Including functional library code in PHP 7th Jul 2013

PHP has a pretty good system for including class based code that uses the class namespace and name to define the possible file names that should be searched to auto(matically)-load the class. However PHP has a really crappy system for including functional code, the require/include system.

It's crappy because:

  • It always causes a file hit. Neither APC or OPCache can intercept it's calls and so every require causes a hit to the file system.

  • It requires hard coding of paths to find the exact file.

  • The syntax just sucks*.

There is an alternative solution to including functional code in PHP (which also sucks just not quite as much).

  1. Define a class in a namespace for the file you want to be able to include.

  2. Give that class a static function that does nothing.

  3. Put the functional code into a 2nd namespace block, which is set to the global namespace.

  4. Call the classes static function to require the functional code.

An example is a library file for adding extra multi-byte strings which haven't been implemented in core PHP:

namespace Intahwebz\\MBExtra{
    class Functions{
        public static function load(){

namespace {

    function mb_ucwords($string){
        return mb_convert_case($string, MB_CASE_TITLE);

    function mb_lcfirst($str) {
        return mb_strtolower(mb_substr($str,0,1)).mb_substr($str,1);

    function mb_strcasecmp($str1, $str2, $encoding = null) {
        if (null === $encoding) {
            $encoding = mb_internal_encoding();

        return strcmp(mb_strtoupper($str1, $encoding), mb_strtoupper($str2, $encoding));
    //And all the other functions are available at

It is now possible to pull the functions defined in the library in to any other file by calling:


Which will load the PHP file that defines that class into the current process, and all the functions defined in the global namespace will be available. Don't get me wrong, this still sucks, but it does have the advantages that:

  • The syntax for including functional code is now the same as including class based code, so there's one less thing to think about.

  • Composer (or any other autoloader you might use) will fixup all the dependencies for the file paths.

  • Because you're just calling a class function both APC and OPCache are able to cache the file avoiding both the file system access and compiling the code again.

Until someone suggests a better way of being able to manage functional code dependencies between projects, I'll be using the above hack to manage those depdendencies.

* Example of the syntax sucking

I have a library of extra multi-byte versions of string functions which gets installed by Composer into:


which I then want to include in another library file which Composer installs in:


The require line I would need to use the mbextra library file in the PHPTemplate library would be:

require_once __DIR__."/../../../../../../intahwebz/mb_extra/src/Intahwebz/MBExtra/Functions.php"

which just suuuuuuucks.

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