PHP Manual

Data sending methods (GET and POST)

26. 11. 2019

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In addition to the regular variables, we also have so-called **superglobal variables** in PHP, which carry information about the currently called page and the data we are passing.

Typically, we have a form on a page that the user fills in and we want to transfer that data to the web server where we process it in PHP.

There are 3 methods most commonly used to do this:

  • GET ~ the data is passed in the URL as parameters
  • POST ~ the data is passed covertly along with the page request
  • Ajax POST ~ asynchronous javascript processing

GET method - $_GET

Data sent by the GET method is visible in the URL (as parameters after the question mark), the maximum length is 1024 characters in Internet Explorer (other browsers almost don't restrict it, but larger texts should not be passed this way). The advantage of this method is mostly simplicity (you can see what you are sending) and the possibility to provide a link to the result of the processing. The data is sent to a variable.

The address of the receiving page might look like this:

In PHP, we can then, for example, write the value of the variable parameter as follows:

echo $_GET['promenade']; // prints "content"

Strong warning: This method of writing data directly to the HTML page is not secure, because we can pass, for example, HTML code in the URL that would be written to the page and then executed.

We must always treat the data before any output to the page, the htmlspecialchars() function is used for this.

For example: echo htmlspecialchars($_GET['variable']);

POST method - $_POST

The data sent by the POST method is not visible in the URL, which solves the problem of maximum length of the data sent. The POST method should always be used to send form fields, as this will ensure that, for example, passwords are not visible and that a link cannot be provided to the page processing the result of a particular input.

The data is available in the $_POST variable and the usage is the same as for the GET method.

Verifying the existence of the data sent

Before processing any data, we should first verify that the data has actually been sent, otherwise we would be accessing to a non-existent variable, which would throw an error message.

The isset() function is used to verify the existence of a variable.

if (isset($_GET['Name'])) {
echo 'Your name:' . htmlspecialchars($_GET['Name']);
} else {
echo 'No name has been entered.';

Data entry form

The form is made in HTML, not in PHP. It can be on a plain HTML page. All the "magic" is handled by the PHP script that accepts the data.

For an example, we can use a form to receive 2 numbers, sent by the GET method:

<form action="script.php" method="get">
První číslo: <input type="text" name="x">
Druhé číslo: <input type="text" name="y">
<input type="submit" value="Sečíst čísla">

In the first line you can see where the data will be sent and by what method.

The next 2 lines are simple form elements, note the name="" attribute, there is the name of the variable that will hold what is now in the form.

Next comes the button to submit the data (mandatory) and the form's closing HTML tag (mandatory so the browser knows what else to submit and what not).

We can have any number of forms on one page, and they cannot be nested. If nesting occurs, the most nested form is always sent and the rest are ignored.

Form processing on the server

Now we have a finished HTML form and we send it to script.php, which receives the data using the GET method. The address of the page request might look like this:


$x = $_GET['x']; // 5
$y = $_GET['y']; // 3
echo $x + $y; // prints 8

Correctly, we should first verify that both form fields have been filled in, this is done with the isset() function:

if (isset($_GET['x']) && isset($_GET['y'])) {
$x = $_GET['x']; // 5
$y = $_GET['y']; // 3
echo $x + $y; // prints 8
} else {
echo 'The form was not filled in correctly.';

TIP: You can pass multiple parameters to the isset() construct to verify that they all exist.

Therefore, instead of isset($_GET['x']) && isset($_GET['y']), you can just specify:

isset($_GET['x'], $_GET['y']).

Processing data received by the POST method

If data is received by POST method, the URL of the script to be processed will always look like this:

And never otherwise. Just no. The data is hidden in the HTTP request and we can't see it.

The hidden POST method is required to send usernames and passwords for security reasons.

Security: If you are working with passwords on your site, the login and registration form should be hosted on HTTPS and you must hash the passwords appropriately (for example, with BCrypt).

Handling ajax requests

In some cases, when processing ajax requests, it may not be easy to retrieve the data. This is because ajax libraries usually send data as json payload, while the superglobal variable $_POST contains only form data.

The data can still be accessed, I described the details in the article Processing ajax POST requests.

Getting raw input

Sometimes it can happen that a user sends a request using an inappropriate HTTP method, and adds their own input on top of it. Or, for example, sends a binary file, or bad HTTP headers.

For such a case, it is good to use native input, which is obtained in PHP as follows:

$input = file_get_contents('php://input');

While implementing the REST API library, I also encountered a number of special cases where different types of web servers would incorrectly decide input HTTP headers, or the user would incorrectly submit form data, etc.

For this case, I was able to implement this function which solves almost all cases (the implementation depends on Nette\Http\RequestFactory, but you can replace this dependency with something else in your specific project):

* Gets POST data directly from the HTTP header, or tries to parse the data from the string.
* Some legacy clients send data as json, which is in base string format, so field casting to array is mandatory.
* @return array<string|int, mixed>
private function getBodyParams(string $method): array
if ($method === 'GET' || $method === 'DELETE') {
return [];
$request = (new RequestFactory())->fromGlobals();
$return = array_merge((array) $request->getPost(), $request->getFiles());
try {
$post = array_keys($_POST)[0] ?? '';
if (str_starts_with($post, '{') && str_ends_with($post, '}')) { // support for legacy clients
$json = json_decode($post, true, 512, JSON_THROW_ON_ERROR);
if (is_array($json) === false) {
throw new LogicException('Json is not valid array.');
foreach ($json as $key => $value) {
$return[$key] = $value;
} catch (Throwable $e) {
// Silence is golden.
try {
$input = (string) file_get_contents('php://input');
if ($input !== '') {
$phpInputArgs = (array) json_decode($input, true, 512, JSON_THROW_ON_ERROR);
foreach ($phpInputArgs as $key => $value) {
$return[$key] = $value;
} catch (Throwable $e) {
// Silence is golden.
return $return;

Jan Barášek   Více o autorovi

Autor článku pracuje jako seniorní vývojář a software architekt v Praze. Navrhuje a spravuje velké webové aplikace, které znáte a používáte. Od roku 2009 nabral bohaté zkušenosti, které tímto webem předává dál.

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