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When trying to work out what the hell is going wrong in your PHP application the first thing most of us start doing is madly start var_dump()’ing everything possible to work out where the problem is. var_dump() is fine, but by default it comes out in one line. So then we need to echo <pre> tags. Then we can’t always see whats going on, especially if the background is black and bla bla bla so it goes on.

One option is to install XDebug which does basically the same thing, but sadly we don’t all have access to SSH for our servers. Shared hosting, limited shell, can’t install stuff, whatever. I spend a lot of time with CodeIgniter which is all about portability, make your stuff work anyway.

Using this handy function (which I have set up as a CodeIgniter debug_helper or native PHP debug_functions.php) I can dump any number of variables and always be able to see whats going on.

/** * Debug Helper * * Outputs the given variable(s) with formatting and location * * @access public * @param mixed variables to be output */function dump(){ list($callee) = debug_backtrace(); $arguments = func_get_args(); $total_arguments = count($arguments); echo '<fieldset style="background: #fefefe !important; border:2px red solid; padding:5px">'; echo '<legend style="background:lightgrey; padding:5px;">'.$callee['file'].' @ line: '.$callee['line'].'</legend><pre>'; $i = 0; foreach ($arguments as $argument) { echo '<br/><strong>Debug #'.(++$i).' of '.$total_arguments.'</strong>: '; var_dump($argument); } echo "</pre>"; echo "</fieldset>";}

Thanks to the fact this shows the line number and file it was called from I also manage to avoid those annoying “where the hell did I put that debug?!” situations, which is one of the main causes of swearing in my office.

Give it a try.

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Phil Sturgeon

Phil has contributed to CodeIgniter, FuelPHP, Laravel and handfuls of other projects, to try and make the PHP community a better place.


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Build APIs You Won't Hate

Everyone and their dog wants an API, so you should probably learn how to build them.

Buy it from LeanPub or Amazon


Published 01 Feb 2014

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Phil Sturgeon

I used to contribute to the PHP-FIG, The League of Extraordinary Packages, PHP The Right Way, CodeIgniter, FuelPHP, PyroCMS and a bunch of other stuff, but I gave it all up to join the circus

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