Echoing: dd() vs var_dump() vs print_r()

Tutorial last revisioned on August 10, 2022 with Laravel 9
One of the most popular way of debugging in PHP still remains the same - showing variables in the browser, with hope to find what the error is. Laravel has a specific short helper function for showing variables - dd() - stands for "Dump and Die", but it's not always convenient. What are other options? First, what is the problem with dd()? Well, let's say we want to get all rows from DB table and dump them:
$methods = PaymentMethod::all();
dd($methods);
We would see something like this: 0915_laravel_dump01 Oh, ok, three rows. Now what are the values? We have to click to expand it - ok, let's do that: 0915_laravel_dump02 Mmm, now we know which type we are dealing with - "PaymentMethod". [sarcasm]really helpful...[/sarcasm] Let's expand one of the rows now - maybe we will finally see the values? 0915_laravel_dump03 Nope. The final step is to expand attributes or original sections. But you get the point - to see the actual values, we need to click three additional times, and we don't see the full result without those actions. At first I thought - maybe dd() function has some parameters for it? Unfortunately not. So let's look at other options:

var_dump() and die()

Good old PHP way of showing the data of any type:
$methods = PaymentMethod::all();
var_dump($methods);
die();
What we see now: 0915_laravel_dump04 Not easily readable, is it? The trick here is to View Source in browser, in case of Chrome/Windows it's CTRL+U: 0915_laravel_dump05 Better, huh? But there's even more readable way.
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print_r()

Another PHP built-in function print_r() has a perfect description for us: "Prints human-readable information about a variable" So if we do this:
$methods = PaymentMethod::all();
print_r($methods);
die();
And then go to View Source of the browser... We get this: 0915_laravel_dump06 Now we can read the contents easily and try to investigate the error. Moreover, print_r() function has another optional parameter with true/false values - you can not only echo the variable, but return it as string into another variable. Then you can combine several variables into one and maybe log it somewhere, for example. So, in cases like this, dd() is not that convenient - PHP native functions to the rescue. But if you want the script to literally "dump one simple variable and die" - then dd($var) is probably the fastest to type.

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