May 31, 2020
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PHP 5 OOP: Interfaces Abstract Classes and the Adapter Pattern

  • By Adam Delves
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PHP 5 made significant improvements on the Object Orientated programming model of PHP 4 bringing it more in line with languages such as Visual Basic .NET and Java. The improved object model in PHP 5 makes developing applications using OOP much easier and gives you the programmer, greater flexibility.

In this series of articles I will demonstrate the new features of the PHP 5 object and show you how to create a database abstraction layer similar to PEAR DB. I will also introduce you to a few design patterns that can be applied to common OOP related problems.

In this article, I introduce you to some of the features of the PHP 5 object model. You will see how to create a database abstraction layer similar to the Pear DB abstraction layer. You'll also learn how to adapt this abstraction layer for your own uses.


One of PHP's stronger areas is its support for database connectivity. It is able to connect to and talk to just about any database server or interface you can imagine. However, with this comes a few inherent problems; each database system has its own features, functions and in most cases they have their own versions of SQL. Although the functions used to access these databases are similar they do vary subtly meaning that if you were to want to port an application written for MySql to MS SQL server, the refactoring would require manually changing all calls to mysql_query() to mssql_query().

While we are not going to go as far as developing a database independent version of SQL, the new features of PHP 5 will be us build a consistent database API with support for stored procedures (where it is not already present). This will then make switching from one database system to another as painless as changing one line of code.

Interfaces Abstract Classes and the Adapter Pattern

The first features new to PHP 5 to be covered in this article are abstract classes and interfaces. These concepts are nothing more than features added to OOP, which help the programmer follow good coding standards.

Abstract Classes

An abstract class is a class that is only partially implemented by the programmer. It may contain one or more abstract methods. An abstract method is simply a function definition that serves to tell the programmer that the method must be implemented in a child class.

To create an abstract class we use the code shown in Listing 1:

Listing 1: An Abstract PHP class

abstract class Weapon  
    private $SerialNumber;  
    abstract public function fire();  

    public function __construct($SerialNumber)  
        $this->SerialNumber = $SerialNumber;  

    public function getSerialNumber()  
        return $this->SerialNumber;  

The abstract class in Listing 1 contains some of the methods required for a weapon. The fire() method however, cannot be implemented because each different weapons use different firing different mechanisms. The method is therefore declared as abstract, meaning it will be implemented in a more specific child class.

Because the class is abstract, an instance of it can never be created (remember, it is only a partial implementation). Instead a child class must be created using inheritance and implement the fire method in itself. Failure to do so will result in a fatal error. Listing 2 shows a child class being created from the Abstract Weapon class.

Listing 2: Extending the Abstract Weapons class

class Gun extends Weapon  
    public function fire()  
        if($this->SafetyOff) {  
            return $this->CurrentBullet;  

class Cannon extends Weapon  
    public function fire()  
        $this->NeedsLoading = true;  
        return $this->CurrentCanon;  

An instance of the Cannon and Gun classes can now be created because they now fully implemented subclasses of weapon.


An interface is similar to an abstract class; indeed interfaces occupy the same namespace as classes and abstract classes. For that reason, you cannot define an interface with the same name as a class. An interface is a fully abstract class; none of its methods are implemented and instead of a class sub-classing from it, it is said to implement that interface.

An interface will be used in the database abstraction layer you create. This ensures that every time you create a class for a particular database, the same API is exposed. When using an interface, you can then rely on the methods defined for the interface to be part of the class because, if they are not, PHP will not parse it.

The MySql functions will be used as an example because they are the most commonly used amongst PHP programmers. The most commonly used functions are:

  • mysql_connect()
  • mysql_error()
  • mysql_errno()
  • mysql_query()
  • mysql_fetch_array()
  • mysql_fetch_row()
  • mysql_fetch_assoc()
  • mysql_fetch_object()
  • mysql_num_rows()
  • mysql_close()

If all the database class APIs you create can expose the same methods with the same return types then you can be sure that changing from one database to another, such as from MySql to Postgre SQL, will be painless. As such, the interface in listing 3 can be determined for your API.

Listing 3: An Abstracted Database Interface

interface DB 
    public function connect(); 
    public function error(); 
    public function errno(); 
    public static function escape_string($string); 
    public function query($query); 
    public function fetch_array($result); 
    public function fetch_row($result); 
    public function fetch_assoc($result); 
    public function fetch_object($result); 
    public function num_rows($result); 
    public function close(); 

Any class implementing the interface must define each method that is declared in the interface, and each method must have at least the parameters identified in their interface definitions. It may have more parameters as long as they are optional, but it cannot have less.

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This article was originally published on May 5, 2006

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