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Using PEAR HTML_Template_IT For Modular Interface Design
Simplify your PHP application design with modular interface templates.

| Questions and Answers |

Let's begin with a simple example of how HTML_Template_IT works. Consider the following HTML page - I've called it quiz.tpl - which contains a question and its answer.


<html>
<head></head>
<body>
<!-- BEGIN main -->
Question: {QUESTION}
<br />
Answer: {ANSWER}
<!-- END main -->
</body>
</html>


This is not a traditional HTML page. It's a template, which doesn't contain any useful content; only a set of comment blocks and variables, which serve as placeholders for data. Variables are placed in blocks - the comment marks you see serve as block delimiters - and must be enclosed in curly braces. Once the HTML_Template_IT engine parses this template, these variables will be replaced with actual values. Here's the PHP script that takes care of this:


<?php

// include class
require ('HTML/Template/IT.php');

// create object
// set template directory
$template = new HTML_Template_IT("templates/");

// load template
$template->loadTemplateFile("quiz.tpl");

// set block
$template->setCurrentBlock("main");

// assign values
$template->setVariable("QUESTION", "Knock, knock!");
$template->setVariable("ANSWER", "Who's there?");

// parse block
$template->parseCurrentBlock();

// render page
$template->show();

?>


How does this work? Pretty simple, actually: the first step is to create a new HTML_Template_IT() object, and tell it the location of the template files. Typically, templates are stored in a different directory from the PHP scripts that use them.


<?php

require ('HTML/Template/IT.php');
$template = new HTML_Template_IT("templates/");

?>


Next, the loadTemplateFile() method is used to load a template file into the template engine. This template file contains the blocks and variables that the template engine will replace with actual data. The template engine looks for this file in the directory specified in the object constructor.


<?php

$template->loadTemplateFile("quiz.tpl");

?>


Once the template is loaded, it is necessary to assign values to the variables inside it. The template above contains two variables, and the setVariable() method is used to assign values to these variables. The setCurrentBlock() method tells the engine which block to look inside for the variables, and the parseCurrentBlock() method takes care of parsing the block and replacing the variables with their values.


<?php

$template->setCurrentBlock("main");
$template->setVariable("QUESTION", "Knock, knock!");
$template->setVariable("ANSWER", "Who's there?");
$template->parseCurrentBlock();

?>


Once the variables have values, all that's left is to display the result. The show() method, when called without any arguments, parses the entire file, replaces the variable placeholders inside it with their values, and renders the final page.


<?php

$template->show();

?>


An alternative here is to use the get() method instead, which retrieves the interpolated version of the template and assigns it to a variable instead of displaying it.

Here's what it looks like:

Output image

Since the HTML interface is in a separate template file, it's easy for designers with no programming experience to modify the interface without affecting the program code. All they need to do is remember to put back the placeholders in the correct place. As an illustration, here's a completely reworked version of quiz.tpl:


<html>
<head></head>
<body>
<!-- BEGIN main -->
<table>
<tr>
<td>{QUESTION}</td>
<td>{ANSWER}</td>
</tr>
</table>
<!-- END main -->
</body>
</html>


There is no need to alter the PHP script to accommodate this design modification. Try it for yourself and see.


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