Interactive shell

Domains: PHP

As of PHP 5.1.0, the CLI SAPI provides an interactive shell using the -a option if PHP is compiled with the --with-readline option. As of PHP 7.1.0 the interactive shell is also available on Windows, if the readline extension is enabled.

Using the interactive shell you are able to type PHP code and have it executed directly.

Example #1 Executing code using the interactive shell

$ php -a
Interactive shell

php > echo 5+8;
php > function addTwo($n)
php > {
php { return $n + 2;
php { }
php > var_dump(addtwo(2));
php >

The interactive shell also features tab completion for functions, constants, class names, variables, static method calls and class constants.

Example #2 Tab completion

Pressing the tab key twice when there are multiple possible completions will result in a list of these completions:

php > strp[TAB][TAB]
strpbrk   strpos    strptime  
php > strp

When there is only one possible completion, pressing tab once will complete the rest on the same line:

php > strpt[TAB]ime(

Completion will also work for names that have been defined during the current interactive shell session:

php > $fooThisIsAReallyLongVariableName = 42;
php > $foo[TAB]ThisIsAReallyLongVariableName

The interactive shell stores your history which can be accessed using the up and down keys. The history is saved in the ~/.php_history file.

As of PHP 5.4.0, the CLI SAPI provides the php.ini settings cli.pager and cli.prompt. The cli.pager setting allows an external program (such as less) to act as a pager for the output instead of being displayed directly on the screen. The cli.prompt setting makes it possible to change the php > prompt.

In PHP 5.4.0 it was also made possible to set php.ini settings in the interactive shell using a shorthand notation.

Example #3 Setting php.ini settings in the interactive shell

The cli.prompt setting:

php > #cli.prompt=hello world :> 
hello world :>

Using backticks it is possible to have PHP code executed in the prompt:

php > #cli.prompt=`echo date('H:i:s');` php > 
15:49:35 php > echo 'hi';
15:49:43 php > sleep(2);
15:49:45 php >

Setting the pager to less:

php > #cli.pager=less
php > phpinfo();
(output displayed in less)
php >

The cli.prompt setting supports a few escape sequences:

cli.prompt escape sequences
Sequence Description
\e Used for adding colors to the prompt. An example could be \e[032m\v \e[031m\b \e[34m\> \e[0m
\v The PHP version.
\b Indicates which block PHP is in. For instance /* to indicate being inside a multi-line comment. The outer scope is denoted by php.
\> Indicates the prompt character. By default this is >, but changes when the shell is inside an unterminated block or string. Possible characters are: ' " { ( >


Files included through auto_prepend_file and auto_append_file are parsed in this mode but with some restrictions - e.g. functions have to be defined before called.


Autoloading is not available if using PHP in CLI interactive mode.

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