Is configuration with arrays a bad smell?

    Harry Fuecks

    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.