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Last updated: Tue, 19 Sep 2006


(PHP 4, PHP 5)

ob_start -- Turn on output buffering


bool ob_start ( [callback output_callback [, int chunk_size [, bool erase]]] )

This function will turn output buffering on. While output buffering is active no output is sent from the script (other than headers), instead the output is stored in an internal buffer.

The contents of this internal buffer may be copied into a string variable using ob_get_contents(). To output what is stored in the internal buffer, use ob_end_flush(). Alternatively, ob_end_clean() will silently discard the buffer contents.

An optional output_callback function may be specified. This function takes a string as a parameter and should return a string. The function will be called when ob_end_flush() is called, or when the output buffer is flushed to the browser at the end of the request. When output_callback is called, it will receive the contents of the output buffer as its parameter and is expected to return a new output buffer as a result, which will be sent to the browser. If the output_callback is not a callable function, this function will return FALSE. If the callback function has two parameters, the second parameter is filled with a bit-field consisting of PHP_OUTPUT_HANDLER_START, PHP_OUTPUT_HANDLER_CONT and PHP_OUTPUT_HANDLER_END. If output_callback returns FALSE original input is sent to the browser.

Note: In PHP 4.0.4, ob_gzhandler() was introduced to facilitate sending gz-encoded data to web browsers that support compressed web pages. ob_gzhandler() determines what type of content encoding the browser will accept and will return its output accordingly.

Note: Before PHP 4.3.2 this function did not return FALSE in case the passed output_callback can not be executed.


Some web servers (e.g. Apache) change the working directory of a script when calling the callback function. You can change it back by e.g. chdir(dirname($_SERVER['SCRIPT_FILENAME'])) in the callback function.

If the optional parameter chunk_size is passed, the callback function is called on every first newline after chunk_size bytes of output. The output_callback parameter may be bypassed by passing a NULL value.

If the optional parameter erase is set to FALSE, the buffer will not be deleted until the script finishes (as of PHP 4.3.0).

Output buffers are stackable, that is, you may call ob_start() while another ob_start() is active. Just make sure that you call ob_end_flush() the appropriate number of times. If multiple output callback functions are active, output is being filtered sequentially through each of them in nesting order.

ob_end_clean(), ob_end_flush(), ob_clean(), ob_flush() and ob_start() may not be called from a callback function. If you call them from callback function, the behavior is undefined. If you would like to delete the contents of a buffer, return "" (a null string) from callback function. You can't even call functions using the output buffering functions like print_r($expression, true) or highlight_file($filename, true) from a callback function.

Example 1. User defined callback function example


function callback($buffer) 
  // replace all the apples with oranges
  return (str_replace("apples", "oranges", $buffer));


<p>It's like comparing apples to oranges.</p>



Would produce:

<p>It's like comparing oranges to oranges.</p>

See also ob_get_contents(), ob_end_flush(), ob_end_clean(), ob_implicit_flush(), ob_gzhandler(), ob_iconv_handler() mb_output_handler(), and ob_tidyhandler().

Last updated: Tue, 19 Sep 2006