Every object-oriented language seems to have a different set of terms for the same old concepts. This section describes the terms that PHP uses, but be warned that in other languages these terms may have other meanings.

Let’s return to the example of the users of a bulletin board. You need to keep track of the same information for each user, and the same functions can be called on each user’s data structure. When you design the program, you decide the fields for each user and come up with the functions. In OOP terms, you’re designing the user class. A class is a template for building objects.

An object is an instance (or occurrence) of a class. In this case, it’s an actual user data structure with attached code. Objects and classes are a bit like values and data types. There’s only one integer data type, but there are many possible integers. Similarly, your program defines only one user class but can create many different (or identical) users from it.

The data associated with an object are called its properties. The functions associated with an object are called its methods. When you define a class, you define the names of its properties and give the code for its methods.

Debugging and maintenance of programs is much easier if you use encapsulation. This is the idea that a class provides certain methods (the interface) to the code that uses its objects, so the outside code does not directly access the data structures of those objects. Debugging is thus easier because you ...

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