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Last updated: Thu, 21 Aug 2003

XXVI. Error Handling and Logging Functions


These are functions dealing with error handling and logging. They allow you to define your own error handling rules, as well as modify the way the errors can be logged. This allows you to change and enhance error reporting to suit your needs.

With the logging functions, you can send messages directly to other machines, to an email (or email to pager gateway!), to system logs, etc., so you can selectively log and monitor the most important parts of your applications and websites.

The error reporting functions allow you to customize what level and kind of error feedback is given, ranging from simple notices to customized functions returned during errors.


No external libraries are needed to build this extension.


There is no installation needed to use these functions; they are part of the PHP core.

Runtime Configuration

The behaviour of these functions is affected by settings in php.ini.

Table 1. Errors and Logging Configuration Options

error_reportingE_ALL & ~E_NOTICEPHP_INI_ALL
For further details and definition of the PHP_INI_* constants see ini_set().

Here's a short explanation of the configuration directives.

error_reporting integer

Set the error reporting level. The parameter is either an integer representing a bit field, or named constants. The error_reporting levels and constants are described in Predefined Constants, and in php.ini. To set at runtime, use the error_reporting() function. See also the display_errors directive.

In PHP 4 the default value does not show E_NOTICE level errors. You may want to show them during development.

Note: Enabling E_NOTICE during development has some benefits. For debugging purposes: NOTICE messages will warn you about possibls bugs in your code. For example, use of unassigned values are warned. It is extremely useful to find typos and to save time for debugging. NOTICE messages will warn you about bad style. For example, $arr[item] is better to be written as $arr['item'] since PHP tries to treat "item" as constant. If it is not a constant, PHP assumes it is a string index for the array.

In PHP 3, the default setting is (E_ERROR | E_WARNING | E_PARSE), meaning the same thing. Note, however, that since constants are not supported in PHP 3's php3.ini, the error_reporting setting there must be numeric; hence, it is 7.

display_errors boolean

This determines whether errors should be printed to the screen as part of the output or if they should be hidden from the user.

Note: This is a feature to support your development and should never be used on production systems (e.g. systems connected to the internet).

display_startup_errors boolean

Even when display_errors is on, errors that occur during PHP's startup sequence are not displayed. It's strongly recommended to keep display_startup_errors off, except for debugging.

log_errors boolean

Tells whether script error messages should be logged to the server's error log or error_log. This option is thus server-specific.

Note: You're strongly advised to use error logging in place of error displaying on production web sites.

log_errors_max_len integer

Set the maximum length of log_errors in bytes. In error_log information about the source is added. The default is 1024 and 0 allows to not apply any maximum length at all.

ignore_repeated_errors boolean

Do not log repeated messages. Repeated errors must occur in the same file on the same line until ignore_repeated_source is set true.

ignore_repeated_source boolean

Ignore source of message when ignoring repeated messages. When this setting is On you will not log errors with repeated messages from different files or sourcelines.

report_memleaks boolean

If this parameter is set to Off, then memory leaks will not be shown (on stdout or in the log). This has only effect in a debug compile, and if error_reporting includes E_WARNING in the allowed list

track_errors boolean

If enabled, the last error message will always be present in the variable $php_errormsg.

html_errors boolean

Turn off HTML tags in error messages. The new format for html errors produces clickable messages that direct the user to a page describing the error or function in causing the error. These references are affected by docref_root and docref_ext.

docref_root string

The new error format contains a reference to a page describing the error or function causing the error. In case of manual pages you can download the manual in your language and set this ini directive to the url of your local copy. If your local copy of the manual can be reached by '/manual/' you can simply use docref_root=/manual/. Additional you have to set docref_ext to match the fileextensions of your copy docref_ext=.html. It is possible to use external references. For example you can use docref_root=http://manual/en/ or docref_root=" &"

Most of the time you want the docref_root value to end with a slash '/'. But see the second example above which does not have nor need it.

Note: This is a feature to support your development since it makes it easy to lookup a function description. However it should never be used on production systems (e.g. systems connected to the internet).

docref_ext string

See docref_root.

Note: The value of docref_ext must begin with a dot '.'.

error_prepend_string string

String to output before an error message.

error_append_string string

String to output after an error message.

error_log string

Name of the file where script errors should be logged. If the special value syslog is used, the errors are sent to the system logger instead. On UNIX, this means syslog(3) and on Windows NT it means the event log. The system logger is not supported on Windows 95. See also: syslog().

warn_plus_overloading boolean

If enabled, this option makes PHP output a warning when the plus (+) operator is used on strings. This is to make it easier to find scripts that need to be rewritten to using the string concatenator instead (.).

Predefined Constants

The constants below are always available as part of the PHP core.

Note: You may use these constant names in php.ini but not outside of PHP, like in httpd.conf, where you'd use the bitmask values instead.

Table 2. Errors and Logging

1 E_ERROR (integer) Fatal run-time errors. These indicate errors that can not be recovered from, such as a memory allocation problem. Execution of the script is halted.  
2 E_WARNING (integer) Run-time warnings (non-fatal errors). Execution of the script is not halted.  
4 E_PARSE (integer) Compile-time parse errors. Parse errors should only be generated by the parser.  
8 E_NOTICE (integer) Run-time notices. Indicate that the script encountered something that could indicate an error, but could also happen in the normal course of running a script.  
16 E_CORE_ERROR (integer) Fatal errors that occur during PHP's initial startup. This is like an E_ERROR, except it is generated by the core of PHP. PHP 4 only
32 E_CORE_WARNING (integer) Warnings (non-fatal errors) that occur during PHP's initial startup. This is like an E_WARNING, except it is generated by the core of PHP. PHP 4 only
64 E_COMPILE_ERROR (integer) Fatal compile-time errors. This is like an E_ERROR, except it is generated by the Zend Scripting Engine. PHP 4 only
128 E_COMPILE_WARNING (integer) Compile-time warnings (non-fatal errors). This is like an E_WARNING, except it is generated by the Zend Scripting Engine. PHP 4 only
256 E_USER_ERROR (integer) User-generated error message. This is like an E_ERROR, except it is generated in PHP code by using the PHP function trigger_error(). PHP 4 only
512 E_USER_WARNING (integer) User-generated warning message. This is like an E_WARNING, except it is generated in PHP code by using the PHP function trigger_error(). PHP 4 only
1024 E_USER_NOTICE (integer) User-generated notice message. This is like an E_NOTICE, except it is generated in PHP code by using the PHP function trigger_error(). PHP 4 only
2047 E_ALL (integer) All errors and warnings, as supported.  

The above values (either numerical or symbolic) are used to build up a bitmask that specifies which errors to report. You can use the bitwise operators to combine these values or mask out certain types of errors. Note that only '|', '~', '!', and '&' will be understood within php.ini, however, and that no bitwise operators will be understood within php3.ini.


Below we can see an example of using the error handling capabilities in PHP. We define an error handling function which logs the information into a file (using an XML format), and e-mails the developer in case a critical error in the logic happens.

Example 1. Using error handling in a script

// we will do our own error handling

// user defined error handling function
function userErrorHandler ($errno, $errmsg, $filename, $linenum, $vars) {
    // timestamp for the error entry
    $dt = date("Y-m-d H:i:s (T)");

    // define an assoc array of error string
    // in reality the only entries we should
    // consider are 2,8,256,512 and 1024
    $errortype = array (
                1   =>  "Error",
                2   =>  "Warning",
                4   =>  "Parsing Error",
                8   =>  "Notice",
                16  =>  "Core Error",
                32  =>  "Core Warning",
                64  =>  "Compile Error",
                128 =>  "Compile Warning",
                256 =>  "User Error",
                512 =>  "User Warning",
                1024=>  "User Notice"
    // set of errors for which a var trace will be saved
    $user_errors = array(E_USER_ERROR, E_USER_WARNING, E_USER_NOTICE);
    $err = "<errorentry>\n";
    $err .= "\t<datetime>".$dt."</datetime>\n";
    $err .= "\t<errornum>".$errno."</errornum>\n";
    $err .= "\t<errortype>".$errortype[$errno]."</errortype>\n";
    $err .= "\t<errormsg>".$errmsg."</errormsg>\n";
    $err .= "\t<scriptname>".$filename."</scriptname>\n";
    $err .= "\t<scriptlinenum>".$linenum."</scriptlinenum>\n";

    if (in_array($errno, $user_errors))
        $err .= "\t<vartrace>".wddx_serialize_value($vars,"Variables")."</vartrace>\n";
    $err .= "</errorentry>\n\n";
    // for testing
    // echo $err;

    // save to the error log, and e-mail me if there is a critical user error
    error_log($err, 3, "/usr/local/php4/error.log");
    if ($errno == E_USER_ERROR)
        mail("","Critical User Error",$err);

function distance ($vect1, $vect2) {
    if (!is_array($vect1) || !is_array($vect2)) {
        trigger_error("Incorrect parameters, arrays expected", E_USER_ERROR);
        return NULL;

    if (count($vect1) != count($vect2)) {
        trigger_error("Vectors need to be of the same size", E_USER_ERROR);
        return NULL;

    for ($i=0; $i<count($vect1); $i++) {
        $c1 = $vect1[$i]; $c2 = $vect2[$i];
        $d = 0.0;
        if (!is_numeric($c1)) {
            trigger_error("Coordinate $i in vector 1 is not a number, using zero", 
            $c1 = 0.0;
        if (!is_numeric($c2)) {
            trigger_error("Coordinate $i in vector 2 is not a number, using zero", 
            $c2 = 0.0;
        $d += $c2*$c2 - $c1*$c1;
    return sqrt($d);

$old_error_handler = set_error_handler("userErrorHandler");

// undefined constant, generates a warning

// define some "vectors"
$a = array(2,3,"foo");
$b = array(5.5, 4.3, -1.6);
$c = array (1,-3);

// generate a user error
$t1 = distance($c,$b)."\n";

// generate another user error
$t2 = distance($b,"i am not an array")."\n";

// generate a warning
$t3 = distance($a,$b)."\n";


See Also

See also syslog().

Table of Contents
debug_backtrace --  Generates a backtrace
debug_print_backtrace --  Prints a backtrace
error_log -- Send an error message somewhere
error_reporting -- Sets which PHP errors are reported
restore_error_handler --  Restores the previous error handler function
set_error_handler --  Sets a user-defined error handler function.
trigger_error --  Generates a user-level error/warning/notice message
user_error -- Alias of trigger_error()

add a note add a note User Contributed Notes
Error Handling and Logging Functions
Martin F.
21-Aug-2003 11:22
Another way of handling errors:

foo(); // must not output anything to the output buffer
$errorstring = ob_get_contents();
if(strlen($errorstring)) bar($errorstring); // your error-handling function
danielm at NOSPAM dot bluetiger dot net
26-Jul-2003 07:53
According to ini_get_all(), report_memleaks is changeable in PHP_INI_ALL; the manual is apparently incorrect.
12-Jul-2003 12:06
For debugging it's sometimes nice if PHP directly shows the source of the line which caused the error!

function my_error($nr, $text, $file, $line)
{ if (is_readable($file))
  { $source = file($file);
    $source = htmlspecialchars($source[$line-1]); }
  { $source = "<i>n/a</i>"; }
  die("error $nr in $file at $line: <div><code>$source</code></div>"); }

kop at meme dot com
10-Jun-2003 04:22
html_errors does not affect the errors as logged (log_errors), only as displayed (display_errors.)
webmaster at zdarmanet dot net
27-Jan-2003 02:48
I use something like this (and of course all necessary stuff like set_error_handler):

function myHandler(...) {
  include(...) // the code loaded in case of error

Then one of my scripts stops execution after the second pass throw a line like:


The solution is the following: myHandler must return something in case of error number 8 (Notice), i.e.

  return 0;

What value it returns is not significant: I tested it with true and false and it works in all cases.

The strangest is that when I include the function code of myHandler staticaly (not via a conditional include), it works without the return statement!

The PHP construct list or the function mysql_fetch_row might use this error number for other usage than error reporting and it's a pitty that these details are not listed here in the manual. Not to say it was very hard to find out where the problem was because the problem was inside an error handler and PHP does not allow recursive call to an error handler.
pgerzsonr at freestart dot hu
11-Jan-2002 12:03
A handy errorhandler class can be found at:

It has several enhancements (report layouts):

* prints the source code fragment where the error encountered,
* prints variable context around error source,
* suppresses error-messages, instead displays an arbitrary HTML or PHP page
* logging to multiple targets and autodetecting target logging
* error messages can be displayed in a separate browser window
* catching errors for runtime generated codes
* debugging variables.

 Last updated: Thu, 21 Aug 2003
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