Although WordPress is written in PHP, it is in fact a framework in itself. You can use PHP to do stuff with your WordPress theme or plugin, but most of the functionality is managed with template tags. If you open a theme file (just about any file with the extension .php, like index.php or single. php) you'll find a lot of PHP-like functions, such as this one, for example:
That is a template tag, and it outputs the blog's name. The PHP part, which consists of <?php at first, and ; ?> at the end, tells WordPress to process whatever's inside it, and in this case it is the template tag bloginfo(). Inside the parenthesis you'll find the parameter, passed inside the quotation marks. In other words, 'name' is the parameter above.
You'll be using bloginfo() a lot in your themes, for example for finding the theme's directory. Let's output an image called smashing.gif in a theme file, just to drive the point home:
<img src="<?php bloginfo('template_directory'); ?>/smashing.gif" />
You'll recognize the img HTML tag of course. The bloginfo() template tag has another parameter here, template_directory. This outputs the path to the theme's folder, called template directory instead of theme directory just to make things a little more complicated. And then you just add the smashing.gif file name to complete the path, and you've got a potentially working image path in your theme. Of course, you would need the image in the theme folder as well.
So template tags are basically PHP functions that can handle parameters to do different things. Some have default values, others don't, and some have more settings for you to play with than others. Most of them will work anywhere in your WordPress theme files, but some need to be within the loop. The loop is basically the code that outputs the content, like posts or pages. (Loops are examined in the next chapter.)
You'll find a complete listing of template tags in the Codex: codex.wordpress.org/ Template_Tags/. Consult it whenever you need to do something out of the ordinary within your themes, or when you want to alter things in an existing theme. Each template tag is described, along with usage and sample code to help you understand it. This is the beauty of WordPress: you can actually copy and paste your way to a different result without knowing any PHP at all.
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It is fine to get started on a hosted solution like Blogger.comor WordPress.com. They will allow you to learn the basics of blogging and web publishing without spending money. As soon as you nail down these basics, however, it is vital to buy your own domain name and to purchase a web hosting package with some company.