Technology | Security | Making

Pharse: a Library for PHP Command-line Option Parsing

tags: +foss +php

I enjoy using PHP for writing command-line applications. PHP’s power and flexibility make it ideal, in my opinion, for writing both full-featured applications, as well as for use as a “glue language” for automating various system-administrative tasks. There’s one area where PHP has traditionally fallen short in my mind, however - it lacks a good command-line option parser.

While hacking around in Ruby a while ago, I discovered the Trollop gem, which I consider to be an absolutely first-class command-line option parser. A few nights ago, I hacked around for a few hours, trying to port its functionality over to PHP. The result is Pharse - a lightweight command-line option parsing library for PHP. Pharse is available for free download and use on Github.

Pharse is designed to be easy to use and configure. To use the library, simply import its base file into your application. From there, options may be specified as an associative array:

# specify some options
$options = array(
'user_name'    => array(
  'description' => 'Your username',
  'default'     => 'admin',
  'type'        => 'string',
  'required'    => true,
  'short'       => 'u',
'password'      => array(
  'description' => 'Your password',
  'default'     => 'sexsecretlovegod',
  'type'        => 'string',
  'required'    => true,
# You may specify a program banner thusly:
$banner = "This program logs you in to the Gibson.";
# After you've configured Pharse, run it like so:
$opts = Pharse::options($options);

Pharse will perform basic validation and type-checking on the inputs. Provided that the user inputs satisfied the specified constraints, they will be accessible via (in this case) the $opts array. It will also create handy booleans for determining whether or not a certain (un-required) variable was provided, as in $opts['user_name_given']. This functionality is better explained in the project documentation and example.


There are two things you should know before you start using Pharse in your own projects.

First: I hacked out Pharse quickly for casual use on personal projects. I have not yet taken the time to write formal unit tests for it. With that said, be sure to thoroughly kick its tires before choosing to use it in a production environment.

Second: For my own purposes, I don’t need sub-command support (git push origin master, etc), so unlike Trollop, Pharse does not currently support subcommands. If my own needs change, I may add this functionality in the future.