Instances (objects)

Like in PHP, you declare classes and call new ClassName(…args). They are instances, or objects (synonym).
Unlike PHP, KPHP's instances have several limitations, that are similar to other compiled languages.

KPHP compiles PHP classes to C++ structures

This is times more efficient than PHP ZVAL and consumes significantly less memory than associative arrays.
KPHP classes behave identical to PHP: C++ wrapper class_instance<T> manages reference semantics.

// PHP
namespace SomeNs;

class A {
    /** @var int */
    public $a = 20;
    /** @var string|false */
    private $name = false;

    // __construct() and other methods
}

Such class with two fields and no inheritance will be converted to C++ structure:

// C++
struct C$SomeNs$A: public refcountable_php_classes<C$SomeNs$A> {
  int64_t $a{20L};
  Optional < string > $name{false};

  const char *get_class() const noexcept { return R"(A)"; }
  int get_hash() const noexcept { return 1128653198; }
};

Fields of classes are typed

KPHP infers types of class fields separately. If you don't specify any type to a field, it will be auto inferred:

class A {
  public $number = 0;   // inferred as 'mixed' due to string assignment below
}

$a = new A;
$a->number = "42";

Leaving fields untyped is strictly not recommended, use PHPDoc with @var to control types:

class A {
  /** @var int */
  public $number = 0;
}

$a = new A;
$a->number = "42";       // compilation error
$a->number = (int)"42";  // ok

Once your code has been successfully compiled, you are ensured, that all types match.

In PHPDoc, a valid syntax is to use @var with text comments simultaneously:

/**
 * You can write comment here
 * @var string|false and here
 */
public $str_val = false;

Using a single-line @var tag is a preferred code style convention:

// this is ok
/** @var string|false user name or false if not loaded */

// this is not recommended, as pollutes code with useless empty lines
/**
 * @var string|false user name or false if not loaded
 */

For now, KPHP as about PHP 7.2 language level, that’s why class fields type declarations are not parsed yet:
public int $a = 0;
Once supported, you’ll be able to use this, and after PHP 8 support union types will be allowed.

Compiler option to deny untyped classes

By default, this option is 0. If you write @var, it would be checked; otherwise, field type would be auto inferred.

If set to 1 (recommended), typing fields is a must — both static and instance fields:

  • either you lock type with @var
  • or with default value:

Declare field type with a default value

If compiler option KPHP_REQUIRE_CLASS_TYPING = 1, then if no @var, default value defines field type:

class A {
  // no @var, but due to =0 it is declared as int
  public $a = 0;
}
 
$a = new A;
$a->a = 3;       // ok
$a->a = 'str';   // error

If you need int OR something — not int — you should manually write @var.

If the default value is false, bool will be assumed:

class A {
  static public $inited = false;
}
A::$inited = true;   // ok
A::$inited = 'str';  // error

If you want string|false for example, declare @var explicitly.

As a result, instead of writing

  /** @var string */
  public $name;

you can do

  public $name = '';

It will be equal to KPHP, leaving fewer comments in code.
(It's better to write public string $name = ‘‘, but PHP 7.4 syntax is not supported yet)

If the default is an empty array — it will be like array in PHPDoc: an array of anything, as would be auto inferred. A good practice is to use @var to declare T[] anyway:

class A {
  // ok, but better to declare @var T[] — what type is here
  public $arr = [];
}
 
class B {
  // and here is int[] — due to default value
  static public $ids = [336098765];
}

This is just syntactic sugar for fewer @var — and thus works only if KPHP_REQUIRE_CLASS_TYPING = 1.

Limitations of instances

Main limitations are:

  • instances are not compatible with mixed; you can't return an instance or a string from function; an array can't contain both instances and primitives
  • you can only access fields by a constant name; $a->$some_prop is prohibited, calling a method by name can't be compiled also
  • no magic methods like __get(), __call() and others
  • reflection is not supported
  • serialize(), var_dump(), json_encode() and others can't be used with instances, as they accept mixed

Tip: you can partly bypass the last limitation with instance_to_array() and serialization.

Extends, implements — they work, just keep types in mind

Just as you can't mix instances and primitives, you can't mix instances, if they don't inherit a common base.

interface I1 {}

class A1 implements I1 {}
class A2 implements I1 {}
class B1 {}

// suppose we have no @param for $arg, it's auto inferred
function f($arg) {}

f(new A1);    // here type inferring thinks: $arg is A1 
f(new A2);    // here type inferring thinks: $arg is A1|A2 => $arg is I1
f(new B1);    // here type inferring encounters an error, as B1 and I1 are incompatible

Same for any arbitrary nesting:

function f() {
  return something
    ? tuple(1, [new A])
    : tuple(2, [new B]);    // error unless A and B have a common base
}

instances can be null

For now, KPHP doesn't track nullability at compile-time, and instances can carry null values (like in PHP).
To check whether $o is initialized, use if ($o !== null) or just if ($o).

function getCurrentUser(): ?User { /* ... */ }

$u = getCurrentUser();
if ($u)
  $u->logoutRedirect();

In PHPDoc and type hints, ClassName and ?ClassName are treated the same. Use ‘?' to emphasize the ability of null.

If you access a property of a null object, this object would be initialized in-place, triggering a runtime warning:

/** @var User $u */
$u = null;
$u->id = 4;    // in-place initialization + runtime warning

-> resolving: PHPDocs vs type inferring

When we write ...->f(), the compiler should guess, what type is before an arrow. Method f() may exist in many classes, and KPHP should know the class to bind this call to a concrete function.

This knowledge must before type inferring. It is “apriori information”, which you provide with PHPDoc and type declarations for IDE autocompletion.

Basically, such principle is mostly true: if PhpStorm knows, that to suggest after ->, KPHP will guess also. And vise versa: if IDE can't suggest, type annotation is missing somewhere and you should hint KPHP/IDE.

If a variable is created via new and used immediately — it is obvious without hints:

$a = new A;
// ...
$a->f();   // compiler will bind this call to A::f()

If you pass an instance to a function — use @param or type annotation:

/**
 * @param A $a
 */
function doSmth1($a) {
  $a->f();   // bind to A::f() thanks to @param
}

function doSmth2(A $a) {
  $a->f();   // bind to A::f() thanks to type annotation
}

Without @param or type annotation, neither IDE nor KPHP would guess that A::f() is being called.

To hint an array of instances, also PHPDoc is used:

/**
 * @param $arr A[]
 */
function doSmth($arr) {
  $arr[0]->f();
  foreach ($arr as $a) {
    $a->f(); // guessing methods analyses foreach and other common use-cases 
  }
}

If a function returns an instance, use @return or type declaration:

/**
 * @return A
 */
function getA() {  // or  :A
  /* ... */
  return $a;
}
 
getA()->f();  // bind to A::f(), thanks to @return

Same for arrays:

/**
 * @return A[]|false
 */
function getMaybe() {
  if(0) return false;
  return [new A('1')];
}
 
$arr = getMaybe();
echo $arr && $arr[0] ? $arr[0]->name : "no";

Same for tuples and any other types, that contain instances inside:

/**
 * @return tuple(int, A)
 */
function getCountAndObject() { /* ... */ }

$a = getCountAndObject()[1];
$a->f();  // bind to A::f(), thanks to @return; IDE with KPHPStorm would also suggest method f()
// without @return, neither KPHP nor IDE would guess 

When assigning something non-trivial, sometimes @var hint is needed explicitly:

/** @var $a A */
$a = condition ? [[new A('d')]][0][0] : null;

The same, an example with an initially empty array:

// need to hint, as from initial assignment you can't suppose anything
/** @var A[] */
$arr = [];
/* ... */ $arr[] = new A;
 
$arr[0]->f(); // bind to A::f(), thanks to explicit @var near assignment

When a field of a class contains another instance, it must be also annotated with @var:

class A {
  /** @var User */
  public $user;
  /** @var A[] */
  public $a;
}

$a->user->name;            // User::name, thanks to @var
$a->a[0]->a[1]->user->id;  // also resolved, thanks to @var 

Concluding, PHPDoc is needed for early binding methods and fields. It is done before building a call graph and thus before type inferring.
You can try to cheat on the compiler, having written incorrect PHPDoc. In this case, methods would be bound incorrectly, but type inferring afterward would detect it and produce an error.

So, declared PHPDoc types for instances is apriori information, for early binding.
Then — type inferring, based on the call graph.
Then — type checking, that inferred types match the declared.

Using instances incorrectly will not compile, it's on purpose

You will definitely feel discomfort, that you can't mix instances with primitives, that you can't mix instances unless they have a common ancestor.

The border between the untyped PHP way and typed KPHP way is very painful. Lots of your existing code won't compile, you'll need to rewrite it correctly from the point of the type system. But once isolated parts of code become fully typed, they are found to be much cleaner, expressive, and faster than before.

And you practically never need mixed, it's left almost to interop with old, untyped areas.

All in all, when you use instances, declare all types and use them in a compiled way, not in a PHP way.
As a result, your code can be made fast, as if it was written directly in C++.