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Attributes overview

(PHP 8)

Attributes offer the ability to add structured, machine-readable metadata information on declarations in code: Classes, methods, functions, parameters, properties and class constants can be the target of an attribute. The metadata defined by attributes can then be inspected at runtime using the Reflection APIs. Attributes could therefore be thought of as a configuration language embedded directly into code.

With attributes the generic implementation of a feature and its concrete use in an application can be decoupled. In a way it is comparable to interfaces and their implementations. But where interfaces and implementations are about code, attributes are about annotating extra information and configuration. Interfaces can be implemented by classes, yet attributes can also be declared on methods, functions, parameters, properties and class constants. As such they are more flexible than interfaces.

A simple example of attribute usage is to convert an interface that has optional methods to use attributes. Lets assume an ActionHandler interface representing an operation in an application, where some implementations of an action handler require setup and others do not. Instead of requiring all classes that implement ActionHandler to implement a method setUp(), an attribute can be used. One benefit of this approach is that we can use the attribute several times.

Example #1 Implementing optional methods of an interface with Attributes

<?php
interface ActionHandler
{
    public function 
execute();
}

#[Attribute]
class SetUp {}

class 
CopyFile implements ActionHandler
{
    public 
string $fileName;
    public 
string $targetDirectory;

    
#[SetUp]
    
public function fileExists()
    {
        if (!
file_exists($this->fileName)) {
            throw new 
RuntimeException("File does not exist");
        }
    }

    
#[SetUp]
    
public function targetDirectoryExists()
    {
        if (!
file_exists($this->targetDirectory)) {
            
mkdir($this->targetDirectory);
        } elseif (!
is_dir($this->targetDirectory)) {
            throw new 
RuntimeException("Target directory $this->targetDirectory is not a directory");
        }
    }

    public function 
execute()
    {
        
copy($this->fileName$this->targetDirectory '/' basename($this->fileName));
    }
}

function 
executeAction(ActionHandler $actionHandler)
{
    
$reflection = new ReflectionObject($actionHandler);

    foreach (
$reflection->getMethods() as $method) {
        
$attributes $method->getAttributes(SetUp::class);

        if (
count($attributes) > 0) {
            
$methodName $method->getName();

            
$actionHandler->$methodName();
        }
    }

    
$actionHandler->execute();
}

$copyAction = new CopyFile();
$copyAction->fileName "/tmp/foo.jpg";
$copyAction->targetDirectory "/home/user";

executeAction($copyAction);
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