A couple of PHP classes to help lay out simple pages more easily.
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PHP layouts made simple

LayoutHelper is a really, really basic templating system. Really basic. Sort of based on Ryan Bates's nifty_layout and Rails's ActionView.

Setting template substitution values

Create a new LayoutHelper object. Then call methods to set appropriate values:

$helper = new LayoutHelper();
$helper->title('My Web Homepage');

CSS and JS methods are reasonably smart. Extensions are optional, remote URLs are acceptable, and CSS media type defaults to "screen,projection" if not specified in square brackets:


Methods take multiple arguments if they make sense:

$helper->css('screen[screen,projection]', 'print[print]', 'DancingBunny[handheld]');
$helper->js('lib/jquery-1.3.2.min', 'application');

Creating template files

Templates are named whatever.html.php and should live in a /templates subdirectory beneath your project root. Method substitutions within a template are denoted by {{method}}, where the method will be called on the given LayoutHelper object and the return value substituted for the string within the curly brackets. So if you have this in a template:

// templates/header.html.php
<body class="{{body_class}}">

then $helper->render('header') will call the body_class method of the $helper object and substitute its return value (say it's "home"), resulting in this:

<body class="home">

The template itself is also required, so any PHP-executable code within the template will also be evaluated:

// templates/header.html.php
<meta name="description" content="<?php perch_content('Site Description'); " />

Rendering templates

Once you've created a template and put it in the proper directory:

echo $helper->render('header');

You can also render "partials," which aren't really as sophisticated as Rails's partials, but reside in whatever the current directory is and start with an underscore:

// attempts to render a template named "_subnav.html.php" in the current directory
echo $helper->render_partial('subnav');

Conditional comments

To target Internet Explorer:

$helper->ie->begin('IE 6');

$helper->ie->begin('lt IE 8');

echo $helper->render('header');

which will result in this output:

<!--[if IE 6]><style href="/stylesheets/ie6.css" ...></style><![endif]-->
<!--[if lt IE 8]><style href="/stylesheets/lib/blueprint/ie.css" ...></style><![endif]-->
<!--[if IE 6]><script src="/javascripts/broken-browser.js"></script><![endif]-->


Two utility functions will also be defined in the global namespace if no such functions already exist.

The h() function is a proxy to the PHP built-in function htmlspecialchars() and takes the same arguments:

echo h($user_generated_content);  // same as "echo htmlspecialchars($user_generated_content);"

The d() function is a wrapper for print_r() that includes a debug message, last stack frame, and string values for booleans and nulls instead of ints or empty strings. It also wraps the output in a <pre class="debug"> tag:

d($some_variable);  // bunch of debug output

LayoutHelper will also attempt to include a file named layout_helper_utilities.php if it exists in the include path, so that you can put your own helpers in there.


  • Support arbitrary methods on LayoutHelper
  • Allow configuration of stylesheet, JavaScript, and template directories