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Oracle Tips by Burleson 

Interfaces and Abstract Classes

No discussion of OO concepts would be complete without interfaces and abstract classes. These notions exist in some form in all OO modern languages. C++, Java and Python are the first ones that come to mind. There is a noticeable absence of Perl from this chapter and this is because Perl has never been designed to be an OO language. Those features were added, but Perl OO facilities are a complicated patchwork added to the language after the fact. Allegedly, Perl version 6 will have an OO part redesigned from the ground up, just as PHP has redesigned its OO part in version 5.

So, what are interfaces and abstractclasses? Interfacesand abstract classes are an OO construction to force classes to implement certain functions. Interface is simply a list of functions each class that implements that interface must define. Here is an example:

interface emp  {
      public function get_empno($name);
      public function manage($empno);

A class can commit itself to implement those functions by saying so in the class declaration:

class  employee implements emp {

Implementing interfaces is a weaker form of inheritance in which no assumption on data members is made and no parent class exists and no parent constructor can be called. No assumption is made regarding the objects of the class that implements an interface except the availability of the methods defined in the interface.

Another form of inheritance is inheriting from an abstractconcept. What is an “abstract concept”? An abstract concept is a class that is too abstract for creating actual objects of that class. For instance, the class “domestic animal” is too general for having actual objects of that class. Real domestic animals need more distinguishing characteristics before objects of that class can be instantiated. Such classes are called “abstract classes” and can only be used via an inheritance mechanism. Abstract classes are marked by the keyword “abstract”, as in the next example:

           abstractclass A {
                                    abstract function
                                    abstract function fun2($arg1);
                                    public function fun3($arg1) {
This class cannot be used directly in an expression like:

    $x=new A;

Because class A is abstract, this class can only be extended and the client class must implement all functions that are marked as abstract. In the example above, any class inheriting from class A must implement functions fun1 and fun2, but does not have to implement the function fun3. The function fun3 is passed down the inheritance chain.

So, abstract classes are the classes that must be extended in order to be used, and abstract functions are functions that must be overridden in order to be used. Interestingly enough, there exists a direct opposite of abstract classes and functions. A direct opposite of an abstract class or a function is a final class or function as the following declaration reveals:

    finalclass A {

Class A in this example cannot be extended. No class can inherit from it.  Similarly, a function can be declared “final”, even if the class itself is not final. If the function show_emp()in example 12 is declared a final function, the class declaration would look like the following:

class employee {
        private static$counter=1;
        protected $ename;
        protected $empno;
        function __construct($ename) {
        final function show_emp() {
           echo $this->empno,"\t".$this->ename."\n";

The function show_emp() is now made “final”. If an attempt to execute the example12.php with a similar change, the following error will appear:

      $ example12.php

PHP Fatal error:  Cannot override finalmethod employee::show_emp() in /home/mgogala/work/PHP/example12.php on line 35


The error message is self explanatory and reveals that the functions declared as “final cannot be altered.

The concepts of an interface, abstractclass and final class or function are rather general and can be further refined by studying any other major OO language, such as C++ or Java. As these things are fairly new in PHP, examples of their use have not been found. The notion of the final function for the next section is needed.

See code depot for complete scripts

The above book excerpt is from:

Easy Oracle PHP

Create Dynamic Web Pages with Oracle Data

ISBN 0-9761573-0-6   

Mladen Gogala


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