Tools.... All you really need is Notepad, but you will be a lot happier with some more stuff
- HAPedit. I really like this editor best for PHP - and it's free. I own some well-known, expensive commercial editors and I've downloaded lots of the free editors, but this is the only one I ever use anymore except sometimes NotePad or EditPad for real quick stuff. Partly I like it because the developer keeps taking my suggestions and actually implementing them, so it has a lot of the stuff that I really like (e.g. brace matching).
- Install Apache/PHP/MySQL on your local computer. That's essential.
- a grep tool (regex search and replace).
- CVS installed on your computer. A steep learning curve at first, but so worth the investment.
- a local copy of the PHP and MySQL manuals. This too is essential.
*** Getting started
The Devshed tutorials are good. Also, there are many many free scripts out there. Find one that does roughly what you want. Install it and then try to modify it to do exactly what you want. After a while you'll be building your own stuff with confidence.