where you’re given a list of choices, one of which will trigger an error. It’s an inconsequential error, but as I program for a living, I easily deduced this, but I shudder at the thought of non-programmers panicking when faced with this same situation. WordPress, a free blog management program, can be installed by a complete novice, but Phplinkdirectory appears to dispense with niceties.

At this point I was ready to start creating categories and populating them with links. Rather than entering all the link information from scratch, you have the option of using a “spider” tool. You can either enter keywords and get Google search results, or enter a Dmoz category, and you’ll get results returned inside a form, which you can then edit and add to your directory. This is a nice feature, but it has the nasty habit of truncating all site URLs to the domain for Google, and inserting bogus email addresses (webmaster@) which you’ll have to edit out. Note that if you use any titles or descriptions from Dmoz, their rules stipulate that you have to give them credit, something that phplinkdirectory doesn’t make mention of.

I created a bunch of categories and added links and didn’t encounter any problems. Then I decided to mess with the template, or site theme if you will. The software ships with two themes, neither of which is particularly attractive. The management interface doesn’t tell you how to get more templates, but I found out the hard way that on the phplinkdirectory web site (once logged-in), there’s a small bunch of templates you can obtain free. None are terribly sexy, but several are better than the default templates. Unlike free programs like WordPress, you can’t just download and install a new template directly from the web manager. Instead, you have to download the archive from their site, then upload it to your server and unpack it there inside the templates directory. Again, not a problem for me, but this could be intimidating for some. As we said earlier, phplinkdirectory is short on niceties! You’ll minimally want to substitute the template’s logo and logo image for your own, and if you use Google Analytics, add the required JavaScript code. Edit the templates, simple enough! Ah, but the programmer made the fateful decision of using Smarty for his templates, rather than a straight-up php and html mix. Smarty is a pseudo language, which means that a php script will parse the template before its output, which is of course a lot slower. Thus, when you look at the template code, it’ll be a bunch of gibberish. You can’t just add html to a phplinkdirectory template, because Smarty will crap-out. You’ll have to wrap your html in a set of {literal} tags. To do anything more complex, you’ll have to learn Smarty! It would have very simple for the programmer to add a form in which you could easily change things such as the logo, but then again, no niceties.

Perhaps inspired by popular CMS packages, including WordPress, phplinkdirectory has a number of widgets, which you can stick to areas of the pages. For example, if you want the newest links added to be displayed in either the left or right sidebar, there’s a widget you can activate and assign to that area (or “zone”). A number of widgets come with the package, and although the web manager again gives no hint of this, there’s a bunch more you can download from the site. Similar to templates, you have to download the widget archive and unpack it, this time in the widgets directory. Unlike templates, you can’t edit the widget’s source code from the web manager, but you can configure the widget’s custom features via the latter. One type of widget that’s sorely lacking is a text widget, where you could enter your own html and/or php (not Smarty, please!).

Up to this point, everything seemed fine, but I have to tell you that on both sites where I used phplinkdirectory I ran into mysterious fatal errors on several occasions that forced me to reinstall the package from scratch. This typically happened after changing or activating something in the configuration using the web manager. The web manager itself never crashed, but the directory itself simply exits (the blank page syndrome). There’s no hint in any log of what went wrong, and as I have a full time job as well as manage several web sites, I don’t have time to go debugging somebody else’s software. I posted the issue in the phplinkdirectory support forum, but months have passed without a response. Somehow, I’m not surprised. Seeing hours of work go to waste several times over is enraging enough, let alone when you paid for the privilege. On one such occasion, I did trace the error to the script that runs widgets, but I don’t know if this was the case every time, as the configuration edits that caused the crashes didn’t always involve widgets.

It is quite frustrating when you see your hard work going down the drain which has made it impossible for me to concentrate on the tasks at hand while there many breakthroughs to be achieved and a big reason to worry is that the costo sito internet is quite high compared to normal standards.

I’ve virtually given up on phplinkdirectory now, as a recent glitch cooked its goose for me. I recently upgraded my server’s php and Apache using yum, as one should do regularly. My WordPress sites worked normally after this operation, but phplinkdirectory? I tried creating a new category, and instead of doing that, it edited and mangled its parent category. Again, I don’t have time to chase this anymore, so I give up! I strongly suspect that phplinkdirectory 4.0 contains deprecated php instructions, but I’m not motivated to verify my theory!

That said, I do know that the free version of phplinkdirectory, although an antique, is stable from having dealt with it for clients, thus if you need a directory software package, that’s the better option. Alternatively, you could buy one of the competition’s offerings, eSyndicat or Indexu. I can’t comment on either since I haven’t tried them out for size, but I promise I’ll tell you all about them once I do!

Jesse

Jesse114 Posts

Jesse Waters is head content writer and article at God Men. He found out about his love for writing when he was struggling with cancer. His works are very sensitive and he writes with his heart.

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