Lesson 7 - More on Conditions in PHP - Casting, composing, and switches

PHP Basic constructs More on Conditions in PHP - Casting, composing, and switches

In the previous lesson, Conditions in PHP, we introduced you to conditions and if - else commands. We also talked about relational operators and improved our calculator. There is some more stuff we have to cover about conditions, or else you'd be missing out on a lot. Let's get right into it!

The boolean data type

The boolean data type goes hand in hand with conditions. Variables of this type can only contain two values - true or false. At times, you may encounter those keywords written in uppercase. Let's go ahead and create a boolean variable:

$greet = true;
if ($greet == true)
        echo('Hello');

The code above checks whether the $greet variable holds a value of "true". If it does, it prints out a greeting. The true and false values are often used for application settings.

If we go a bit deeper into relational operators, they always return a boolean result (e.g. 5 > 2 returns true). A condition only has two states, it can be true or it can be false. We can insert a boolean variable directly as condition without an operator:

$greet = true;
if ($greet)
        echo('Hello');

Some of you all may be wondering, is there a way to store the expression result into a boolean variable that we could use later? You guessed it!

$condition = (15 > 3);
if ($condition)
{
        // ...
}

Comparing and type casting

We already know that the "==" operator is used when comparing 2 values. We also know that PHP is a dynamic language and that a variable's data type is automatically converted depending on how we use them. This is referred to as type casting and is also performed when using conditions. It's really important for you to know how it works. Otherwise, PHP may pull a quick one on you, and may even result in security vulnerabilities in your applications.

Casting to boolean

If we use a variable of any type as a condition, it'll be automatically cast to boolean (meaning to true or false). If we use any non-zero number as an expression, it'll be always evaluated as true, even for negative numbers, and the condition will be executed:

$a = 5;
if ($a)
        echo("The condition is true.");

Condition would also be true for strings with a length that is greater than zero:

$s = 'ict.social';
if ($s)
        echo("The condition is true.");

They work in a similar way with arrays. If the array contains anything at all, the condition will be true:

$numbers = array(1, 2, 3);
if ($numbers)
        echo("The condition is true.");

This is a very useful tool for any and every programmer. Especially when the number in the condition is what is known as a "counter". A very common expression when it comes to counters is "> 0" (greater than zero). It works with it kind of like it would with an array. The entire expression would look something like this "count($numbers) > 0". A string would only meet the condition if it is not empty. This way, we can check whether the user filled a field in a form.

We could also set up conditions in a negated way, like this:

$name = '';
if (!$name)
        echo("Your name can't be empty!");

Comparing variables of different data types

Things gets interesting when PHP implicitly (automatically) casts data types during value comparisons (most commonly with numbers and strings).

As some of you may have guessed, when we compare a number to itself as a string, the condition will be true:

$a = 2;
$b = "2";
if ($a == $b)
        echo("Variables are equal!");

PHP finds out that there is a number on the left side of the condition and tries to convert the right side of the condition to a number as well. In this case, it will succeed in doing so. When it comes down to it, we're comparing two number twos, which is undoubtedly equal.

You surely remember that PHP is very active in performing type-casts and tries to convert types whenever it's at least even the slightest bit possible. The following condition is also true, even thought it might be seemingly unlikely:

$a = 2;
$b = "2Hey, how are you?";
if ($a == $b)
    echo("The variables are equal!");

PHP separates the number 2 from the string and compares two twos. This only works when a string begins with a number.

Now, let's take a look at a result that will come unexpected to many of you. This condition is true:

$a = 0;
$b = "Hey, how are you?";
if ($a == $b)
    echo("The variables are equal!");

How can it be, you say? PHP knows that we want to compare a number to some other thing, so it converts the string to a number. When it fails to do so, instead of an error message, it returns a result of 0. Then, as you all know, zero equals zero :)

Strict comparisons

If the last example seems a bit wild to you, you're absolutely right. It's best to stick to comparing strictly to a single data type. Especially when it comes to strings. If we use === instead of ==, an expression will only be true if the values are truly the same and are of the same data type.

$a = 0;
$b = "Hey, how are you?";
if ($a === $b)
    echo("They are equal!");

The condition would no longer apply. The same goes for a number and a string:

$a = 2;
$b = "2";
if ($a === $b)
    echo("They are equal!");

I highly recommend comparing strings using ===.

Composing conditions

Conditions can be structured properly with the help of two logical operators:

Operator C-like syntax
And &&
Or ||

Let's set up an example, we'll check whether a given number is between 10-20:

$a = 15;
if (($a >= 10) && ($a <= 20))
        echo("Correct!");
else
        echo("You did it wrong");

This way, we could validate the age entered by the user on a form. You should all be able to wrap your head around things like that now. Operators can also be combined using parentheses. Let's check whether the number is between 10-20 or 30-40:

$a = 35;
if ((($a >= 10) && ($a <= 20)) || (($a >=30) && ($a <= 40)))
        echo("Correct!");
else
        echo("You did it wrong");

Switch

To finish up with conditions, we'll go over switch constructs. Technically, all a switch construct is, is an alternative way of writing an if...else... sequence. Switches allow for us to react to various values that a variable might hold. Let's take a quick look at our calculator script. However, this time, we'll use a switch instead of the if...else... sequence:

switch ($operation)
{
        case 'sum':
                $result = $a + $b;
                break;
        case 'subtraction':
                $result = $a - $b;
                break;
        case 'multiplication':
                $result = $a * $b;
                break;
        case 'division':
                if ($b != 0)
                        $result = $a / $b;
                else
                        $result = 'Error';
                break;
}

echo("Result: $result");

The switch keyword is followed by the parentheses that contain the variable to which cases react to. The switch body is inside of a block of curly brackets. Each value (case) is marked with the case keyword followed by a colon. After that, we simply write the commands that we want to be executed. Here, we don't have to add a block of curly brackets if we want to enter multiple commands. However, the final command in a case has to be followed by the break keyword. We can also use the default case: which will be executed when the variable didn't meet any of the cases.

Personally, I don't use switches very much. I don't think that it's any more readable than if...else... sequences and good programmers don't use them very often. Long branching should be avoided overall since there are shorter and more elegant ways to solve anything and everything (e.g. with polymorphism, reflection or using anonymous functions, which we will get to later on :) ). You will surely encounter switches in other programmers' code, so I thought I would at least mention them. In the next lesson, E-mail form in PHP, we'll get into some more hands-on stuff. This time, it will be an e-mail form.


 

 

Article has been written for you by David Capka
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The author is a programmer, who likes web technologies and being the lead/chief article writer at ICT.social. He shares his knowledge with the community and is always looking to improve. He believes that anyone can do what they set their mind to.
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