PHP 101 (part 2): Calling All Operators

Not What You Expected
Form…
…And Function
Operating With Extreme Caution
A Question of Logic
Older But Not Wiser

If Not This, Then What?
Spreading Confusion
The Daily Special


Not What You Expected

In Part One of this series, I gave you a
brief introduction to PHP, and how it fits into your Web application development
environment. I also taught you the basics of PHP variables, and showed you how
to add, multiply and concatenate them together.

Now that you know the basics, it’s time to focus in on one of PHP’s
nicer features – its ability to automatically receive user input from
a Web form and convert it into PHP variables. If you’re used to writing
Perl code to retrieve form values in your CGI scripts, PHP’s simpler
approach is going to make you weep with joy. So get that handkerchief
out, and scroll on down.


Form…

Forms have always been one of quickest and easiest ways to add interactivity to your Web site. A form allows you to ask customers if they like your products, casual visitors for comments on your site, and pretty girls for their phone numbers. And PHP can simplify the task of processing the data generated from a Web-based form substantially, as this first example demonstrates.

This example contains two scripts, one containing an HTML form (named form.htm) and the other containing the form processing logic (message.php). Here’s form.htm:



<html>

<head></head>
<body>

<form action="message.php" method="post">

Enter your message: <input type="text" name="msg" size="30">

<input type="submit" value="Send">

</form>

</body>

</html>


The critical line in this page is the <form> tag



<form action="message.php" method="post">

...
</form>


As you probably already know, the “action” attribute of the
<form> tag specifies the name of the server-side script
(message.php in this case) that will process the information entered
into the form. The “method” attribute specifies how the
information will be passed.


…And Function

Now for the other half of the puzzle: the message.php script. This
script reads the data submitted by the user and “does something with
it”. Here is message.php:



<html>

<head></head>
<body>

<?php

// retrieve form data

$input = $_POST['msg'];

// use it

echo "You said: <i>$input</i>";

?>

</body>

</html>


When you enter some data into form.htm (let’s say “Boo”), and
submit it, the form processor message.php will read it and display it to
you (“You said: Boo“). Thus, whenever a form is submitted to a PHP script,
all variable-value pairs within that form automatically become available for use
within the script, through a special PHP container variable: $_POST.
You can then access the value of the form variable by using its “name” inside the

$_POST container, as I did in the script above.

Obviously, PHP also supports the GET method of form submission. All
you need to do is change the “method” attribute to “get”, and retrieve
values from $_GET instead of $_POST. The
$_GET and $_POST variables are
actually a special type of PHP animal called an array, which I’ll be
teaching you about shortly. Don’t worry too much about it at the
moment, just make sure you’re comfortable with retrieving simple values
from a form with PHP, and then scroll on down to learn about some more
operators that are useful in this context.


Operating With Extreme Caution

Thus far, the scripts we’ve discussed have been pretty dumb. All
they’ve done is add numbers and strings, and read back to you the data
you typed in yourself – not exactly overwhelming. In order to add some
intelligence to your scripts, you need to know how to construct what
geeks call a “conditional statement” – a statement which lets your
script perform one of a series of possible actions based on the result
of a comparison test. And since the basis of a conditional statement is
comparison, you first need to know how to compare two variables and
determine whether they’re identical or different.

You’ve already seen some of PHP’s arithmetic and string operators.
However, the language also comes with operators designed specifically
to compare two values: the so-called “comparison operators”. Here’s an
example that demonstrates them in action:



<?php

/* define some variables */
$mean = 9;

$median = 10;

$mode = 9;

// less-than operator

// returns true if left side is less than right

// returns true here

$result = ($mean < $median);

print "result is $result<br />";

// greater-than operator

// returns true if left side is greater than right

// returns false here

$result = ($mean > $median);

print
"result is $result<br />";

// less-than-or-equal-to operator

// returns true if left side is less than or equal to right

// returns false here

$result = ($median <= $mode);

print
"result is $result<br />";

// greater-than-or-equal-to operator

// returns true if left side is greater than or equal to right

// returns true here

$result = ($median >= $mode);

print
"result is $result<br />";

// equality operator

// returns true if left side is equal to right

// returns true here

$result = ($mean == $mode);

print
"result is $result<br />";

// not-equal-to operator

// returns true if left side is not equal to right

// returns false here

$result = ($mean != $mode);

print "result is $result<br />";

// inequality operator

// returns true if left side is not equal to right

// returns false here

$result = ($mean <> $mode);

print
"result is $result";

?>



The result of a comparison test is always Boolean: either true (1)
or false (0 – which doesn’t print anything). This makes comparison
operators an indispensable part of your toolkit, as you can use them in
combination with a conditional statement to send a script down any of
its multiple action paths.

PHP 4.0 also introduced a new comparison operator, which
allows you to test both for equality and type: the === operator.
The following example demonstrates it:



<?php

/* define two variables */
$str = '10';

$int = 10;

/* returns true, since both variables contain the same value */

$result = ($str == $int);

print "result is $result<br />";

/* returns false, since the variables are not of the same type even though they have the same value */

$result = ($str === $int);

print
"result is $result<br />";

/* returns true, since the variables are the same type and value */

$anotherInt = 10;

$result = ($anotherInt === $int);

print
"result is $result";

?>



Read more about PHP’s comparison operators at
http://www.php.net/manual/en/language.operators.comparison.php.


A Question of Logic

In addition to the comparison operators I used so liberally above,
PHP also provides four logical operators, which are designed to group
conditional expressions together. These four operators – logical AND,
logical OR, logical XOR and logical NOT – are illustrated in the following example:



<?php

/* define some variables */
$auth = 1;

$status = 1;

$role = 4;

/* logical AND returns true if all conditions are true */

// returns true

$result = (($auth == 1) && ($status != 0));

print
"result is $result<br />";

/* logical OR returns true if any condition is true */

// returns true

$result = (($status == 1) || ($role <= 2));

print
"result is $result<br />";

/* logical NOT returns true if the condition is false and vice-versa */

// returns false

$result = !($status == 1);

print
"result is $result<br />";

/* logical XOR returns true if either of two conditions are true, or returns false if both conditions are true */

// returns false

$result = (($status == 1) xor ($auth == 1));

print
"result is $result<br />";

?>



Logical operators play an important role in building conditional
statements, as they can be used to link together related conditions
simply and elegantly. View more examples of how they can be used at
http://www.php.net/manual/en/language.operators.logical.php.


Older But Not Wiser

Now that you’ve learnt all about comparison and logical operators, I
can teach you about conditional statements. As noted earlier, a
conditional statement allows you to test whether a specific condition
is true or false, and perform different actions on the basis of the
result. In PHP, the simplest form of conditional statement is the if()
statement, which looks something like this:



if (condition) {

    do this!

}


The argument to if()is a conditional expression, which evaluates to
either true or false. If the statement evaluates to true, all PHP code
within the curly braces is executed; if it does not, the code within
the curly braces is skipped and the lines following the if() construct
are executed.

Let me show you how the if() statement works by combining it with a
form. In this example, the user is asked to enter his or her age.



<html>

<head></head>
<body>

<form action="ageist.php" method="post">

Enter your age: <input name="age" size="2">

</form>

</body>

</html>


Depending on whether the entered age is above or below 21, a
different message is displayed by the ageist.php script:



<html>

<head></head>
<body>

<?php

// retrieve form data

$age = $_POST['age'];

// check entered value and branch

if ($age >= 21) {

     echo
'Come on in, we have alcohol and music awaiting you!';

}

if (
$age < 21) {

     echo
"You're too young for this club, come back when you're a little older";

}

?>

</body>

</html>



If Not This, Then What?

In addition to the if() statement, PHP also offers the if-else

construct, used to define a block of code that gets executed when the
conditional expression in the if() statement evaluates as false.

The if-else construct looks like this:



if (condition) {

    do this!

    }

else {

    do this!

}


This construct can be used to great effect in the last example: we
can combine the two separate if()statements into a single
if-else statement.



<html>

<head></head>
<body>

<?php

// retrieve form data

$age = $_POST['age'];

// check entered value and branch

if ($age >= 21) {

    echo 'Come on in, we have alcohol and music awaiting you!';

    }

else {

    echo
"You're too young for this club, come back when you're a little older";

}

?>

</body>

</html>



Spreading Confusion

If the thought of confusing people who read your code makes you feel
warm and tingly, you’re going to love the ternary operator, represented
by a question mark (?). This operator, which lets you make your
conditional statements almost unintelligible, provides shortcut syntax for creating
a single-statement if-else block. So, while you could do this:



<?php

if ($numTries > 10) {

     $msg = 'Blocking your account...';

    }

else {

    
$msg = 'Welcome!';

}

?>



You could also do this, which is equivalent (and a lot more fun):



<?php

$msg = $numTries > 10 ? 'Blocking your account...' : 'Welcome!';

?>



PHP also lets you “nest” conditional statements inside each other.
For example, this is perfectly valid PHP code:



<?php

if ($day == 'Thursday') {

    if ($time == '0800') {

        if (
$country == 'UK') {

            
$meal = 'bacon and eggs';

        }

    }

}

?>



Another, more elegant way to write the above is with a series of
logical operators:



<?php

if ($day == 'Thursday' && $time == '0800' && $country == 'UK') {

    $meal = 'bacon and eggs';

}

?>




The Daily Special

PHP also provides you with a way of handling multiple possibilities:
the if-elseif-else construct. A typical if-elseif-else statement
block would look like this:

if (first condition is true) {

    do this!

    }

elseif (second condition is true) {

    do this!

    }

elseif (third condition is true) {

    do this!

    }

  ... and so on ...

else {

     do this!

}


And here’s an example that demonstrates how to use it:

<html>

<head></head>
<body>

<h2>Today's Special</h2>

<p>

<form method="get" action="cooking.php">

<select name="day">

<option value="1">Monday/Wednesday

<option value="2">Tuesday/Thursday

<option value="3">Friday/Sunday

<option value="4">Saturday

</select>

<input type="submit" value="Send">

</form>

</body>

</html>


As you can see, this is simply a form which allows you to pick a day
of the week. The real work is done by the PHP script cooking.php:

<html>

<head></head>
<body>

<?php

// get form selection

$day = $_GET['day'];

// check value and select appropriate item

if ($day == 1) {

    $special = 'Chicken in oyster sauce';

    }

elseif (
$day == 2) {

    
$special = 'French onion soup';

    }

elseif (
$day == 3) {

    $special = 'Pork chops with mashed potatoes and green salad';

    }

else {

    
$special = 'Fish and chips';

}

?>

<h2>Today's special is:</h2>

<?php echo $special; ?>

</body>

</html>


In this case, I’ve used the if-elseif-else control structure to
assign a different menu special to each combination of days. Note that
as soon as one of the if() branches within the block is found to be
true, PHP will execute the corresponding code, skip the remaining if()

statements in the block, and jump immediately to the lines following
the entire if-elseif-else block.

And that’s it for now. To view more examples of conditional
statements in action, visit
http://www.php.net/manual/en/language.control-structures.php. In
Part Three, I’ll be bringing you more control
structures, more operators and more strange and wacky scripts – so make sure
you don’t miss it!


Copyright Melonfire, 2004 (http://www.melonfire.com).
All rights reserved.