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The Basics

class

Basic class definitions begin with the keyword class, followed by a class name, followed by a pair of curly braces which enclose the definitions of the properties and methods belonging to the class.

The class name can be any valid label which is not a PHP reserved word. A valid class name starts with a letter or underscore, followed by any number of letters, numbers, or underscores. As a regular expression, it would be expressed thus: ^[a-zA-Z_\x7f-\xff][a-zA-Z0-9_\x7f-\xff]*$.

A class may contain its own constants, variables (called "properties"), and functions (called "methods").

Example #1 Simple Class definition

<?php
class SimpleClass
{
    
// property declaration
    
public $var 'a default value';

    
// method declaration
    
public function displayVar() {
        echo 
$this->var;
    }
}
?>

The pseudo-variable $this is available when a method is called from within an object context. $this is a reference to the calling object (usually the object to which the method belongs, but possibly another object, if the method is called statically from the context of a secondary object).

Example #2 Some examples of the $this pseudo-variable

<?php
class A
{
    function 
foo()
    {
        if (isset(
$this)) {
            echo 
'$this is defined (';
            echo 
get_class($this);
            echo 
")\n";
        } else {
            echo 
"\$this is not defined.\n";
        }
    }
}

class 
B
{
    function 
bar()
    {
        
// Note: the next line will issue a warning if E_STRICT is enabled.
        
A::foo();
    }
}

$a = new A();
$a->foo();

// Note: the next line will issue a warning if E_STRICT is enabled.
A::foo();
$b = new B();
$b->bar();

// Note: the next line will issue a warning if E_STRICT is enabled.
B::bar();
?>

The above example will output:

$this is defined (A)
$this is not defined.
$this is defined (B)
$this is not defined.

new

To create an instance of a class, the new keyword must be used. An object will always be created unless the object has a constructor defined that throws an exception on error. Classes should be defined before instantiation (and in some cases this is a requirement).

If a string containing the name of a class is used with new, a new instance of that class will be created. If the class is in a namespace, its fully qualified name must be used when doing this.

Example #3 Creating an instance

<?php
$instance 
= new SimpleClass();

// This can also be done with a variable:
$className 'Foo';
$instance = new $className(); // Foo()
?>

In the class context, it is possible to create a new object by new self and new parent.

When assigning an already created instance of a class to a new variable, the new variable will access the same instance as the object that was assigned. This behaviour is the same when passing instances to a function. A copy of an already created object can be made by cloning it.

Example #4 Object Assignment

<?php

$instance 
= new SimpleClass();

$assigned   =  $instance;
$reference  =& $instance;

$instance->var '$assigned will have this value';

$instance null// $instance and $reference become null

var_dump($instance);
var_dump($reference);
var_dump($assigned);
?>

The above example will output:

NULL
NULL
object(SimpleClass)#1 (1) {
   ["var"]=>
     string(30) "$assigned will have this value"
}

PHP 5.3.0 introduced a couple of new ways to create instances of an object:

Example #5 Creating new objects

<?php
class Test
{
    static public function 
getNew()
    {
        return new static;
    }
}

class 
Child extends Test
{}

$obj1 = new Test();
$obj2 = new $obj1;
var_dump($obj1 !== $obj2);

$obj3 Test::getNew();
var_dump($obj3 instanceof Test);

$obj4 Child::getNew();
var_dump($obj4 instanceof Child);
?>

The above example will output:

bool(true)
bool(true)
bool(true)

extends

A class can inherit the methods and properties of another class by using the keyword extends in the class declaration. It is not possible to extend multiple classes; a class can only inherit from one base class.

The inherited methods and properties can be overridden by redeclaring them with the same name defined in the parent class. However, if the parent class has defined a method as final, that method may not be overridden. It is possible to access the overridden methods or static properties by referencing them with parent::.

When overriding methods, the parameter signature should remain the same or PHP will generate an E_STRICT level error. This does not apply to the constructor, which allows overriding with different parameters.

Example #6 Simple Class Inheritance

<?php
class ExtendClass extends SimpleClass
{
    
// Redefine the parent method
    
function displayVar()
    {
        echo 
"Extending class\n";
        
parent::displayVar();
    }
}

$extended = new ExtendClass();
$extended->displayVar();
?>

The above example will output:

Extending class
a default value

::class

Since PHP 5.5, the class keyword is also used for class name resolution. You can get a string containing the fully qualified name of the ClassName class by using ClassName::class. This is particularly useful with namespaced classes.

Example #7 Class name resolution

<?php
namespace NS {
    class 
ClassName {
    }
    
    echo 
ClassName::class;
}
?>

The above example will output:

NS\ClassName

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