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Introducing the Reflection API in PHP 5

In this first part of a series, we'll begin exploring some of the methods included with the Reflection API bundled with PHP 5. The interface allows developers to collect relevant information about a reflected class, including its name, its declared constants and properties, in a extremely straightforward way.

  1. Introducing the Reflection API in PHP 5
  2. Building a sample interface and a basic class
  3. Finding the name of a reflected class
  4. Finding the constants defined by a reflected class
By: Alejandro Gervasio
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March 02, 2010

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Even though PHP is intrinsically a weakly-typed language, as it doesn’t internally impose any constraints on the types of values that can be held by a given variable (with the exception of type hinting and type casting), its introspective capabilities are quite impressive indeed. Native old functions like “is_int(),” “is_string()” and “is_float()” among others, which have been used for years, gave programmers the ability to check at runtime if the value assigned to a variable honors a specified type.

While it’s fair to say that these and other functions play a relevant role within the introspective facet of the language, the truth is that they fall short and become useless quickly, especially when it comes to analyzing the internal structure of classes and interfaces. Frankly speaking, PHP 4 already included a set of functions that allowed developers to inspect classes at a limited level, and they continue to be widely used in programs today. Unfortunately, with the introduction of a highly-enhanced object model in PHP 5, the limitation imposed by these functions became even more evident.

The happy side of this story is that, along with its most popular object-oriented bells and whistles, PHP 5 was also packaged with a powerful reflection API. This API takes the language’s introspective abilities to a far more mature stage. What’s more, it includes some convenient methods that permit developers to dissect both classes and interfaces down to their bare bones, which can be much more useful than you might think.

As with many other features of PHP 5, unquestionably the best place to get an intimate background in its reflection API is the official documentation. Even so, for many lazy programmers (like me), sometimes it’s good to have at hand an additional guide that quickly shows how to use the most relevant methods of the API in question.

With that idea in mind, in this group of tutorials I’m going to attempt to provide you with a variety of simple code samples that hopefully will get you started using the PHP 5 reflection API -- without having to scratch your head trying to figure out how to work with its methods.

Are you ready to start digging deeper into the reflection programming interface provided by PHP 5? Then click on the link below and begin reading the next few lines. It’ll be an instructive experience, trust me!

>>> More PHP Articles          >>> More By Alejandro Gervasio

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