PHP grievance number 1

There’s a lot to hate about PHP.

Maybe that’s harsh: nothing’s perfect, every language has it’s strength and weaknesses, and noone ever suggested using PHP for everything.

Bearing that in mind, I’m using PHP daily, and you get used to a lot of quirks and foibles, and it’s easy to forget how truly shit it is.

Take arrays for example. Please; please take ‘em.

Skipping the “needle, haystack” parameter ordering farce, there are two things I dislike.

  1. array access warnings
  2. array access

First, the warnings.

The language designers must have made a choice between checked vs. unchecked array access: should this throw a warning, or shouldn’t it:

$titles = array("Philosopher's Stone", "Chamber of Secrets");
// accessing an element that doesn't exist:
$title = $titles[2];

They decided it should - it’s just a “Notice”; easily hidden with appropriate php.ini settings. I can live with that; it’s been a while, but doesn’t Java throws a wobbly when you fall off the end of an array too?

My grievance is here, when you make a typo:

$titles = array("Philosopher's Stone", "Chamber of Secrets");
$tiltes[2] = "Prisoner of Azkaban";

No errors, no warnings, no notices. Idiot-fingers just created a new array $tiltes, assigning a vitally important piece of information to a variable that shouldn’t exist!

That’s a bit stupid, isn’t it? Bit of a design-decision inconsistency?

Onto array access: it would be nice - and when I say nice, I mean obvious, natural and expected - to write:

$head = $dom->get_elements_by_tagname('head')[0];

PHP’s getElementsByTagName returns an array; we’re expecting a single <head> element, so try to skip the bullshit and access it straight-off. But we can’t, because PHP’s compiler can’t handle array-access on function return-values.

Object access? Sure, no problem. Calling a method of an object in an array inside another array is no problem:


But if you want to access an array element returned from a function, choose a different language.