Everything outside of a pair of opening and closing tags is ignored by the PHP parser which allows PHP files to have mixed content. This allows PHP to be embedded in HTML documents, for example to create templates.
<p>This is going to be ignored by PHP and displayed by the browser.</p>
<?php echo 'While this is going to be parsed.'; ?>
<p>This will also be ignored by PHP and displayed by the browser.</p>
Using structures with conditions
Example #1 Advanced escaping using conditions
<?php if ($expression == true): ?>
This will show if the expression is true.
<?php else: ?>
Otherwise this will show.
<?php endif; ?>
There are four different pairs of opening and closing tags which can be used in PHP. Two of those, <?php ?> and <script language="php"> </script>, are always available. The other two are short tags and ASP style tags, and can be turned on and off from the php.ini configuration file. As such, while some people find short tags and ASP style tags convenient, they are less portable, and generally not recommended.
Also note that if you are embedding PHP within XML or XHTML you will need to use the <?php ?> tags to remain compliant with standards.
Example #2 PHP Opening and Closing Tags
1. <?php echo 'if you want to serve XHTML or XML documents, do it like this'; ?>
2. <script language="php">
echo 'some editors (like FrontPage) don\'t
like processing instructions';
3. <? echo 'this is the simplest, an SGML processing instruction'; ?>
<?= expression ?> This is a shortcut for "<? echo expression ?>"
4. <% echo 'You may optionally use ASP-style tags'; %>
<%= $variable; # This is a shortcut for "<% echo . . ." %>
While the tags seen in examples one and two are both always available, example one is the most commonly used, and recommended, of the two.
Short tags (example three) are only available when they are enabled via the short_open_tag php.ini configuration file directive, or if PHP was configured with the --enable-short-tags option.
ASP style tags (example four) are only available when they are enabled via the asp_tags php.ini configuration file directive.
Using short tags should be avoided when developing applications or libraries that are meant for redistribution, or deployment on PHP servers which are not under your control, because short tags may not be supported on the target server. For portable, redistributable code, be sure not to use short tags.
In PHP 5.2 and earlier, the parser does not allow the <?php opening tag to be the only thing in a file. This is allowed as of PHP 5.3 provided there are one or more whitespace characters after the opening tag.
Starting with PHP 5.4, short echo tag <?= is always recognized and valid, regardless of the short_open_tag setting.