Building Fun with AMPPS!

Welcome to our very first omake tutorial for creating your web projects using your local environment! Are you stuck with making a decision on which solution stack you would like to create your local environment from? All of the solution stacks I introduced from the previous tutorial work wonderfully, depending on the type of web projects that you plan to build and the specific requirements you need to work on. For beginners and hobbyist web designers and developers, I recommend starting here using AMPPS.

What is AMPPS?

AMPPS is a “full stack” solution stack created by the same peeps who made Softaculous, a popular software auto-installer hub that many web designers/developers and owners normally see in their cPanel (or any other control panel like Plesk) dashboard. For those who are familiar with Softaculous, it provides a huge plethora of popular PHP/mySQL-based scripts such as WordPress which you can install on your server with just one click of a button.

The acronym AMPPS stands for the following:

Apache
MySQL/MongoDB
PHP/Perl
Python
Softaculous

As many of us know, Apache is the most common server that many of low-cost (and high quality) web hosting services use to host websites and web apps. We use MySQL as the database of choice to back all of our important data processed through PHP scripts, and MongoDB as our database of choice if we want to use a NoSQL [1. “not only SQL”/non-SQL-based] database system for both PHP scripts and Javascript backend scripting (Node.js). PHP is still the most popular server-side scripting language for web applications. Some developers still love to use Perl to script their web projects, therefore that option still remains. Of course, there are the more up-to-date go-getter developers who want to build more advanced, robust applications using Python.

Last, but not least, as a product of Softaculous, its popular auto-installer hub is included. This means, you can have your own Softaculous in your own computer, and you can install a variety of PHP scripts and frameworks, which also includes WordPress. You can also have your own copy of phpMyAdmin that you can play around on your computer, even though adding content in your projects (except for the “Loren ipsum” dummy content) is not your priority here. You can also easily delete files through Softaculous, if you don’t like messing with your own computer’s file explorer system.

Comparison to the other solution stacks

XAMPP (pronounced “shamp”) has the option to have Bitnami installed as your apps installer, and it’s (almost) equivalent to Softaculous. The only difference is that Bitnami hosts their servers in the cloud, unlike Softaculous, however, Softaculous has a whole lot more scripts and apps available for download if you want to do some experiments and curious explorations with other not-so-known (but useful) programs. If you use other solution stacks (WAMP and MAMP), you will have to install your scripts and apps manually like you would install them in your web server.

Without further ado, let’s dive in!

Download and Install AMPPS

  1. Visit the AMPPS website
    Log in to http://www.ampps.com and you will stumble upon the main page. You can go ahead and explore around the site, learn more about AMPPS, or take a tour by going here: http://www.ampps.com/tour
  2. Download AMPPS
    Go over to their Downloads section or press Download AMPPS button on the main site. Be sure to read the instructions carefully and choose the right package suitable for your operating system. As of writing this tutorial, the current AMPPS version is 3.6.
    NOTE: If you are well-versed with PHP and you would like to help out Softaculous in testing the latest PHP builds, you can also download their PHP Dev Package. Otherwise, you will only need the AMPPS installation file above it.
  3. Install AMPPS
    Installation of AMPPS is very quick and easy. Just execute the installer file, leave the defaults as is (by installing AMPPS in the folder called “Ampps” as stated on the installer window), and let it do its magic. Once complete, you can go ahead and launch AMPPS by click on the checkbox that says Run AMPPS Control Panel (or somewhere along those lines) now. You can also turn AMPPS on later by double-clicking on its desktop shortcut.

AMPPS Control Panel

AMPPS 3.6
AMPPS 3.6

As of this writing, we are using the latest version, 3.6. AMPPS has completely revamped its UI using its flat color design method and steered cleared of the old “Windows 7 and before” interface design. It looks a lot cleaner and easier to understand for new users and hobbyists to take control of.

The AMPPS Control Panel is the heart of your local environment. This little baby transforms your computer into a live working server so that you can happily build your PHP (and at times, Javascript) powered sites and apps to your heart’s content without even messing with your actual remote server. In that way, you can avoid other people seeing your “ugly under construction” work-in-progress site or even have someone accuse you of “stealing” even though you were just experimenting. Just a few clicks here and there would make your computer come alive!

Let’s break the control panel into its own components.

Main Menu (the white icons at the top)

  • Options (the “grid” icon) – The Options menu item breaks down into these submenu items:
    • Change PHP Version – The default PHP version that AMPPS is using is 5.5. PHP 7 is relatively new, but there are still many apps and scripts that are not compatible with this version, therefore it’s best to leave it at 5.5 for the time being. If you are using an older PHP script, you may have to change the version to even older (5.3 or 5.4).
    • Wiki – This will lead you to AMPPS’ Wiki site in your default web browser. You would still need your internet connection to turn on AMPPS, and this is one of the reasons why.
    • About – This gives you the basic info about the AMPPS control panel you are currently using. This also reminds you if an upgrade is needed too. Check this section once in awhile when you can.
    • Credits – You know, gotta give credit to the folks at Softaculous for building this awesome solution stack!
    • Info – This is just a small section where Softaculous introduces their other products under their name including the Softaculous auto-installer suite itself.
    • Write Testimonial – Love AMPPS? Give Softaculous some props by launching their form and you can write your love letter to them.
  • localhost (the “wire globe” icon) – This launches your “empty index.html” list on your browser, except of course, you’re the only one who can see it. You will only see the URL as localhost on the URL field.
  • Home (the “house” icon) – This launches your AMPPS Home page on your browser. It looks like this below:
    Ampps HomeIn case you haven’t noticed yet, yes, it looks (almost) exactly like the Softaculous auto-installer that you find in (most) cPanel-powered web servers. Of course, the only difference here is that AMPPS also brought important cPanel components that you would normally use when you install PHP scripts like WordPress: your own phpMyAdmin, your own FTP, even RockMongo, the MongoDB version of phpMyAdmin. Most of those components you won’t really need to mess with because this is all installed in your computer, and no one else except you could see all this. (… unless your computer gets hacked…) On the side menus are categories of different PHP scripts that you can install and build upon. You can check out the JavaScript, PERL, and Classes sections too and see what they offer.
  • Admin (the “person” icon) – Last, but not least, this will launch your AMPPS Admin page. Here, you can do a few customizations on how you want AMPPS and the scripts installed to perform while you do your site/app development. Unless if you know what you’re doing, I would steer clear away from this page except when you need to look up quick info about the defaults AMPPS is currently using, the list of your development projects already started, so on and so forth.There are two things that you could do. First, you can check and update all of your 400-something available scripts (for local environment installation) in one setting. You can find that under the Software menu, as seen on this screenshot:
    ampps_admin

    The second thing that you can do also is to install custom scripts. If you’re a hobbyist and love to build fanlisting sites using Enthusiast or Bellabuffs, you can add them to AMPPS by going to Custom Scripts.

    But, just like your Home page, explore around the Admin page too. Maybe you can learn and figure out on how you can take advantage and make AMPPS work harder (and smarter) for you. You can also check to see if the AMPPS home page and admin page is updated too, and you can do the same.

The Components

The control panel shows you the main components that make AMPPS earn its acronym. When you launch AMPPS control panel, you will see that the Apache and the MySQL components automatically turn on. The white space below it shows the status of each component, whether they’re currently active or on. Depending on the type of project you’re working on, you have the option of turning off MySQL and use MongoDB (if you are developing a Javascript app) or if you have a FileZilla client that you rather handle file management through AMPPS, you can turn on the FTP component.

For hobbyists and those who love PHP scripts, both Apache and MySQL components must be on and active. As mentioned before, you may get through a few errors or so, in which a common problem would be that either one of these two is disabled or won’t activate. There will be a “Troubleshooting aFAQs” much later in a different section.

How to install PHP scripts?

There are two ways of doing this. If the PHP script that you wish to work on is included along with the 400+scripts including on the AMPPS Home page (ala Softaculous-style), just find it under one of the categories on the sidebar, and if it’s there, just click on the link and press the “Install” button. Make sure you follow all the instructions there.

If the PHP script that you wish to work on is not included among the 400+, you can do two things. You can add that script along with your default 400+ in your AMPPS Admin page by going to Software > Custom Scripts. Or, just follow instructions from the custom script you want to use and install it manually like you would with your web server. I prefer adding them to the AMPPS Admin because you can also automatically create your MySQL database when you do install that custom script like you would with the default 400+ already included at the same time.

How to access your local project folder files?

If you are accessing your files installed on your web server, you would normally use an FTP client or a File Manager feature located in your cPanel or Softaculous. In your local environment (your computer), just search for the Ampps folder using your file explorer (for Windows users, it would be under C:\Program Files (x86)\Ampps\www\ ). The www folder acts like the directory structure of your web server.

My project is done and ready to be launched to my web server. What do I do?

There are several ways to do this, but the most common one would be to upload all your files from your project directly to the server via FTP or your File Manager in your cPanel. But before you do all those file transfers, you also need to set up your MySQL database on your server and restore the database you used from your local environment (then again, you would be using some dummy content when you’re building, so this isn’t really necessary).

Here are some quick steps:

  1. Create your new MySQL database on your web server cPanel.
  2. Edit your configuration file with the new information of your new database.
  3. Upload your files, then follow instructions from your script’s README file on how to activate the script.
  4. Unless if there were extra steps, you should be good to go.

If you have more complex scripts that you need to transfer and activate, such as WordPress, for example, there are several ways of migrating your local environment files to your web server. Just search around Google and follow their specific instructions.

Uh-oh . . . (Common Troubleshooting Issues)

Not much of a surprise, like any other software, you will definitely run into some troubleshooting issues. The most common one with solution stacks would be this:

ACK! My Apache server won’t turn on! Darn you, AMPPS (WAMP/MAMP/XAMPP)!!

When this happens, you would get some kind of error message that says something like this:

APACHE ERROR!!

PORT 8888 is currently being used by another software. Unable to activate Apache server.

 When you see something like that, that “another server” could be any one of the following:

  • Skype and (possibly) other messaging programs.
  • Some MMORPG games or gaming suites that use certain ports in your computer.
  • Other solution stacks installed other than AMPPS (or whatever default solution stack you’re using).

For the first two, just simply turn off or force stop them. Turn on your solution stack control panel first. Once both Apache and MySQL are on, then you can turn back your messaging programs. For the third option, just please, leave it off. In fact, I highly recommend you just stick to one solution stack (unless you necessarily need the other one due to specific component requirements) and delete the other.

There are many other errors that I haven’t come across personally since I started using solution stacks for my local environment except for the one above. Contact AMPPS tech support (or whatever solution stack tech support you need) for help.

Yay AMPPS! Yay Local Environment!

Thank you for visiting this short and hopefully useful tutorial. I will see you again next time! If you have any questions, comments, or concerns about AMPPS, I’ll try to help you out, but otherwise, you will have to contact AMPPS tech support.