PHP File Handling: A Beginner's Guide

File management is a crucial step in the creation of any web app or piece of software. File handling in PHP is used for reading from and writing to files, as well as other file manipulation tasks. PHP's extensive library of built-in functions simplifies working with files and I/O operations.

While creating a web application using PHP, we may need to create, update, modify, or delete information using files. Therefore, we need to understand how a file can be handled in PHP.

What does it mean by "file handling" in PHP?

Handling files in PHP includes reading, writing, and modifying them. File management is essential in web development and software engineering for storing and accessing data. PHP's built-in features make it easy for programmers to perform a wide range of file-related tasks, including reading and writing data, opening and closing files, and navigating file directories.

PHP provides a variety of file-related functions, such as fopen(), fclose(), fread(), and fwrite(). These methods facilitate a wide variety of I/O operations on files, including reading text files, writing to log files, and working with images and other media files.

However, these functions, including many others, are already described in their separate posts, starting with the next one, which you will learn one by one. But I'm willing to include a brief description of these four most-used functions when talking about file handling in PHP.

To open a file in a specific mode, use the "fopen()" function. You can specify whether the file is being opened for reading, writing, or both actions using the mode parameter. For illustration, the following code opens the "codescracker.txt" file for writing:

$myfile = fopen("codescracker.txt", "w");

The function "fclose()" is used to close an open file. As an argument, it accepts a file pointer and closes the file associated with that pointer. The following code, for instance, closes the file opened in the preceding example:


The function "fread()" is utilized to read data from a file. As arguments, it requires a file pointer and the number of bytes to read. For instance, the code below reads the first 100 bytes from the "codescracker.txt" file:

$myfile = fopen("codescracker.txt", "r");
$data = fread($myfile, 100);

The variable "$data" holds the first 100 bytes of content or data, which can be printed on the output console, using the "echo" statement in this way:

echo $data;

The function "fwrite()" is used to write data to a file. As arguments, it requires a file pointer and the data to be written. The following code, for instance, writes "Hello there." to the file "codescracker.txt":

$myfile = fopen("codescracker.txt", "w");
fwrite($myfile, "Hello there.");

The previous code can also be written in this way:

$myfile = fopen("codescracker.txt", "w");
$data = "Hello there.";
fwrite($myfile, $data);

The Most Important File Handling Topics in PHP

When discussing file handling in PHP, the following are the most important topics to cover.

Since it is not possible to cover all the topics related to file handling in one single article, therefore, I have divided file handling topics into separate posts.

Either you can directly visit any of the above topics to learn about that particular one, or you can follow the step-by-step process to learn everything about file handling in PHP. That is, from the next chapter on, the tutorial on file handling starts. You can visit the next chapter by clicking on the "Next Tutorial" button or link right after the completion of this article.

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