Programming - - By Harry Fuecks

Is configuration with arrays a bad smell?

Something I see fairly often in PHP, where OOP / classes are concerned;

$options = array (
'name' => 'Harry Fuecks',
'favoritecolors' => array ('red','green','blue'),
'favoritefoods' => array (
'breakfast' => 'English Breakfast',
'lunch' => 'Steak and chips',
'dinner' => 'Tandori Chicken',
'etcetc' => 'aarrrgh!'

$person = new Person($options);

In other words a giant array used to “configure” the runtime behaviour of an object.

For me this is a bad smell. For a start it usually means there’s some giant class method in there somewhere which deals with “parsing” the array and reacting accordingly. More importantly, think it’s a nightmare for the user – arrays are hard to document and easy to get wrong when you’re hand-coding one.

I’d much rather see something like;

$person = new Person();
$person->name('Harry Fuecks');
$person->addFavFood('breakfast','English Breakfast');
$person->addFavFood('lunch','Steak and Chips');
$person->addFavFood('dinner','Tandori Chicken');

The methods are easy to document (with phpDocumentor) and, IMO, it’s alot easier to test / use. The API makes what’s happening explicit.

Otherwise, wise use of parse_ini_file(). PHP can parse an ini file into variables faster than it can parse and execute an equivalent PHP script….

Rant over.