What Is a PHP File?

How to open, edit, and convert PHP files

What to Know

  • A PHP file is a PHP source code file.
  • Open one with Visual Studio Code, or any text editor.
  • Convert to PDF with FPDF.

This article describes what a PHP file is and how it's used in the context of a web server. We also look at how to open a PHP file on your computer.

What Is a PHP File?

A file with the PHP file extension is a PHP source code file that contains Hypertext Preprocessor code. They are often used as web page files that usually generate HTML from a PHP engine running on a web server.

The HTML content that the PHP engine creates from the code is what's seen in the web browser. Since the web server is where the PHP code is executed, accessing a PHP page doesn't give you access to the code, but instead provides you the HTML content that the server generates.

PHP Files

Some PHP source code files use a different file extension like .PHTML, PHP3, PHP4, PHP5, PHP7 or PHPS.

How to Open PHP Files

Windows' built-in Notepad program is one example of a PHP opener, but syntax highlighting is so helpful when coding in PHP that a dedicated editor is usually preferred.

Some text editors include syntax highlighting; see our list of the best text editors for some options, like Microsoft Visual Studio Code. Here are some other ways to edit a PHP file: Atom, Sublime Text, Coda, Codeanywhere, Programmer's Notepad, Vim, and CodeLobster IDE.

While those programs will let you edit or change the file, they don't let you actually run a PHP server. For that, you need something like Apache Web Server. See the Installation and Configuration guide on PHP.net if you need help.

Some .PHP files might actually be media files or images that were accidentally named with this extension. In those cases, just rename the extension to the right one, and it should open correctly in the program that displays that file type, such as a video player if you're working with an MP4.

Still Can't Open It?

Some file extensions look so similar that it's really easy to mix them up, which can lead to using the wrong program to open the file.

For example, HPP includes all the same letters as PHP, but files with that suffix might be related to the Haluha Pearls program.

PPP is similar; there are a few programs that use this kind of file, one being PagePlus as a document file.

How to Convert a PHP File

To generate PDFs from PHP, see FPDF or dompdf.

See the documentation on json encode at PHP.net to learn how to convert PHP arrays into JavaScript code in the JSON format (JavaScript Object Notation). This is only available in PHP 5.2 and up.

You can't convert PHP files to non-text-based formats like MP4 or JPG. If you have a file with the .PHP file extension that you know should have been downloaded in a format like one of those, just rename it from .PHP to .MP4 (or whatever format it should be).

Renaming a file like this isn't performing a real file conversion but instead just allowing the right program to open the file. Real conversions normally take place within a file conversion tool or a program's Save as or Export menu.

How to Make PHP Work With HTML

PHP code embedded in an HTML file is understood as PHP and not HTML when it's enclosed in these tags instead of the common HTML tag:

   code goes here

To link to a PHP file from within an HTML file, enter the following code in the HTML file, where footer.php is the name of your own file:


You can sometimes see that a web page is using PHP by looking at its URL, such as when the default PHP file is called index.php. In this example, it might look like http://www.examplesite.com/index.php.

More Information on PHP

PHP has been ported to nearly every operating system and is completely free to use. The official website is PHP.net. There's a whole documentation section on that site that serves as an online manual if you need help learning more about what you can do with PHP or how it all works. Another good source is W3Schools' PHP Tutorial.

The first version of PHP was released in 1995 and was called Personal Home Page Tools (PHP Tools). Changes were made throughout the years, with new versions being released every few months.

Server-side scripting is the most common use for PHP. As described above, this works with a parser, web server, and web browser, where the browser accesses a server running the PHP software so that the browser can display whatever it is that the server is producing.

Another is command-line scripting, where neither a browser nor server is used. These types of PHP implementations are useful for automated tasks.

PHPS files are syntax-highlighted files. Some PHP servers are configured to automatically highlight the syntax of files that use this extension. This must be enabled by using the httpd.conf line.

  • What is the default app for opening a PHP file in Windows 10?

    Notepad or WordPad are usually the default programs associated with PHP files. You can change the default app by going to Start Settings System Default apps > Choose default apps by file type, selecting .PHP, and choosing an app.

  • Where is the PHP file in WordPress?

    The wp-config.php file is usually located in the root folder of your website. The index.php file is a comprehensive template where you can find other PHP files in the template hierarchy.

  • What is hash function in PHP?

    Hash functions are a way to encrypt data without changing the original meaning. In PHP, the hash() function returns a hash value for the given data based on the algorithm.

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