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Autoloading Classes

Many developers writing object-oriented applications create one PHP source file per class definition. One of the biggest annoyances is having to write a long list of needed includes at the beginning of each script (one for each class).

In PHP 5, this is no longer necessary. You may define an __autoload() function which is automatically called in case you are trying to use a class/interface which hasn't been defined yet. By calling this function the scripting engine is given a last chance to load the class before PHP fails with an error.

Tip

spl_autoload_register() provides a more flexible alternative for autoloading classes. For this reason, using __autoload() is discouraged and may be deprecated or removed in the future.

Note:

Prior to 5.3.0, exceptions thrown in the __autoload function could not be caught in the catch block and would result in a fatal error. From 5.3.0+ exceptions thrown in the __autoload function can be caught in the catch block, with 1 provision. If throwing a custom exception, then the custom exception class must be available. The __autoload function may be used recursively to autoload the custom exception class.

Note:

Autoloading is not available if using PHP in CLI interactive mode.

Note:

If the class name is used e.g. in call_user_func() then it can contain some dangerous characters such as ../. It is recommended to not use the user-input in such functions or at least verify the input in __autoload().

Example #1 Autoload example

This example attempts to load the classes MyClass1 and MyClass2 from the files MyClass1.php and MyClass2.php respectively.

<?php
function __autoload($class_name) {
    include 
$class_name '.php';
}

$obj  = new MyClass1();
$obj2 = new MyClass2(); 
?>

Example #2 Autoload other example

This example attempts to load the interface ITest.

<?php

function __autoload($name) {
    
var_dump($name);
}

class 
Foo implements ITest {
}

/*
string(5) "ITest"

Fatal error: Interface 'ITest' not found in ...
*/
?>

Example #3 Autoloading with exception handling for 5.3.0+

This example throws an exception and demonstrates the try/catch block.

<?php
function __autoload($name) {
    echo 
"Want to load $name.\n";
    throw new 
Exception("Unable to load $name.");
}

try {
    
$obj = new NonLoadableClass();
} catch (
Exception $e) {
    echo 
$e->getMessage(), "\n";
}
?>

The above example will output:

Want to load NonLoadableClass.
Unable to load NonLoadableClass.

Example #4 Autoloading with exception handling for 5.3.0+ - Missing custom exception

This example throws an exception for a non-loadable, custom exception.

<?php
function __autoload($name) {
    echo 
"Want to load $name.\n";
    throw new 
MissingException("Unable to load $name.");
}

try {
    
$obj = new NonLoadableClass();
} catch (
Exception $e) {
    echo 
$e->getMessage(), "\n";
}
?>

The above example will output:

Want to load NonLoadableClass.
Want to load MissingException.

Fatal error: Class 'MissingException' not found in testMissingException.php on line 4

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