Executing PHP files

The CLI SAPI has three different ways of getting the PHP code you want to execute:

  1. Telling PHP to execute a certain file.

    $ php my_script.php
    
    $ php -f my_script.php
    

    Both ways (whether using the -f switch or not) execute the file my_script.php. You can choose any file to execute, and your PHP scripts do not have to end with the .php extension but can have any name or extension you wish.

    Note:

    If you need to pass arguments to your scripts you need to pass -- as the first argument when using the -f switch.

  2. Pass the PHP code to execute directly on the command line.

    $ php -r 'print_r(get_defined_constants());'
    

    Special care has to be taken in regards of shell variable substitution and quoting usage.

    Note:

    Read the example carefully, there are no beginning or ending tags! The -r switch simply does not need them. Using them will lead to a parser error.

  3. Provide the PHP code to execute via standard input (stdin).

    This gives the powerful ability to dynamically create PHP code and feed it to the binary, as shown in this (fictional) example:

    $ some_application | some_filter | php | sort -u > final_output.txt
    
You cannot combine any of the three ways to execute code.

Like every shell application, the PHP binary accepts a number of arguments but your PHP script can also receive arguments. The number of arguments which can be passed to your script is not limited by PHP (the shell has a certain size limit in the number of characters which can be passed; usually you won't hit this limit). The arguments passed to your script are available in the global array $argv. The zero index always contains the script name (which is - in case the PHP codeis coming from either standard input or from the command line switch -r ). The second registered global variable is $argc which contains the number of elements in the $argv array (not the number of arguments passed to the script).

As long as the arguments you want to pass to your script do not start with the - character, there's nothing special to watch out for. Passing an argument to your script which starts with a - will cause trouble because PHP itself thinks it has to handle it. To prevent this, use the argument list separator --. After this separator has been parsed by PHP, every argument following it is passed untouched to your script.

# This will not execute the given code but will show the PHP usage
$ php -r 'var_dump($argv);' -h
Usage: php [options] [-f] <file> [args...]
[...]

# This will pass the '-h' argument to your script and prevent PHP from showing it's usage
$ php -r 'var_dump($argv);' -- -h
array(2) {
  [0]=>
  string(1) "-"
  [1]=>
  string(2) "-h"
}

However on Unix systems, there's another way of using PHP for shell scripting. You can write a script where the first line starts with #!/usr/bin/php (substitute with the path to your PHP CLI binary if necessary. Following this you can place normal PHP code included within the PHP starting and end tags. Once you have set the execution attributes of the file appropriately (e.g. chmod +x test) your script can be executed like a normal shell or perl script:

Example #1 Execute PHP script as shell script

#!/usr/bin/php
<?php
var_dump
($argv);
?>

Assuming this file is named test in the current directory, we can now do the following:

$ chmod +x test
$ ./test -h -- foo
array(4) {
  [0]=>
  string(6) "./test"
  [1]=>
  string(2) "-h"
  [2]=>
  string(2) "--"
  [3]=>
  string(3) "foo"
}

As you see, in this case no care needs to be taken when passing parameters which start with - to your script.

The PHP executable can be used to run PHP scripts absolutely independent from the web server. If you are on a Unix system, you should add a special first line to your PHP script, and make it executable, so the system will know, what program should run the script. On a Windows platform you can associate php.exe with the double click option of the .php files, or you can make a batch file to run the script through PHP. The first line added to the script to work on Unix won't hurt on Windows, so you can write cross platform programs this way. A simple example of writing a command line PHP program can be found below.

Example #2 Script intended to be run from command line (script.php)

#!/usr/bin/php
<?php

if ($argc != || in_array($argv[1], array('--help''-help''-h''-?'))) {
?>

This is a command line PHP script with one option.

  Usage:
  <?php echo $argv[0]; ?> <option>

  <option> can be some word you would like
  to print out. With the --help, -help, -h,
  or -? options, you can get this help.

<?php
} else {
    echo 
$argv[1];
}
?>

In the script above, we used the special first line to indicate that this file should be run by PHP. We work with a CLI version here, so there will be no HTTP header printouts. There are two variables you can use while writing command line applications with PHP: $argc and $argv. The first is the number of arguments plus one (the name of the script running). The second is an array containing the arguments, starting with the script name as number zero ($argv[0]).

In the program above we checked if there are less or more than one arguments. Also if the argument was --help , -help , -h or -? , we printed out the help message, printing the script name dynamically. If we received some other argument we echoed that out.

If you would like to run the above script on Unix, you need to make it executable, and simply call it as script.php echothis or script.php -h. On Windows, you can make a batch file for this task:

Example #3 Batch file to run a command line PHP script (script.bat)

@echo OFF
"C:\php\php.exe" script.php %*

Assuming you named the above program script.php, and you have your CLI php.exe in C:\php\php.exe this batch file will run it for you with your added options: script.bat echothis or script.bat -h.

See also the Readline extension documentation for more functions you can use to enhance your command line applications in PHP.

If you are on Windows, PHP can be configured to run without the need to supply the C:\php\php.exe or the .php extension, as descibed in Command Line PHP on Microsoft Windows.