Lazy loading of object variables in php using __get()

August 1, 2008

Was doing a(nother) shopping application lately. In the application each Product (a class) can have many images, but they’re not displayed in the search results page or the basket page, so it seemed a bit daft to be reading the database and loading them into memory in the constructor.

What I did instead was to use the magic method __get() to load the images into the object when they were needed. __get() is called whenever something tries to access a variable that is not set or publically accessible, so basically I used that to load the images whenever some other piece of code tried to access Product::images.

Here’s the actual code:

public function __get($var)
    return $this->$var;

So if some other piece of code made a Product object called $product and then tried to access $product->images and the images haven’t already been loaded, a (private) function called $product->_loadimages() is called. If the images HAVE already been loaded then __get() is not called.

Very handy.

One other thing I had to so was to unset() Product::images in the constructor, so that __get() would be called when something tried to access it. I could have avoided this by making $images private, but it behaves as a public property so I didn’t want to.

13 Responses to “Lazy loading of object variables in php using __get()”

  1. […] Cormac posted this look at a method for lazy loading on variables in an object with the magic __get method. I used the magic […]

  2. […] In response to Lazy loading of object variables in php using __get() […]

  3. eval() is evil. This is a better way:
    $this->{‘_load’ . $var}();
    return $this->$var;

  4. iongion Says:

    Why don’ you just use

    public function __get($var)
    $loader = ‘_load’.$var;
    return $this->$var;

    it should be much faster than using eval and much portable without the placeholders {}

  5. Trii Says:

    You know you can remove the eval() call and replace it with:


  6. Trii Says:

    Yeah your blog killed my opening ?php,

    $method = ‘_load’ . $var;

  7. Don’t use eval. You are just asking for trouble. Instead you should first check that the method exists and then call it using call_user_func().

    if (is_callable(array($this, ‘_load’ . $var)))
    call_user_func(array($this, ‘_load’ . $var));
    return $this->$var;

  8. cormacscode Says:

    Whoa! I didn’t realise anyone read this blog

    Anyway, ok, I shouldn’t have used eval(). My bad.

  9. JT Says:

    “Whoa! I didn’t realise anyone read this blog”

    You’re 10th hit on google for “php lazy load”

  10. Newbie Says:

    Great article, and informative comments to go with it.

  11. Sammi Sanders Says:

    Now the 3rd for ‘PHP lazy loading’ on

  12. Maurits Says:

    First hit for ‘lazy loading php’ @ Google.

  13. This worked like a champ! Thank you!

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