Last modified on 21 January 2015, at 14:35

PHP Programming/The switch Structure

The if Structure PHP Programming
The switch Structure
The while Loop

Switch CasesEdit

How They WorkEdit

Here's an example of a simple game where a user enters a $user_command and different functions are run as a result:

if($user_command == "n")
{
  go_north();
}
else if($user_command == "e")
{
  go_east();
}
else if($user_command == "s")
{
  go_south();
}
else if($user_command == "w")
{
  go_west();
}
else
{
  do_something_else();
}

Clearly, there's a lot of repeated code here. The switch case structure allows you to avoid this redundant code. It allows programmers to repeatedly compare the value of a certain variable to a list of possible values and execute code based on the result. This is the syntax for a switch case statement, compared to the same code written using if statements:

if statement style switch case style
  if($firstvariable == 'comparison1' 
      || $firstvariable == 'comparison2')
  {
    doSomething();
    doSomethingElse();
  }
  else if ($firstvariable == 'comparison3')
  {
    doAThirdThing();
  }
  else
  {
    launchMissiles();
  }
  // Look at how much switch case saves you!
  switch($firstvariable)
  {
  case 'comparison1':
  case 'comparison2':
    doSomething();
    doSomethingElse();
    break;
 
  case 'comparison3':
    doAThirdThing();
    break;
 
  default: 
    launchMissiles();
    break;
  }

The switch case style will save you from retyping $firstvariable, and make your code look cleaner (especially, if that code is a long chain of simple if statements). Returning to our zorkmid sample program, we have:

Original Code Switch-Case Code
  if($user_command == "n")
  {
    go_north();
  }
  else if($user_command == "e")
  {
    go_east();
  }
  else if($user_command == "s")
  {
    go_south();
  }
  else if($user_command == "w")
  {
    go_west();
  }
  else
  {
    do_something_else();
  }
  switch($user_command)
  {
    case 'n':
      go_north();
      break;
    case 'e':
      go_east();
      break;
    case 's':
      go_south();
      break;
    case 'w':
      go_west();
      break;
    default:
      do_something_else();
      break;
  }

SyntaxEdit

 switch($var)
 {
 case [value]:
   [code]
   break;
 
 case [value]:
   [code]
   break;
 
 ...
 
 default:
   [code]
   break;
 }

In this example, $var is the first variable to be compared. This variable is then compared against each case statement from the top down, until it finds a match. At that point, the code will excecute until a break statement is reached (that will allow you to leave the case statement entirely).

Important Warning about Using Switch Case StatementsEdit

Don't forget to use break when you mean break! If you forget, you might run functions you don't intend to. However, there are circumstances where leaving breaks out can be useful. Consider this example:

  switch ($n) {
  case 0:
  case 1:
  case 2:
    //only executes, if $n is 0, 1 or 2
    doSomethingForNumbers2OrSmaller();
    break;
  case 3:
    //only executes, if $n is 3
    doSomethingForNumber3();
  default:
    //only executes, if $n is 3 or above
    doSomethingForNumbers3OrBigger();
    break;
  }

This kind of coding is sometimes frowned upon, since it's not always as clear to see what the code is meant to do. Also, consider commenting case statements that aren't supposed to have a break; statement before the next case, so when others look at your code, they know not to add a break. In such a case, it is good programming practice to add comments to breakless cases so that it is clear that the break has been omitted deliberately:

  switch ($n) {
  case 0:
    // Falls through!
  case 1:
    doSomethingForLargeNumbers();
    // Falls through!
  case 2:
    doSomethingForSmallerNumbers();
    break;}

For More InformationEdit

The if Structure PHP Programming
The switch Structure
The while Loop