Object Oriented File Access in PHP

Test-driven driven development in PHP can become a pain when you’re dealing with the file system. The builtin functions like stat, getfilemtime, fopen and fgets assume the existence of actual files. Until now, I assumed you’d have to add a library like FileFetcher, Flysystem, Gaufrette or vfsSystem to your dependencies. While those libraries are nice, they are additional dependencies and some add additional capabilities like caching or providing a unified interface to cloud storage. What if you really want to test your file processing classes without having real files? Enter SplFileObject and its parent SplFileInfo.

SplFileObject and SplFileInfo provide an object-oriented interface to the file system, providing a wrapper for many of the low-level file system calls. The wrapper can be overwritten and replaced with a test double in your unit tests.

Getting file info

Let’s see how testing becomes easier. Given we have this example function that accesses the file system:

function checkFileAge( string $name ) {
    if( time() - filemtime( $name ) > 3600 ) {
       throw new FilecheckException( 'File is too old!' );

For testing this function, you’d have to create a two files with different time stamps. If you’re using SplFileInfo instead, you’ll be able to pass a test double:

function checkFileAge( SplFileInfo $file ) {
    if( time() - $file->getMTime() > 3600 ) {
       throw new FilecheckException( 'File is too old!' );

The test could look like this:

function testWhenFileIsTwoDaysOldExceptionIsThrown() {
    $file = $this->getMockBuilder()
    $file->method( 'getMTime' )->willReturn( time() - 7200 );
    $this->expectException( FilecheckException::class );
    checkFileAge( $file );

Reading files

Almost all the low-level file system calls for getting content out of files can be accessed with an object-oriented API:

$file = new SplFileObject( 'file.txt' );
$char = $file->fgetc();
$line = $file->fgets();

SplFileObject also implements IteratorInterface, so you can read a file line by line. So instead of

function lameEncrypt( string $name ) {
    foreach( file( $name ) as $line ) {
        echo str_rot13( $line );

you do

function lameEncrypt( SplFileObject $file ) {
    foreach( $file as $line ) {
        echo str_rot13( $line );

Now you can pass in any object that implements Traversable in your unit tests without the need for real files.

Iterating over CSV data

You can even iterate over CSV data instead of using fgetcsv:

$file = new SplFileObject( 'file.txt' );
$file->setCsvControl( ';', '"' );
$file->setFlags( \SplFileObject::READ_CSV | \SplFileObject::READ_AHEAD |
    \SplFileObject::SKIP_EMPTY | \SplFileObject::DROP_NEW_LINE );
foreach( $file as $row ) {
    echo $row[0] . ' --> ' . $row[3] . "\n";

Using an iterator has the additional benefit of being able to manipulate your data further by wrapping the iterator in other iterator classes. Imagine combining several CSV files with AppendIterator, using only valid rows with a FilterIterator and limiting the amount of rows with a LimitIterator!


Using SplFileObject and SplFileInfo makes your code more testable and adds all the possibilities of iterators, all without adding any new libraries. Try it in your next project!