How do I implement a callback in PHP?



How are callbacks written in PHP?

9/8/2008 12:53:34 AM

Accepted Answer

The manual uses the terms "callback" and "callable" interchangeably, however, "callback" traditionally refers to a string or array value that acts like a function pointer, referencing a function or class method for future invocation. This has allowed some elements of functional programming since PHP 4. The flavors are:

$cb1 = 'someGlobalFunction';
$cb2 = ['ClassName', 'someStaticMethod'];
$cb3 = [$object, 'somePublicMethod'];

// this syntax is callable since PHP 5.2.3 but a string containing it
// cannot be called directly
$cb2 = 'ClassName::someStaticMethod';
$cb2(); // fatal error

// legacy syntax for PHP 4
$cb3 = array(&$object, 'somePublicMethod');

This is a safe way to use callable values in general:

if (is_callable($cb2)) {
    // Autoloading will be invoked to load the class "ClassName" if it's not
    // yet defined, and PHP will check that the class has a method
    // "someStaticMethod". Note that is_callable() will NOT verify that the
    // method can safely be executed in static context.

    $returnValue = call_user_func($cb2, $arg1, $arg2);

Modern PHP versions allow the first three formats above to be invoked directly as $cb(). call_user_func and call_user_func_array support all the above.



  1. If the function/class is namespaced, the string must contain the fully-qualified name. E.g. ['Vendor\Package\Foo', 'method']
  2. call_user_func does not support passing non-objects by reference, so you can either use call_user_func_array or, in later PHP versions, save the callback to a var and use the direct syntax: $cb();
  3. Objects with an __invoke() method (including anonymous functions) fall under the category "callable" and can be used the same way, but I personally don't associate these with the legacy "callback" term.
  4. The legacy create_function() creates a global function and returns its name. It's a wrapper for eval() and anonymous functions should be used instead.
1/19/2015 2:45:45 PM

With PHP 5.3, you can now do this:

function doIt($callback) { $callback(); }

doIt(function() {
    // this will be done

Finally a nice way to do it. A great addition to PHP, because callbacks are awesome.

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