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Configuration Manipulation With PHP Config
Use the PEAR Config class to read and write configuration files in XML, PHP and INI formats.

| Space And Time |

One of the most important tasks when building software applications is gaining a clear understanding of which parts of the application can be configured by the user, and which parts cannot. For example, if you're building a generic tool to administer databases, you would obviously want the DBA to be able to configure the application for different databases by inputting the database names and access parameters for each. However, you might not want to give the DBA control over other aspects of the application - for example, the protocol version used for communication with the RDBMS, or the method of RDBMS file access - as these would be internal to your code and also perhaps too complex for user-level configuration.

Although making such decisions might appear trivial and largely a matter of common sense, they are no small task, especially for complex applications - deciding which aspects of your software are configurable by the user is something that requires a thorough understanding of both the software's goals and the end-user requirements it is built to address, and it can take even experienced developers a fair amount of soul-searching to get it right.

Once the configuration variables within your application have been identified, it is traditional to separate them from the standard variable namespace and place them in a separate area, such that they may be manipulated independently. Most often, these variables are placed in one or more configuration files, and a user interface is built to interact with these variables, to read them, and to modify them as required.

That's where this article comes in. Over the next few pages, I'm going to introduce you to a toolkit designed specifically for manipulating configuration files, thereby reducing the number of lines of code needed to read and modify application variables. This toolkit is written in PHP, one of my favourite languages, and implemented as a class, suitable for use in any PHP-based application and accessible via standard OO techniques. Flip the page, and let me introduce you to Config.

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