Basic constructs

C is a very low-level language by modern definitions. This means that it has no built-in support for many features that PHP takes for granted, such as reflection, dynamic module loading, bounds checking, threadsafe data management and various useful data structures including linked lists and hash tables. At the same time, C is a common denominator of language support and functionality. Given enough work, none of these concepts are impossible; the Zend Engine uses them all.

A lot of effort has gone into making the Zend API both extensible and understandable, but C forces certain necessary declarations upon any extension that to an inexperienced eye seem redundant or plain unnecessary. All of those constructs, detailed in this section, are "write once and forget" in Zend Engine 2 and 3. Here are some excerpts from the pre-generated php_counter.h and counter.c files created by PHP 5.3's ext_skel, showing the pre-generated declarations:

Замечание: The astute reader will notice that there are several declarations in the real files that aren't shown here. Those declarations are specific to various Zend subsystems and are discussed elsewhere as appropriate.

extern zend_module_entry counter_module_entry;
#define phpext_counter_ptr &counter_module_entry

#ifdef PHP_WIN32
#    define PHP_COUNTER_API __declspec(dllexport)
#elif defined(__GNUC__) && __GNUC__ >= 4
#    define PHP_COUNTER_API __attribute__ ((visibility("default")))
#    define PHP_COUNTER_API

#ifdef ZTS
#include "TSRM.h"
#include "config.h"

#include "php.h"
#include "php_ini.h"
#include "ext/standard/info.h"
#include "php_counter.h"

/* ... */

  • The lines concerning counter_module_entry declare a global variable, and a macroed pointer to it, which contains the zend_module_entry for the extension. Despite the later discussion regarding the drawbacks of "true" globals, this usage is intentional; Zend takes precautions to avoid misusing this variable.
  • PHP_COUNTER_API is declared for use by non-PHP functions the module intends to export for the use of other modules. The counter extension doesn't declare any of these, and in the final version of the header file, this macro has been removed. The PHPAPI macro is declared identically elsewhere and is used by the standard extension to make the phpinfo() utility functions available to other extensions.
  • The include of TSRM.h is skipped if PHP, or the extension, isn't being compiled with thread-safety, since in that case TSRM isn't used.
  • A standard list of includes, especially the extension's own php_counter.h, is given. config.h gives the extension access to determinations made by configure. php.h is the gateway to the entire PHP and Zend APIs. php_ini.h adds the APIs for runtime configuration (INI) entries. Not all extensions will use this. Finally, ext/standard/info.h imports the aforementioned phpinfo() utility API.
  • COMPILE_DL_COUNTER will only be defined by configure if the counter extension is both enabled and wants to be built as a dynamically loadable module instead of being statically linked into PHP. ZEND_GET_MODULE defines a tiny function which Zend can use to get the extension's zend_module_entry at runtime.

    Замечание: The astute reader who has peeked into main/php_config.h after trying to build with the counter module enabled statically may have noticed that there is also a HAVE_COUNTER constant defined that the source code doesn't check for. There's a simple reason this check isn't done: It's unnecessary. If the extension isn't enabled, the source file will never be compiled.


Comparing C to PHP is unfair since C++ has so much more than C. You can say that you would have much more if C++ could be used but since it is not you must use what C offers. I am not criticizing PHP but it seems inappropriate to make PHP appear to be better than another language in a misleading way.

Go ahead and delete this if you want to but I hope the documentation is revised appropriately.
2016-09-11 08:12:47
The guy who commented on being unable to use C++ for writing extensions is utterly wrong. You easily can. And you can also use Fortran, naturally, which is an invaluable asset in developing advanced extensions. You just need to know how ;-) Hint: RTFM on ABI, calling conventions, and features of your favorite link editor. And remember: you ALWAYS can call object code produced by compilers of other languages from C, ABI bridging is trivial, and in many cases simplified by the toolchain itself.
2017-08-12 18:22:26

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