7 Underutilized Features in Modern PHP that Can Elevate Your Coding Game

Selvin Ortiz

4 months ago

PHP continues to enhance its efficiency, readability, and overall capability.

However, some of these features remain under the radar for many developers. In this post, we'll explore 7 such underutilized features in modern PHP that can significantly improve your coding game.

1. Generators

Generators provide an easy way to implement simple iterators.

They allow you to iterate over data without needing to create an array in memory, which can be a significant memory saver.

function getLogLines($file) {
    $handle = fopen($file, 'r');
    while (!feof($handle)) {
        yield fgets($handle);

2. Null Coalesce Operator

The null coalescing operator (??) is a syntactic sugar that helps in returning the first operand if it exists and is not null; otherwise, it returns the second operand.

$username = $_GET['user'] ?? 'nobody';

echo $username;

3. Spaceship Operator

function compare($a, $b) {
    return $a <=> $b;

The Spaceship Operator (<=>) simplifies comparisons. It's a three-way comparison operator and is excellent for sorting.

4. Typed Properties

Since PHP 7.4, you can now declare types for class properties. This ensures type safety, making your code more robust and self-documenting.

class User {
    public int $id;
    public string $name;

5. Anonymous Classes

Anonymous classes are excellent for short-lived, single-use classes.

They can be as full-featured as any regular class but can be defined and instantiated on the fly.

$newClass = new class {
    public function sayHello() {
        echo "Hello, World!";

// Usage example

6. Attributes (or Annotations)

Introduced in PHP 8.0, attributes provide a way to add metadata to classes, methods, or properties in a structured way.

This feature can be especially useful for frameworks.

#[Route('/api/posts/{id}', methods: ['GET'])]
class PostController {
    // ...

7. Weak References (PHP 7.4)

Introduced in PHP 7.4, Weak References offer a way to retain a reference to an object without preventing its destruction. This feature is particularly useful in managing memory and avoiding memory leaks in applications that require large or complex object graphs.

What are Weak References? A Weak Reference allows the programmer to retain a reference to an object while not influencing its garbage collection lifecycle. Unlike regular references, which create a strong link to the object, weak references allow the object they reference to be garbage-collected if there are no other strong references to it.

Basic Usage

The WeakReference class is used to create weak references. Here’s a simple example:

$obj = new stdClass;
$weakRef = WeakReference::create($obj);

// $obj can be garbage collected even if $weakRef still exists

if ($weakRef->get()) {
    // object still exists
} else {
    // object has been destroyed

Use Cases and Benefits

  1. Memory Management: Weak References help in managing memory more efficiently, particularly in applications that use large datasets or complex object mappings.
  2. Cache Management: They are useful in caching mechanisms where objects don’t need to be kept alive just because they are referenced in a cache.
  3. Event Listeners: In event handling systems, Weak References can prevent memory leaks by allowing event listeners to be garbage-collected when they are no longer needed.

Best Practices

  1. Avoid Overuse: While useful, Weak References should be used judiciously. Overuse can lead to complex and hard-to-maintain code.
  2. Use in Large Applications: They are most beneficial in large applications with complex object graphs where memory management is critical.


These features, though often underutilized, can greatly enhance the efficiency, readability, and functionality of your PHP code. Embracing them can lead to cleaner, more maintainable, and more expressive codebases.

Selvin Ortiz at desk

Who wrote this article?

Selvin Ortiz👋

I'm a software engineer and content creator.
I help brands develop software and content strategies 🚀

On this blog, I write about software development, emerging technology, technical leadership, and content creation ✨

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