The simplest method I've found for testing out different web-development tools is XAMMP, which includes key web-server software (Apache, MySQL, and PHP) in a simple package.
  • I use XAMPP for Windows and run it off of a thumb drive.
  • I had problems running it at first because there are a lot of different programs in the XAMPP directory that seem like seem like they would run it. Ultimately I realized that the easiest method is to: 
    • Run xamppcontrol.exe
      • Click the "Start" button next to Apache
      • Click the "Start" button next to MySql
      • Do not tick the "Svc" boxes (these needlessly run the programs as services under Windows XP)
      • When you're done, click "Stop" in reverse order (MySql first, then Apache). Exit the program.
    • You can safely ignore every other .bat and .exe file in the XAMPP directory.
  • Once Apache and MySql are running under XAMPP, open up a web browser
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