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PHP, no doubt, is one of the popular scripting languages that are easy to understand and learn. With a comprehensive PHP tutorial and positive motivation, you will be able to write your first PHP scripts and run commands in a matter of a few hours. While the PHP 7 version came with speed optimization features and improvements intended to improve ranking, the PHP 8 version, released in November 2020, further improved on this area and came up with other new features.

Since Zend is a PHP-based, open-source web application framework, it is essential that Zend developers should look into the PHP 8 new features and improvements to see how these changes can impact Zend application development in the future.

The Release of the Latest PHP 8.0 Version 

The PHP 8.0.0 version was released on 26th November 2020.  The earlier PHP versions including PHP 7.1 and 7.2 have already reached their end of lives, meaning that they won’t receive any official support and updates. Many websites are still running on the older versions of PHP due to various reasons. Even though it’s technically possible, it’s not advisable to rely on the outdated versions for long. You must always make sure that your website code is up-to-date. Switching to the latest PHP version, currently, it’s PHP 8.0.0, brings many advantages in terms of new functions that offer more variety, performance, and security.

If you’ve indulged in PHP Zend framework development, then you should consider these new PHP 8 features and improvements to see how these changes can influence your Zend application development.

New Functions Introduced by the PHP 8 Version

For those who are involved in PHP Zend framework development, PHP 8 has introduced a few new functions, which includes:

  • str_contains
  • str_starts_with and str_ends_with
  • preg_last_error_msg
  • get_debug_type

The Following Are the New PHP 8 Features and Improvements 

The new PHP 8.0.0 version has introduced some new features that provide web application developers with numerous additional possibilities. This blog focuses on some of the most important improvements compared to its previous versions.

1) PHP JIT Compiler 

PHP JIT (Just In Time) compiler is one of the significant features introduced in the new PHP 8 version. Since PHP code is interpreted line by line and not compiled, the JIT compiler compiles parts of the code during runtime. When it does so, it acts much like a cached version of the PHP code. After several tests, it was found that the PHP JIT compiler increases performance by over 45%.

2) Union Types 2.0

Union Types are identified from the other programming languages such as C/C++, Haskell, or TypeScript. This feature allows for moving two or more types of information from PHPDoc annotations to the function signatures. Direct support to union types in the language provides various advantages including syntax simplification and optimization, reduction of the risk of type information becoming obsolete, and advanced error detection.

However, there’s a limitation. Since void cannot be a part of a union type, it does not give return values. Additionally, nullable unions can be declared with | null or ?. So, arbitrary union types are not supported for now.

3) Resource “Classes”

Resource “Classes” are another significant improvement in PHP 8 version. They act as non-instantiable replacements for particular resource types. The following are the available replacements.

  • CurlHandle — The function curl_init() now returns CurlHandle, which describes a curl resource.
  • GdImage — GdImage, returned by the different imagecreatefrom*() functions, represents a GD resource.
  • Socket/ AddressInfo — The various socket_*() functions and the socket_address_info_lookup() function, all provided by the sockets extension, return a Socket and an AddressInfo instance respectively.

However, the resources are not damaged by functions like curl_close() anymore. You need to unset() the instance to de-reference it as it has been converted into a class instance.

You will be now able to specify these classes as type hints in your functions and methods. Earlier, you had to keep resource arguments or return values untyped and document them through annotations. But now, you can have explicit types that will make your code more readable and type-safe.

However, you will have to update your code to destroy resources with unset() rather than using the previous functions to destroy resources. This is normally done with search and replace. In case you’re stuck with PHP coding issues while developing your Zend application, you may take help from a dedicated Zend maintenance and support team for professional assistance.

4) Reflection API Changes

This is a minor yet important change in the PHP 8 version. With the attribute system, it is possible to fetch those attributes using the Reflection API on other reflection classes. With the introduction of union and mixed types, various ReflectionParameter methods such as getClass(), isArray() and isCallable() have become deprecated in the new PHP 8 version. It’s because it is more beneficial to use getType(), as it provides you with a comprehensive list of types that specific parameter meets.

5) Match Expressions

Match expressions help developers to avoid the amount of guesswork associated with deciding whether the failure to break within a switch case is deliberate or not. The expressions also simplify the common pattern of assigning a value according to a match.

When you’re using match expressions, the value passed to match() will be directly compared with any expression given on the left-hand side. Be it a value or an expression, whatever value you pass to match() should match it for it to be selected. Once it is matched, the right-hand side expression is evaluated and its return value is returned. However, the expressions need to be only callables or lambda functions and not multi-line closures.

Also Read: Top 10 Factors to Consider While Choosing a PHP Framework

6) Attributes

The new PHP 8 version also includes attributes at the language level. This new PHP 8 feature allows adding structured metadata directly with the native PHP syntax without the use of PHPDoc annotations. These attributes can be applied to functions, classes, interfaces, and more. Having attributes built into the language ensures better performance, more power, and more consistency.

7) Named Arguments

Being order-independent and self-documented, name arguments enable omitting optional parameters. This feature allows naming parameters only when calling a function.

Named arguments help developers to simply overwrite the default values that need to be changed. This eliminates the need for specifying all the default values. Other than that, named arguments can also be combined with normal, positional arguments.

Wrapping Up
So, these are some of the significant features that come with the new PHP 8.0 version. The new version also includes further features such as nullsafe operator, the constructor property promotion RFC, etc.  It also offers the type system, and error handling improvements including static return type, stricter type checks for arithmetic and bitwise operators, or reclassified engine warnings. Check website for information.

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