Functions come in two flavors those built in to the language and those you define yourself. PHP has hundreds of built-in functions. The very first script in this book, which appears in Hour 3, "Installing and Configuring PHP," consists of a single function call:
print "Hello Web!";
In this example, we call the print() function, passing it the string "Hello Web!". The function then goes about the business of writing the string. A function call consists of the function name (print in this case) followed by parentheses. If you want to pass information to the function, you place it between these parentheses. A piece of information passed to a function in this way is called an argument. Some functions require that more than one argument be passed to them. Arguments in such cases must be separated by commas:
some_function( $an_argument, $another_argument);
print() is typical in that it returns a value. Most functions give you some information back when they've completed their task they usually at least tell whether their mission was successful. print() returns a Boolean.
The abs() function, for example, requires a signed numeric value and returns the absolute value of that number. Let's try it out in Listing 6.1.
Listing 6.1 Calling the Built-in abs() Function
1: <html> 2: <head> 3: <title>Listing 6.1</title> 4: </head> 5: <body> 6: <?php 7: $num = -321; 8: $newnum = abs( $num ); 9: print $newnum; 10: // prints "321" 11: ?> 12: </body> 13: </html>
In this example, we assign the value -321 to a variable $num. We then pass that variable to the abs() function, which makes the necessary calculation and returns a new value. We assign this to the variable $newnum and print the result.
Put these lines into a text file called abs.php, and place this file in your Web server document root. When you access this script through your Web browser, it produces the following:
In fact, we could have dispensed with temporary variables altogether, passing our number straight to abs(), and directly printing the result:
print( abs( -321 ) );
We used the temporary variables $num and $newnum, though, to make each step of the process as clear as possible. Sometimes you can make your code more readable by breaking it up into a greater number of simple expressions.
You can call user-defined functions in exactly the same way that we have been calling built-in functions.