How to get useful error messages in PHP? [Answered]

Problem:

Quite often I will try and run a PHP script and just get a blank screen back. No error message; just an empty screen. The cause might have been a simple syntax error (wrong bracket, missing semicolon), or a failed function call, or something else entirely.

It is very difficult to figure out what went wrong. I end up commenting out code, entering “echo” statements everywhere, etc. trying to narrow down the problem. But there surely must be a better way, right?

Is there a way to get PHP to produce a useful error message, like Java does?

How to get useful error messages in PHP? Answer #1:

For syntax errors, you need to enable error display in the php.ini. By default these are turned off because you don’t want a “customer” seeing the error messages. Check this page in the PHP documentation for information on the 2 directives: error_reporting and display_errorsdisplay_errors is probably the one you want to change. If you can’t modify the php.ini, you can also add the following lines to an .htaccess file:

php_flag  display_errors        on
php_value error_reporting       2039

You may want to consider using the value of E_ALL (as mentioned by Gumbo) for your version of PHP for error_reporting to get all of the errors. more info

3 other items: (1) You can check the error log file as it will have all of the errors (unless logging has been disabled). (2) Adding the following 2 lines will help you debug errors that are not syntax errors:

error_reporting(-1);
ini_set('display_errors', 'On');

(3) Another option is to use an editor that checks for errors when you type, such as PhpEd. PhpEd also comes with a debugger which can provide more detailed information. (The PhpEd debugger is very similar to xdebug and integrates directly into the editor so you use 1 program to do everything.)

How to get useful error messages in PHP? Answer #2:

The following enables all errors:

ini_set('display_startup_errors', 1);
ini_set('display_errors', 1);
error_reporting(-1);

Also read: How to display errors in PHP?

How to get useful error messages in PHP? Answer #3:

The following code should display all errors:

<?php

// ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
// - Display Errors
// ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
ini_set('display_errors', 'On');
ini_set('html_errors', 0);

// ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
// - Error Reporting
// ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
error_reporting(-1);

// ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
// - Shutdown Handler
// ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
function ShutdownHandler()
{
    if(@is_array($error = @error_get_last()))
    {
        return(@call_user_func_array('ErrorHandler', $error));
    };

    return(TRUE);
};

register_shutdown_function('ShutdownHandler');

// ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
// - Error Handler
// ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
function ErrorHandler($type, $message, $file, $line)
{
    $_ERRORS = Array(
        0x0001 => 'E_ERROR',
        0x0002 => 'E_WARNING',
        0x0004 => 'E_PARSE',
        0x0008 => 'E_NOTICE',
        0x0010 => 'E_CORE_ERROR',
        0x0020 => 'E_CORE_WARNING',
        0x0040 => 'E_COMPILE_ERROR',
        0x0080 => 'E_COMPILE_WARNING',
        0x0100 => 'E_USER_ERROR',
        0x0200 => 'E_USER_WARNING',
        0x0400 => 'E_USER_NOTICE',
        0x0800 => 'E_STRICT',
        0x1000 => 'E_RECOVERABLE_ERROR',
        0x2000 => 'E_DEPRECATED',
        0x4000 => 'E_USER_DEPRECATED'
    );

    if([email protected]_string($name = @array_search($type, @array_flip($_ERRORS))))
    {
        $name = 'E_UNKNOWN';
    };

    return(print(@sprintf("%s Error in file \xBB%s\xAB at line %d: %s\n", $name, @basename($file), $line, $message)));
};

$old_error_handler = set_error_handler("ErrorHandler");

// other php code

?>

The only way to generate a blank page with this code is when you have a error in the shutdown handler. I copied and pasted this from my own cms without testing it, but I am sure it works.

How to get useful error messages in PHP? Answer #4-7:

Answer #4:

You can include the following lines in the file you want to debug:

error_reporting(E_ALL);
ini_set('display_errors', '1');

This overrides the default settings in php.ini, which just make PHP report the errors to the log.

Answer #5:

Errors and warnings usually appear in ....\logs\php_error.log or ....\logs\apache_error.log depending on your php.ini settings.

Also useful errors are often directed to the browser, but as they are not valid html they are not displayed.

So "tail -f” your log files and when you get a blank screen use IEs “view” -> “source” menu options to view the raw output.

Answer #6:

PHP Configuration

2 entries in php.ini dictate the output of errors:

  1. display_errors
  2. error_reporting

In productiondisplay_errors is usually set to Off (Which is a good thing, because error display in production sites is generally not desirable!).

However, in development, it should be set to On, so that errors get displayed. Check!

error_reporting (as of PHP 5.3) is set by default to E_ALL & ~E_NOTICE & ~E_STRICT & ~E_DEPRECATED (meaning, everything is shown except for notices, strict standards and deprecation notices). When in doubt, set it to E_ALL to display all the errors. Check!

Whoa whoa! No check! I can’t change my php.ini!

That’s a shame. Usually shared hosts do not allow the alteration of their php.ini file, and so, that option is sadly unavailable. But fear not! We have other options!

Runtime configuration

In the desired script, we can alter the php.ini entries in runtime! Meaning, it’ll run when the script runs! Sweet!

error_reporting(E_ALL);
ini_set("display_errors", "On");

These two lines will do the same effect as altering the php.ini entries as above! Awesome!

I still get a blank page/500 error!

That means that the script hadn’t even run! That usually happens when you have a syntax error!

With syntax errors, the script doesn’t even get to runtime. It fails at compile time, meaning that it’ll use the values in php.ini, which if you hadn’t changed, may not allow the display of errors.

Error logs

In addition, PHP by default logs errors. In shared hosting, it may be in a dedicated folder or on the same folder as the offending script.

If you have access to php.ini, you can find it under the error_log entry.

Answer #7:

It is possible to register an hook to make the last error or warning visible.

function shutdown(){
  var_dump(error_get_last());
}

register_shutdown_function('shutdown');

adding this code to the beginning of you index.php will help you debug the problems.

Hope this post helped you in displaying meaningful errors in PHP.

Follow Programming Articles for more!

About ᴾᴿᴼᵍʳᵃᵐᵐᵉʳ

Linux and Python enthusiast, in love with open source since 2014, Writer at programming-articles.com, India.

View all posts by ᴾᴿᴼᵍʳᵃᵐᵐᵉʳ →