What Is a PHP File?

By Nathan Pertuset

A PHP file is a text document containing a specific code that is ran and executed by a program called an interpreter. These programs can have a very wide variety of purposes. PHP (PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor) is an open source, server side scripting language. It is free to use and was specifically designed for web-based applications.

The Facts

PHP was officially released in 1995. It was created for web programmers and designed to be cross-platform (Unix, Windows and Linux, for example). It can be used for command line scripting, desktop applications, or server side scripts. PHP is easy to use and gives web developers a lot of customization on their website. The latest version, PHP 5, was released in 2004.


PHP allows the programmer to do more complex actions for the user. It easily integrates with HTML, making it one of the most popular scripting languages. Since PHP is a server side language, it allows the programmer to communicate with the server.


Whether you are trying to create and edit files, read or write to a database, add a login system, or incorporate javascript to your site, it is easy to do with PHP. PHP allows database communications through all of the databases used today (MySQL, SQL, Oracle and Access, for example). You can also add CSS and DHTML.


PHP is an interpreted language. This means that when a PHP script is ran, it goes through the interpreter "on the fly" and does not have to be compiled each time. This feature gives programmers portability and efficiency when creating PHP scripts.


PHP is a very powerful programming language. Over the years, it has grown with functionality and versatility. Users can expect PHP to continue to grow and expand. Developers are in the process of testing PHP 6. With each new version of PHP released, more system modules and functions are introduced.