ORM, that magical acronym that can send developers into a flurry of excitement, or the rolling eyes of grief. ORM stands for Object Relational Mapping. Used correctly, this can really help applications convert data into objects ready to use. While it does cause some overhead, the key thing to remember is that used properly, it can be really helpful. But that is also the way it is with anything related to code. Since I focus mainly on the open source areas, examining an ORM tool will be limited to the PHP view and aspect.
When designing the data objects, it is important to understand the data and how it relates to the application and other objects. Usually it is the planning sessions that get overlooked, or hurried, and create a problem for later on. This is why using a tool to help with this is always good. I specifically look for more of an ERD (Entity Relationship Diagram) type of tool that can help me visualize and document the data objects. Never underestimate the power of a visual diagram for data. This is worth everything when coming on a new project, or bringing in new resources to a major project. It can drastically decrease the learning curve. There are different tools out there that can help with ERD and ORM design, with the basic Visio diagrams (a Microsoft product), to more robust ERD tools that include different UML (Unified Modeling Language) tools integrated with it like MagicDraw. Each tool will have its pros and cons, no matter what the toolset is, no matter what the project is. I have found that there is not a single tool that is perfect for every project. But finding a good tool that can help in designing the database is a must. If it can even generate code, that is a lot better. One tool that is available that can help with ERD, and generate code, and help with ORM is ORM Designer. And I will examine this tool as it relates to Symfony, CakePHP and non framework applications.
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