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    0.5.3 • Public • Published



    Build Status dependency status dev dependency status

    The node php-embed package binds to PHP's "embed SAPI" in order to provide bidirectional interoperability between PHP and JavaScript code in a single process.

    Node/iojs >= 2.4.0 is currently required, since we use NativeWeakMaps in the implementation. This could probably be worked around using v8 hidden properties, but it doesn't seem worth it right now.



    var path = require('path');
    var php = require('php-embed');
      file: path.join(__dirname, 'hello.php'),
      stream: process.stdout
    }).then(function(v) {
      console.log('php is done and stream flushed.');


    var php = require('php-embed');
      source: ['call_user_func(function() {',
               '  class Foo {',
               '    var $bar = "bar";',
               '  }',
               ' $c = $_SERVER["CONTEXT"];',
               ' // Invoke an Async JS method',
               ' $result = $c->jsfunc(new Foo, $c->jsvalue, new Js\\Wait);',
               '  // And return the value back to JS.',
              '  return $result;',
      context: {
        jsvalue: 42, // Pass JS values to PHP
        jsfunc: function(foo, value, cb) {
          // Access PHP object from JS
          console.log(, value); // Prints "bar 42"
          // Asynchronous completion, doesn't block node event loop
          setTimeout(function() { cb(null, "done") }, 500);
    }).then(function(v) {
      console.log(v); // Prints "done" ($result from PHP)

    Running command-line PHP scripts

    The php-embed package contains a binary which can be used as a drop-in replacement for the php CLI binary:

    npm install -g php-embed
    php-embed some-file.php argument1 argument2....

    Not every feature of the PHP CLI binary has been implemented; this is currently mostly a convenient testing tool.


    php.request(options, [callback])

    Triggers a PHP "request", and returns a Promise which will be resolved when the request completes. If you prefer to use callbacks, you can ignore the return value and pass a callback as the second parameter.

    • options: an object containing various parameters for the request. Either source or file is mandatory; the rest are optional.
      • source: Specifies a source string to evaluate as an expression in the request context. (If you want to evaluate a statement, you can wrap it in call_user_func(function () { ... }).)
      • file: Specifies a PHP file to evaluate in the request context.
      • stream: A node stream.Writable to accept output from the PHP request. If not specified, defaults to process.stdout.
      • request: If an http.IncomingMessage is provided here, the PHP server variables will be set up with information about the request.
      • args: If an array with at least one element is provided, the PHP $argc and $argv variables will be set up as PHP CLI programs expect. Note that args[0] should be the "script file name", as in C convention.
      • context: A JavaScript object which will be made available to the PHP request in $_SERVER['CONTEXT'].
      • serverInitFunc: The user can provide a JavaScript function which will be passed an object containing values for the PHP $_SERVER variable, such as REQUEST_URI, SERVER_ADMIN, etc. You can add or override values in this function as needed to set up your request.
    • callback (optional): A standard node callback. The first argument is non-null iff an exception was raised. The second argument is the result of the PHP evaluation, converted to a string.


    From the PHP side, there are three new classes defined, all in the Js namespace, and one new property defined in the $_SERVER superglobal.


    This is the primary mechanism for passing data from the node process to the PHP request. You can pass over a reference to a JavaScript object, and populate it with whatever functions or data you wish to make available to the PHP code.

    class Js\Object

    This is the class which wraps JavaScript objects visible to PHP code. You can't create new objects of this type except by invoking JavaScript functions/methods/constructors.

    class Js\Buffer

    This class wraps a PHP string to indicate that it should be passed to JavaScript as a node Buffer object, instead of decoded to UTF-8 and converted to a JavaScript String. Assuming that a node-style Writable stream is made available to PHP as $stream, compare:

    # The PHP string "abc" is decoded as UTF8 to form a JavaScript string,
    # which is then re-encoded as UTF8 and written to the stream:
    $stream.write("abc", "utf8");
    # The PHP string "abc" is treated as a byte-stream and not de/encoded.
    $stream.write(new Js\Buffer("abc"));
    # Write to the stream synchronously (see description of next class)
    $stream.write(new Js\Buffer("abc"), new Js\Wait());

    class Js\Wait

    This class allows you to invoke asynchronous JavaScript functions from PHP code as if they were synchronous. You create a new instance of Js\Wait and pass that to the function where it would expect a standard node-style callback. For example, if the JavaScript setTimeout function were made available to PHP as $setTimeout, then:

    $setTimeout(new Js\Wait, 5000);

    would halt the PHP thread for 5 seconds. More usefully, if you were to make the node fs module available to PHP as $fs, then:

    $contents = $fs.readFile('path/to/file', 'utf8', new Js\Wait);

    would invoke the fs.readFile method asynchronously in the node context, but block the PHP thread until its callback was invoked. The result returned in the callback would then be used as the return value for the function invocation, resulting in $contents getting the result of reading the file.

    Note that calls using Js\Wait block the PHP thread but do not block the node thread.

    class Js\ByRef

    Arguments are passed to JavaScript functions by value, as is the default in PHP. This class allows you to pass arguments by reference; specifically array values (since objects are effectively passed by reference already, and it does not apply to primitive values like strings and integers). Given the following JavaScript function make available to PHP as $jsfunc:

    function jsfunc(arr) {, 4);

    You could call in from PHP as follows:

    $a = array(1, 2, 3);
    var_dump($a);  # would still print (1, 2, 3)
    $jsfunc(new Js\ByRef($a));
    var_dump($a);  # now this would print (1, 2, 3, 4)

    Javascript API

    PHP objects

    The JavaScript in operator, when applied to a wrapped PHP object, works the same as the PHP isset() function. Similarly, when applied to a wrapped PHP object, JavaScript delete works like PHP unset().

    var php = require('php-embed');
      source: 'call_user_func(function() {' +
              '  class Foo { var $bar = null; var $bat = 42; } ' +
              '  $_SERVER["CONTEXT"](new Foo()); ' +
      context: function(foo) {
        console.log("bar" in foo ? "yes" : "no"); // This prints "no"
        console.log("bat" in foo ? "yes" : "no"); // This prints "yes"

    PHP has separate namespaces for properties and methods, while JavaScript has just one. Usually this isn't an issue, but if you need to you can use a leading $ to specify a property, or __call to specifically invoke a method.

    var php = require('php-embed');
      source: ['call_user_func(function() {',
               '  class Foo {',
               '    var $bar = "bar";',
               '    function bar($what) { echo "I am a ", $what, "!\n"; }',
               '  }',
               '  $foo = new Foo;',
               '  // This prints "bar"',
               '  echo $foo->bar, "\n";',
               '  // This prints "I am a function!"',
               '  $foo->bar("function");',
               '  // Now try it in JavaScript',
              '  $_SERVER["CONTEXT"]($foo);',
      context: function(foo) {
        // This prints "bar"
        // This prints "I am a function"
        foo.__call("bar", "function");

    PHP arrays

    PHP arrays are a sort of fusion of JavaScript arrays and objects. They can store indexed data and have a sort of automatically-updated length property, like JavaScript arrays, but they can also store string keys like JavaScript objects.

    In JavaScript, we've decided to expose arrays as array-like Maps.

    That is, they have the get, set, delete, keys, and size methods of Map. These work as you'd expect, and access all the values in the PHP array, with both indexed and string keys.

    In addition, as a convenience, they make the indexed keys (and only the indexed keys) available as properties directly on the object, and export an appropriate length field. This lets you use them directly in many JavaScript functions which accept "array-like" objects. For example, you can convert them easily to a "true" JavaScript array with Array.from.

    Arrays like objects are live-mapped: changes apply directly to the PHP object they wrap. However, note that arrays are by default passed by value to JavaScript functions; you may need to use Js\ByRef (see above) in order to have changes you make on the JavaScript side affect the value of a PHP variable.

    PHP ArrayAccess/Countable

    PHP objects which implement ArrayAccess and Countable are treated as PHP arrays, with the accessor methods described above. However note that the length property is fixed to 0 on these objects, since there's no way to get a count of only the indexed keys in the array (Countable gives the count of all the keys, counting both indexed and string keys).

    Blocking the JavaScript event loop

    At the moment, all property accesses and method invocations from JavaScript to PHP are done synchronously; that is, they block the JavaScript event loop. The mechanisms are in place for asynchronous access; I just haven't quite figured out what the syntax for that should look like.


    You can use npm to download and install:

    • The latest php-embed package: npm install php-embed

    • GitHub's master branch: npm install

    In both cases the module is automatically built with npm's internal version of node-gyp, and thus your system must meet node-gyp's requirements.

    The prebuilt binaries are built using g++-5 on Linux, and so you will need to have the appropriate versions of the C++ standard library available. Something like apt-get install g++-5 should suffice on Debian/Ubuntu.

    It is also possible to make your own build of php-embed from its source instead of its npm package (see below).

    Building from source

    Unless building via npm install you will need node-pre-gyp installed globally:

    npm install -g node-pre-gyp

    The php-embed module depends on the PHP embedding API. However, by default, an internal/bundled copy of libphp5 will be built and statically linked, so an externally installed libphp5 is not required.

    If you wish to install against an external libphp5 then you need to pass the --libphp5 argument to node-pre-gyp or npm install.

     node-pre-gyp --libphp5=external rebuild

    Or, using npm:

     npm install --libphp5=external

    If building against an external libphp5 make sure to have the development headers available. If you don't have them installed, install the -dev package with your package manager, e.g. apt-get install libphp5-embed php5-dev for Debian/Ubuntu. Your external libphp5 should have been built with thread-safety enabled (ZTS turned on).

    You will also need a C++11 compiler. We perform builds using clang-3.5 and g++-5; both of these are known to work. (Use apt-get install g++-5 to install g++-5 if g++ --version reveals that you have an older version of g++.) To ensure that npm/node-pre-gyp use your preferred compiler, you may need to do something like:

    export CXX="g++-5"
    export CC="gcc-5"

    On Mac OSX, you need to limit support to OS X 10.7 and above in order to get C++11 support. You will also need to install libicu. Something like the following should work:

    brew install icu4c

    Developers hacking on the code will probably want to use:

    node-pre-gyp --debug build

    Passing the --debug flag to node-pre-gyp enables memory checking, and the build command (instead of rebuild) avoids rebuilding libphp5 from scratch after every change. (You can also use npm run debug-build if you find that easier to remember.)


    To run the test suite, use:

    npm test

    This will run the JavaScript and C++ linters, as well as a test suite using mocha.

    During development, npm run jscs-fix will automatically correct most JavaScript code style issues, and npm run valgrind will detect a large number of potential memory issues. Note that node itself will leak a small amount of memory from node::CreateEnvironment, node::cares_wrap::Initialize, and node::Start; these can safely be ignored in the valgrind report.


    Many thanks to Sara Golemon without whose book this project would have been impossible.

    Related projects

    • mediawiki-express is an npm package which uses php-embed to run mediawiki inside a node.js express server.
    • v8js is a "mirror image" project: it embeds the v8 JavaScript engine inside of PHP, whereas php-embed embeds PHP inside node/v8. The author of php-embed is a contributor to v8js and they share bits of code. The JavaScript API to access PHP objects is deliberately similar to that used by v8js.
    • dnode-php is an RPC protocol implementation for Node and PHP, allowing calls between Node and PHP code running on separate servers. See also require-php, which creates the PHP server on the fly to provide a "single server" experience similar to that of php-embed.
    • exec-php is another clever embedding which uses the ability of the PHP CLI binary to execute a single function in order to first export the set of functions defined in a PHP file (using the _exec_php_get_user_functions built-in) and then to implement function invocation.


    Copyright (c) 2015 C. Scott Ananian.

    php-embed is licensed using the same license as PHP itself.



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