Types

Several tags require or support the use of types to represent the type of value contained in the associated element. An example of this is the @param tag, which identifies the type of an argument with a method or function.

This guide serves to provide more insight in which types are available, how they may be combined and even how to define arrays with specific types for its elements.

Types of types

A type can either be

  • a class name, either Fully Qualified or aliases; such as \DateTime or Entity (with a namespace alias elsewhere in the same source file).
  • a keyword for a primitive in PHP, such as int or string.
  • a special keyword specific to the PHPDoc Standard, such as false or mixed.

Class Name

When you want to refer to another object you can follow the same rules as PHP applies to its source code with regards to resolving namespaces.

This means that any class may be addressed

  • using its Fully Qualified Class Name (FQCN), which means that the class has a prefixing slash to indicate it is the full name of the class, e.g. \phpDocumentor\Descriptor\ClassDescriptor.

  • by a relative class name, when you omit the prefixing slash then phpDocumentor will prepend the current namespace onto the class definition, e.g. Descriptor\ClassDescriptor would become \phpDocumentor\Descriptor\ClassDescriptor when you’re tag declaration is inside the phpDocumentor namespace.

  • using a namespace/object alias, if you define an alias for a namespace, or import it, using the use keyword then it becomes available for use.

    So suppose you have the following use statement in your source file:

    use phpDocumentorDescriptorParamDescriptor as Param

    Now you can refer to the class above as Param from any tag that refers to a Type.

Warning

Some older annotations, such as PHPUnit’s @covers only support Qualified Class Names (which means a complete class name without the prefixing slash); these annotations also do not support the resolving of namespaces. Keep this in mind when working with tags as it may be confusing at some point.

Of course this is only a short introduction on class name resolution with PHP. When you want to know more on how PHP resolves class names, please read the php manual on namespacing.

Primitives

The PHPDoc Standard, and thus phpDocumentor, can refer to all primitive types in PHP.

Here is a full listing;

string
A piece of text of an unspecified length.
int or integer
A whole number that may be either positive or negative.
float
A real, or decimal, number that may be either positive or negative.
bool or boolean
A variable that can only contain the state ‘true’ or ‘false’.
array
A collection of variables of unknown type. It is possible to specify the types of array members, see the chapter on arrays for more information.
resource
A file handler or other system resource as described in the PHP manual.
null
The value contained, or returned, is literally null. This type is not to be confused with void, which is the total absence of a variable or value (usually used with the @return tag).
callable
A function or method that can be passed by a variable, see the PHP manual for more information on callables.

Keywords

The PHPDoc Standard also describes several keywords that are not native to PHP but are found to be often used or are representations of situations that are convenient to describe.

mixed
A value with this type can be literally anything; the author of the documentation is unable to predict which type it will be.
void
This is not the value that you are looking for. The tag associated with this type does not intentionally return anything. Anything returned by the associated element is incidental and not to be relied on.
object
An object of any class is returned,
false or true
An explicit boolean value is returned; usually used when a method returns ‘false’ or something of consequence.
self
An object of the class where this type was used, if inherited it will still represent the class where it was originally defined.
static
An object of the class where this value was consumed, if inherited it will represent the child class. (see late static binding in the PHP manual).
$this
This exact object instance, usually used to denote a fluent interface.

Arrays

In the previous chapter you had seen that the ‘array’ keyword is supported by phpDocumentor, but this keyword says little about the contents of that array. Usually you have an array with a specific purpose and hence elements of one or at most two different Types.

For phpDocumentor to be able to help you determine which element Types are contained in an array you can declare a Type, such as \DateTime, and suffix it with an opening and closing square bracket. The brackets inform you, and several tools, that this is an array of that Type.

Some examples:

/** @var \DateTime[] An array of DateTime objects. */
/** @var string[] An array of string objects. */
/** @var callable[] An array with callback functions or methods. */

Note

This notation is inspired by the way some strong-types languages, such as Java and C/C++, declare arrays.

Aside from phpDocumentor there are various tools that understand this notation and use it to aid in their functioning. Most IDEs, such as phpStorm, can apply auto-completion or warn you of non-existing methods by reading this information and inferring the types of variables, properties and even method return values.

Multiple types combined

Sometimes an element may accept or return a value that can be any of a limited set of Types. An example of this is a getter-method that returns an object or null if no object was found.

To be able to track which types may be used in a value you can use the pipe, or OR, (|) operator to separate each type that the associated value may be.

In the following example a method, or function, will return either a string or null as value:

/** @return string|null */

Most IDEs will recognize this format as well and offer auto-completion based on all types mentioned in the DocBlock; so, for example, the following property will be treated both as an ArrayObject (exposing all its methods) and an array of DateTime objects:

/**
 * @var \ArrayObject|\DateTime[]
 */
$dates = array()

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