Conditional Class Declaration – bad practice?

Share this article

Was perturbed to read one on the comments on Zend’s PHP5 – Ask the Experts;


Q: In PHP 5 (rc1-dev)… is there any reason why you can’t do this?
if (!defined('SOMETHING')) { class HelloWorld { .... } }


A: This is a problem we know about. In general, we don’t recommend doing conditional declarations of classes because it isn’t a very good programming practice. However it is yet unclear, if it will be supported, and it might be.

OK – in general to declare classes conditionally, for no other good reason than because you can, is probably a bad idea.

But as I was advocating here
, there are very good reasons, IMO, why conditional declaration (i.e. conditional includes) are a good idea, the #1 being so that you can reduce the code “footprint” being included on every page request, when running your app on a typical shared PHP host (where PHP accelerators generally aren’t available).

If it’s a question of declaring which files are could be included in any given script up at the top, for the sake of readability etc., a simple tip via Jason Sweat, is something like;

if ( FALSE ) { require_once 'dbconn.php'; require_once 'logger.php'; require_once 'auth.php'; // etc. }



Although none of those classes will every be loaded at this point, it makes it easily visible what might get included in the script later on, so they’re visible to other developers and easy to document with phpDocumentor.

Could be I’m over reacting to a statement that just needs more qualification but makes me nervous to see it on Zend, from one of PHP’s core developers.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Conditional Class Declaration

What is a conditional class declaration in programming?

A conditional class declaration is a programming concept where a class is declared based on certain conditions. This means that the class will only be declared if the specified conditions are met. This is a technique used in various programming languages including PHP, Java, and C++. It allows for more dynamic and flexible code, as the class structure can be altered based on different scenarios or inputs.

Is conditional class declaration considered a bad practice?

The use of conditional class declarations can be seen as a bad practice in certain contexts. This is because it can lead to unpredictable behavior and make the code harder to understand and maintain. However, there are situations where it can be useful, such as when dealing with optional dependencies or platform-specific code. It’s important to use this technique judiciously and ensure that it doesn’t compromise the readability and maintainability of your code.

How does conditional class declaration work in Java?

In Java, conditional class declaration is not directly supported. Instead, you can achieve similar functionality using conditional statements and inner classes. An inner class can be declared within a method, and this declaration can be made conditional based on the method’s parameters or other conditions.

How does conditional class declaration work in C++?

In C++, conditional class declaration can be achieved using preprocessor directives. The #ifdef directive can be used to conditionally compile a class declaration based on whether a certain macro is defined. This can be useful for handling platform-specific code or optional features.

How does conditional class declaration work in JavaScript?

JavaScript does not directly support conditional class declarations. However, you can achieve similar functionality using conditional statements and class expressions. A class expression allows you to declare a class without a name, and this declaration can be made conditional based on certain conditions.

What are the potential issues with conditional class declaration?

Conditional class declaration can lead to several issues. It can make the code harder to understand and maintain, as the class structure can change based on different conditions. It can also lead to unpredictable behavior, as the class may not be declared as expected if the conditions are not met. Furthermore, it can make debugging more difficult, as it can be harder to trace the source of an issue.

What are the alternatives to conditional class declaration?

There are several alternatives to conditional class declaration. One approach is to use interfaces or abstract classes to define a common structure for different classes. Another approach is to use design patterns such as the Strategy pattern or the Factory pattern, which allow you to encapsulate varying behavior in different classes.

How can I use conditional class declaration effectively?

To use conditional class declaration effectively, it’s important to use it judiciously and ensure that it doesn’t compromise the readability and maintainability of your code. You should also thoroughly test your code to ensure that the class is declared as expected under different conditions.

Can conditional class declaration improve the performance of my code?

Conditional class declaration can potentially improve the performance of your code by reducing the amount of unnecessary code that is compiled or executed. However, the performance gain is usually minimal and may not justify the potential issues associated with this technique.

Is conditional class declaration supported in all programming languages?

No, conditional class declaration is not supported in all programming languages. Some languages, such as Java and JavaScript, do not directly support this feature. However, you can achieve similar functionality using other techniques, such as conditional statements and inner classes or class expressions.

Harry FuecksHarry Fuecks
View Author

Harry Fuecks is the Engineering Project Lead at Tamedia and formerly the Head of Engineering at Squirro. He is a data-driven facilitator, leader, coach and specializes in line management, hiring software engineers, analytics, mobile, and marketing. Harry also enjoys writing and you can read his articles on SitePoint and Medium.

Read Next
Get the freshest news and resources for developers, designers and digital creators in your inbox each week
Loading form