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Templates - why and how to use them in PHP3

by: Sascha Schumann
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July 30, 2000

Are you faced with the task of creating a site which should be programmed by a coder (namely you) and designed by a designer? Do not you know how to make the life easy for both of you? I have got the answer for you: Use FastTemplate to make your site more customizable!
Ok, you probably want to know why you want to use FastTemplates.
  • change the look of your entire web site in seconds
  • abstract programming without dirty HTML
  • the designer does not need to take care of all that "fuzzy" code
  • it is amazingly fast
  • easier reuse of old templates (think of common forms)
FastTemplate is derived from a similar named Perl packet (can be found on CPAN). You can download the PHP port from its homepage. You just need one class file (class.FastTemplate.php3) from it.
Let me explain first that there is a difference between creating a page using templates and simply spitting it out by using echo or print. The simple echo/print approach is great for writing short scripts, but leaves you alone with better organization or customization. Templates on the other hand give you the ability to create multiple language sites by just changing one parameter. They force you to pay attention to what you do.
Do not be afraid of thinking before you start coding. It may take some time, but this time will be given back to you after your project grows in size.
So, how does one utilize FastTemplate? You need to start with a simple call to
<?php $tpl = new FastTemplate("path"); ?>
passing it the path to the template directory where all your template files live. It returns an object which you can use to assign parameters, create pages and so on.
FastTemplate is based on the assumption that a large page is built out of many small parts. Every part has a unique name. The smallest part is a normal text string which is assigned to such a unique name. This is done by
<?php $tpl->assign(NAME"text"); ?>
. Now, FastTemplate knows what you mean, if one of your templates contains
{NAME}
Additionally, FastTemplate needs to know how you want to call your templates. You need to give it a hint by passing an associative array to
<?php $tpl->define(); ?>
<?php $tpl->define(array(foo => "foo.tpl"bar => "bar.tpl")); ?>
This assigns the name foo and bar to the respective files (namely foo.tpl and bar.tpl).

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