Introduction to OOP using PHP - Page 2
       by Brian Haveri aka bwh2 | 31 December 2006

In the previous page I started explaining the importance of OOP and how to create a basic object. In this and subsequent, we'll hammer out many of the details.

Class Variables and Visibility
Within classes, we first define our variables. In this case, our first variable is $name. A handy feature of PHP5 (not PHP4) is increased visibility control. Our $name variable currently has a visibility of private. Private visibility means that the variable can only be accessed via the methods inside the class (like setName and getName). If we set the variable visibility to public, our variable could be accessed externally (without the methods). The final visibility setting for a variable is protected, which means that variable access is limited to parent and inherited classes, which we will discuss more later.

In PHP4, public is the only visibility option and public variables are declared using
var instead of public. Let's take a look at how variable visibility works by adding a $location variable and setting it to public visibility:

So which variable visibility should you choose? The answer is that it depends. In general, you should be fine using private. Private is especially useful because it supports encapsulation - the ability to hide data and only make it accessible through a given interface. In OOP, an interface represents the functionality given to a particular object.

Just as we set a variable's visibility, we can also set visibility for methods. By default, if we don't set the visibility of our methods, they will be set to public. For the sake of time, we will not dig into examples with different method visibility. Continue on to learn about an important and useful method, the constructor.

Note about $this: Within methods, we refer to class variables and other methods using $this->. This can be seen within the setName and getName methods. $this is a default variable created upon instantiation and enables an object to reference itself.

Note about naming conventions: While set[PropertyName] and
are popular method names because they are easily understood, they are not required. You can name these methods whatever you want.

Constructor Method
Now is a good time to look at the constructor method. The constructor is a method that will automatically be run when an object is instantiated. In PHP5, we have methods called "Magic Methods" (i.e. __construct, __destruct, and a few others) which begin with two underscores. In PHP4, the constructor method would be given the same name as the class itself. So in PHP4, if we have a class named User, our constructor method would also be named User (not __construct). Remember, you do not need to call the constructor method explicitly because it will be automatically run when an instance of that class is created. Here's a constructor in action:

Now you might be starting to see one of the benefits of OOP - much of the code lies in the background. We could include files containing our classes to hide the heavy duty code even more. Because the naming conventions of classes and methods are fairly self explanatory, we won't need to constantly look back at our included files. Continue reading to find out how we can use arrays to speed up our process.

Onwards to the next page!

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