Running a test server has never been easier than with the advent stand-alone Apache distribution packages. If you’re interested in mucking about in Open Source software package distributions (see my previous post, How to Be Your own Webmaster) or even a hard-core developer the fastest, and safest, way to roll a project out is to work on it locally, then push it live. Working with your files on your local machine, versus going back and forth with FTP will keep you more organized, and working faster. For one, you won’t (as easily) bring your live site down if you do something wrong, because you’re testing it out first. Second, downloading and uploading is tedious and error-prone: which is the right file and where does it go again?
MAMP stands for Macintosh-Apache-MySQL-PHP and is a software package that lets you run the AMP parts on your M part without the hassle of installing them all separately – and yes, it can be quite a hassle to install all the parts, or even impossible if you don’t know what you’re doing.
WAMP is still AMP but for W – Windows. I can also recommend XAMPP (the extra P is for Perl) which runs on Windows, Mac, Linux and Solaris (I’ve seen more movies by this name than users) – it also has great integration with Eclipse, if you use that IDE.
There are a couple of really great video tutorials on Lullabot that show you how to install MAMP on Mac OS X and WAMP on Windows XP. Click on the view or download tab there. It’ll walk you through things and hold your hand all the way.
Go ahead, download a package, it’s really painless and easy.
UPDATE: It seems to me that WAMP, upon further examination, is less flexible than XAMPP. I’d only advocated WAMP because there was a video tutorial of it, but save yourself a headache and go for XAMPP instead.