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Purposeful Programming in PHP: Larger-order Capabilities

Should you look at a number of frameworks and large-scale functions, you’ll definitely see a higher-order perform sooner or later. Many languages assist the concept of higher-order features, together with JavaScript, Java, .NET, Python and even PHP, to call just a few.

However what’s a higher-order perform and why would we need to use one? What benefits does it give us and may we use it to simplify our code? On this article, we’ll speak about higher-order features in PHP particularly, however will present how they’ve been utilized in different languages for comparability.

First-class Capabilities

Earlier than we are able to get into what a higher-order perform is, we should first perceive that we have now to have a language that may assist a function referred to as first-class features (aka first-order features). Because of this the language treats features as first-class residents. In different phrases, the language treats features prefer it does variables. You possibly can retailer a perform in a variable, move it to different features as a variable, return them from features like variables and even retailer them in information buildings like arrays or object properties like you’ll be able to with variables. Most trendy languages lately have this function by default. All you actually need to know is {that a} perform may be handed round and used very like variables are.

For our functions, we’ll be focusing totally on passing features as arguments and returning features as outcomes, and briefly pertaining to the idea of non-local variables and closures. (You possibly can learn extra about these ideas in sections 1.1, 1.4 and 1.3 of the Wikipedia article that was linked to within the earlier paragraph.)

What Are Larger-order Capabilities?

There are two primary traits that establish a higher-order perform. The next-order perform can implement only one or each of the next concepts: a perform that takes a number of features as an enter or returns a perform as an output. In PHP there’s a key phrase that’s a transparent giveaway {that a} perform is higher-order: the key phrase callable. Whereas this key phrase doesn’t need to be current, the key phrase makes it straightforward to establish them. Should you see a perform or methodology that has a callable parameter, it implies that it takes a perform as enter. One other straightforward signal is when you see a perform return a perform utilizing its return assertion. The return assertion may be simply the identify of the perform, or might even be an nameless/in-line perform. Under are some examples of every kind.

perform echoHelloWorld() {
  echo "Hey World!";

perform higherOrderFunction(callable $func) {


Listed here are some easy examples of higher-order features that return a perform:

perform trimMessage1() {
  return 'trim';

perform trimMessage2() {
    return perform($textual content) {
        return trim($textual content);

$trim1 = trimMessage1(); 

echo $trim1('  howdy world  ');

$trim2 = trimMessage1(); 

echo $trim2('  howdy world  ');

As you’ll be able to think about, you’ll be able to soak up a perform and in addition use that to generate one other perform that’s returned. Fairly neat trick, proper? However why would you need to do any of this? It appears like one thing that may merely make issues extra difficult.

Why Would You Use or Create a Larger-order Perform?

There are a number of causes you may need to create higher-order features in your code. Every part from code flexibility, code reuse, code extension or to mimic a code resolution you noticed in one other program. Whereas the explanations are quite a few, we’ll cowl just a few of them right here.

Including code flexibility

Larger-order features add a ton of flexibility. Based mostly on the earlier examples, you in all probability can see just a few makes use of for one thing like this. You possibly can write a single perform that takes in an entire suite of various features and makes use of them with out having to put in writing code to execute them individually.

Perhaps the higher-order perform itself doesn’t know what kind of perform it’ll obtain. Who stated that the perform has to know something concerning the perform it’s taking in? One minute the enter perform may very well be an add() perform, and within the subsequent it may very well be a divide() perform. In both case it simply works.

Simply increase your code

This performance additionally makes it simpler so as to add extra enter features later. Let’s say you might have add() and divide(), however down the street it’s essential add a sum() perform. You possibly can write the sum() perform and pipe it by way of the higher-order perform with out ever having to alter it. In a later instance, we’ll reveal how we are able to use this performance to create our personal calc() perform.

Imitate options of one other language

One more reason you may need to use a higher-order perform in PHP is to simulate the habits of one thing like a decorator in Python. You “wrap” a perform inside one other perform to switch how that perform behaves. For example, you would write a perform that instances different features. You write a higher-order perform that takes in a perform, begins a timer, calls the perform, then ends the timer to see how a lot time has elapsed.

Examples of Present Larger-order Capabilities in PHP

It’s actually easy to seek out examples of higher-order features in PHP. Take a look at the PHP documentation and discover a perform/methodology that takes a callable enter parameter and also you’ve discovered one. Under are just a few examples of generally used higher-order features. You may need even used them with out ever figuring out they have been higher-order features.

The upper-order dynamic duo: array_map and array_filter

$arrayOfNums = [1,2,3,4,5];

$doubledNums = array_map(perform($num) {
  return $num * 2;
}, $arrayOfNums);


Let’s see how you can use one other one, this time with a filter perform we’ve outlined individually:

$arrayOfNums = [1,2,3,4,5];

perform isEven($num) {
  return ($num % 2) === 0;

$evenNums = array_filter($arrayOfNums, 'isEven');


array_filter and array_map are two very talked-about higher-order features that you just’ll discover in loads of code tasks. One other one you may use is call_user_func, which takes in a perform and an inventory of arguments and calls on that perform. That is primarily a custom-made higher-order perform. Its entire objective is to name different features that the consumer has outlined:

perform printCustomMessage($message) {
  echo "$message";

call_user_func('printCustomMessage', 'Known as customized message by way of using call_user_func!');

Learn how to Create Your Personal Larger-order Capabilities

We’ve proven numerous examples of how higher-order features work in PHP, and we’ve already created just a few customized ones to reveal their numerous functions. However let’s showcase the pliability a bit extra with a brand new perform we’ll name calc(). This perform will soak up two arguments and a perform that can function on these two arguments to offer us a consequence:

perform add($a, $b) {
  return $a + $b;

perform subtract($a, $b) {
  return $a - $b;

perform multiply($a, $b) {
  return $a * $b;

perform calc($n1, $n2, $math_func) {
  return $math_func($n1, $n2);

$addedNums = calc(1, 5, 'add');
$subtractedNums = calc(1, 5, 'subtract');
$multipliedNums = calc(1, 5, 'multiply');

echo "Added numbers: $addedNumsn";

echo "Subtracted numbers: $subtractedNumsn";

echo "Multiplied numbers: $multipliedNumsn";

Discover that our calc() perform was written very generically to absorb a set of different features and calls them with parameters $n1 and $n2. On this case, our calculation perform doesn’t care what the perform it takes in does. It simply passes alongside the parameters to the perform and returns the consequence.

However wait a minute: our boss simply requested us so as to add a perform so as to add two strings collectively in our present system. However concatenating strings isn’t your typical math operation. Nevertheless, with our setup right here, we simply want so as to add within the string concatenation and pipe it by way of calc():

perform addTwoStrings($a, $b) {
  return $a . " " . $b;

$concatenatedStrings = calc('Hey', 'World!', 'addTwoStrings');

Whereas this instance may be very contrived, it demonstrates the way you may use the idea in greater tasks. Perhaps the higher-order perform determines how occasions are dealt with. Perhaps, primarily based on the occasion triggered, you’ll be able to route it by way of a handler perform you move in. The probabilities are countless.

How does this examine to different languages which have higher-order features? Let’s take a easy instance decorator in Python and examine it to JavaScript after which examine it to PHP. This fashion, if you understand Python or JS, you’ll be able to see how it’s equal.

A side-by-side comparability with Python and JavaScript

def say_message(func):
    def wrapper():
        print('Print earlier than perform is known as')
        print('Print after perform is known as')
    return wrapper

def say_hello_world():
    print("Hey World!")

say_hello_world = say_message(say_hello_world)


Now let’s see how this may be achieved in JavaScript higher-order features:

perform say_message(func) {
  return perform() {
      console.log("Print earlier than perform is known as");
      console.log("Print after perform is known as");

perform say_hello_world() {
  console.log("Hey World!");

say_hello = say_message(say_hello_world);


Now lastly, let’s examine this with PHP:

perform say_message($func) {
  return perform() use ($func) {
      echo "Print earlier than perform is known as";
      echo "Print after perform is known as";

perform say_hello_world() {
  echo "Hey World!";

$say_hello = say_message('say_hello_world');


As you’ll be able to see from the side-by-side comparability, the PHP model is similar to the JavaScript syntax. But when you understand a bit about Python and interior designers, you’ll be able to see how decorators may be translated to one of many different two programming languages.

A Fast Phrase on Lambdas/Nameless Capabilities

Many instances, if you’re working with higher-order features, you may even see using inline nameless features (aka lambdas). In a number of the examples we’ve seen above, I’ve used this format. Along with that, I’ve additionally used the extra express model of defining the perform first after which passing it to our higher-order perform. That is so that you just get used to seeing each variations. Most of the time, you’ll see the inline lambda model in frameworks that make heavy use of higher-order features. Don’t let this format throw you. They’re simply making a easy perform, with no identify, and utilizing that rather than the place you’d have given the stand-alone perform identify.


On this article, we lined the fundamental definition of what makes a perform a higher-order perform. Any perform that takes in a perform or returns a perform (or each) may be thought-about a higher-order perform. We additionally talked a bit about why you may need to create these kind of features and what their benefits are.

We then confirmed some examples of present higher-order features in PHP, like array_map and array_filter, after which went on to create our personal higher-order perform referred to as calc(), which took a number of enter features and operated on a few arguments. We then went right into a side-by-side comparability, displaying how PHP’s resolution appears in comparison with a Python decorator and JavaScript implementation.
I hope you realized a bit extra about higher-order features and why you may need to contemplate them in your subsequent large-scale resolution. They will provide many benefits and cut back boiler-plate code that could be redundant.

Should you’d prefer to study extra about practical programming in PHP, you’ll be able to seek the advice of our tutorial.

Thanks for studying!



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