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Calling Functions

Functions come in two flavorsthose built in to the language and those you define yourself. PHP has hundreds of built-in functions. Take a look at the following snippet for an example of a function use:

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, separated by commas:

some_function($an_argument, $another_argument);

print() is typical for a function in that it returns a value. Most functions give you some information back when they've completed their taskthey usually at least tell whether their mission was successful. print() returns a Boolean value, usually TRue.

By the Way

The print() and echo() functions are similar in functionality and can be used interchangably. Whichever one you use is a matter of taste.

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 7.1.

Listing 7.1. Calling the Built-in abs() Function
1: <?php
2: $num = -321;
3: $newnum = abs($num);
4: echo $newnum;
5: //prints "321"
6: ?>

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 display 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 the abs() function, and directly printing the result:

echo 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.

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