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Overloading a method call: triggering the “__call()” method - PHP

Welcome to the last installment of the series “Overloading classes in PHP.” Comprised of three tutorials, this series shows you how to overload your classes whether you’re using PHP 4 or PHP 5, and explains in detail the implementation of the “__set()”, “__get()” and “__call()” methods, in order to overload property accesses and method calls respectively.

  1. Overloading Classes in PHP 5
  2. Overloading a property access in PHP 5: calling the “__set()” method
  3. More about members overloading: triggering automatically the “__get()” method
  4. Overloading multiple member accesses: combining the “__set()” and “__get()” method in the same class
  5. Overloading a method call: triggering the “__call()” method
By: Alejandro Gervasio
Rating: starstarstarstarstar / 10
July 25, 2006

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The last practical example that I’ll show you with reference to overloading classes in PHP 5 is completely focused on calling the “__call()” method automatically, when a method call is correctly overloaded. Maybe this sounds confusing, so first I’ll redefine the prior “DataSaver” class to provide a concrete definition for the “__call()” method that I mentioned before. Here’s the source code for this class:

class DataSaver{
    private $data=array('Element1'=>1,'Element2'=>2,'Element3'=>3);
    private $dataFile='default_data_file.txt';
    // define __call() method
    public function __call($method,$arguments){
        echo 'Method '.$method. ' has been called with the
following arguments:<br />';
        foreach($arguments as $argument){
            echo $argument.'<br />';
        return array_reverse($arguments);

    // save data to file
    public function save(){
            throw new Exception('Error opening data file');
    // fetch data from file
    public function open(){
            throw new Exception('Error reading from data file');
        return unserialize($contents);

As shown above, the “DataSaver” class has an additional “__call()” method, which will be automatically triggered if a method call is overloaded deliberately. Given that, here is a simple script that shows how to overload a method call, which obviously fires up the method in question:

// example of method overloading with __call() method
    // instantiate 'DataSaver' object
    $dataSaver=new DataSaver();
    // call inexistent 'myMethod()' method (invokes the __call()
    $revData=$dataSaver->myMethod('Element A','Element
B','Element C');
    echo 'Reversed arguments are as follows:<br />';
    foreach($revData as $data){
        echo $data.'<br />';
catch(Exception $e){
    echo $e->getMessage();

If you examine the above example  in detail, the corresponding “__call()” method is triggered by the following line:

$revData=$dataSaver->myMethod('Element A','Element B','Element

As you can see, all that this line does is call the “myMethod()” method, in this way enforcing the triggering of “__call()”. Also, it should be noticed that the pertinent arguments passed when overloading a method call will be treated as an array, therefore the output produced by the previous script will be the following:

Method myMethod has been called with the following arguments:
Element A
Element B
Element C
Reversed arguments are as follows:
Element C
Element B
Element A

The above listing clearly demonstrates that the  “__call()” method has been triggered after overloading a method call, since the array of incoming arguments is first echoed normally, then reversed and finally displayed again, in accordance with the logic implemented by this method.

At this point, I provided you with different practical examples of how to overload members and methods in PHP 5, which can be pretty useful if you want to run custom code defined within  “__set()”, “__get()” and “__call()” methods. As I said before, certainly class overloading isn’t one of the strongest features of PHP, but with a little bit of willpower and the appropriate knowledge, you’ll get the most out of it.

Wrapping up

Over this three-part series, you hopefully learned the basics of class overloading in PHP 4/PHP 5. In all the cases I kept the code samples simple and readable, so you can understand more easily how they work. Although overloading objects in PHP seems to be a rather complex topic at first glance, this impression should disappear progressively, if you get more experience on the subject.

As usual, see you in the next PHP tutorial!  

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

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