Version 1.5.0

The UserManager class is a self-contained user management system, written in PHP. Include the class in your website, and you have with a few short lines of code a fully operational login system, including multiple user levels (default User, SuperUser, and Admin) and the ability to lock web pages from users without appropriate permissions - similar to .htaccess and .htpassword locking, except integrated with your website rather than a series of intrusive 401 login prompts.

There are two versions, XMLUserManager and MySQLUserManager, both of which extend UserManager, and allow you to chose where your user information is stored.

XMLUserManager is the original tool, providing user management in a lightweight XML file, without requiring a database or any other configuration. MySQLUserManager is a newer variant which is backed by a database and therefore supports larger numbers of users, and is ideal if your site is already using a MySQL database. Both classes implement the same interface therefore switching from one to the other is as easy as changing which class you initialize.


XMLUserManager is functional with a default install of PHP5, a MySQL database is required to use MySQLUserManager, and the mysqli database driver is used to communicate with the database.

Primarily tested with Uniform Server.


  • XML Backend: no database or setup required.
  • MySQL Backend: easy to setup, scales well.
  • Customizable user permission levels.
  • Customizable storage fields.
  • Integrates seamlessly with your website.
  • One function call locks a page to anyone without the proper permission.
  • Self contained user management page.
  • Add and maintain users yourself, or use the pre-built manager.

Potential Features

  • ManageUsers should be divided into separate pages in order to deal with larger user bases.

Feature requests:


This section describes how to use the class right out of the box. As is, UserManager has four user levels, Guest, User, Superuser, and Admin, and stores each user's username, password (encrypted), and level. In addition to this documentation the public functions in the UserManager provide more specific implementation details.


UserManager uses PHP Sessions to store the current visitor's information. So before anything else, you must call session_start(). Then create an instance of either the XMLUserManager class by passing the constructor the location of the XML file, or the MySQLUserManager class by passing a mysqli database connection, and the name of a table the class should work with. If using the XMLUserManager be sure to specify a location outside the web root or hidden from public view. Even though passwords are encrypted the XML file should not be world-readable.

include 'XMLUserManager.class.php';
$user = new XMLUserManager('users.xml');
include 'MySQLUserManager.class.php';
$db = new mysqli(HOST,USER,PASS,DB);
$user = new MySQLUserManager($db);

That's all it takes to initialize the UserManager. You should generally place these setup commands in a common include file. For the remainder of this document, it will be assumed that calling include ''; will call the lines of code above.

Database Setup

Using MySQLUserManager requires slightly more setup than XMLUserManager, but it is still quite straightforward. The first time you construct the UserManager you will need to create the user table. MySQLUserManager can generate the necessary CREATE TABLE query, which you can either print and run manually, or have it invoke directly if the database connection has the appropriate permissions.

If the user on the connection passed to MySQLUserManager has CREATE permission you can call createTable(), this will execute the create command and construct the necessary table. Otherwise you can call echo createTableString(); to get the schema and invoke it yourself.

MySQLUserManager cannot predict what data you may want to search by. Looking up by username and id are fast with the default command, but if you extend the class (more below) be aware that lookupAttribute() is only efficient when run against properly indexed data. Therefore you should modify the table or the CREATE instruction as necessary - a decent rule of thumb would be to index any column you intend to search by, but MySQLUserManager does not eliminate the need for good database layout.

Creating Users

There are two different ways to create and manage your website's users. The first is through the built-in manageUsers() UI and the second is manually, with addUser(), modifyUser(), and deleteUser().

The easiest way is to use the manageUsers() function, which generates a user-management page. Place the following in a file (admin.php or something similar):

include '';
// IMPORTANT - set this to false once you've created an administrator account
// so that only admins can manage users. When true the manageUsers UI is
// accessible to all visitors.

This will generate a form to modify existing users and add additional users. If you don't have any users created already you will just see three empty slots to create new users. The true parameter passed to manageUsers() above overrides the protection built into the function - normally if you are not logged in as an Administrator, you will not be able to access the user management page. Since you haven't created any administrator accounts yet you need to override this lock.

IMPORTANT: make sure to remove the parameter to manageUsers() before a live launch of your site. If override is not set, manageUsers() is safe from unauthorized access.

The second way to work with users is manually. This would primarily be used if you have your own register page for users to register themselves.

By calling addUser("USERNAME", "PASSWORD", UserManager::ADMIN, array()); where USERNAME and PASSWORD are your desired username and password, you will create a new user with ADMIN level permissions. (the other default user levels are UserManager::USER and UserManager::SUPERUSER. UserManager::GUEST also exists, but should not be used to create a user). addUser() can be integrated with your own registration page by doing any error checks you want to make and then passing the registration information straight to addUser(). addUser() will return false if the username already exists, and will otherwise register the user.

For XMLUserManager, if you plan on calling addUser() more than once per execution add an additional parameter, false, to the function call. This disables writing the values to the file until you call commitDOMChanges(), which will write all changes back to the file, which is much faster than writing and rebuilding the DOM model with every addition.

Login and Checking Permissions

The require_login() function can be invoked the top of any page, and only users logged in (with a certain permission level, if you pass one to the function) will be able to view the contents of the page. If the visitor is already logged in they will notice no interruption of service, and will not need to login again.

The default UserManager class has a header() and a footer() function which are called by require_login() (and for that matter manageUsers()) which will be used to generate an HTML login page. The default behavior of these methods is a bare-bones page with no styling. See the "Extending Header and Footer" section below to change this behavior to match your site's look and feel, or avoid require_login() and create your own login behavior instead.

The login() function takes a username and password and returns a boolean. If true, the credentials were correct and the user is now logged in, if false one of the given credentials was incorrect. Note that it is a security feature, and not a bug, that which credential was incorrect is not specified. You can create your own login page or form and pass the result to the login() method.

You may want to output certain content only to logged in users (for instance, perhaps only logged in users should see a link to post a new topic). For this functionality, use hasPerm(). The default parameter is UserManager::USER, but if you want to be more restrictive, for instance displaying a link to the admin panel only to administrators, simply pass a different user level to the function. The function returns a boolean if the user has permission or not. Example:

if($_user->hasPerm(UserManager::ADMIN)) {
  echo '<a href="admin.php">Manage Users</a>';

Get Information About the Current User

The current user's ID, username, and level are stored in the session and are immediately available to every webpage. This information is stored in the $user array. If you need additional information about the current user, you must call loadCurUser(). This will populate the array with all other information on the current user.

Method Overview

  • logout()

    Call logout() and the current user will be logged out and reduced to GUEST permission level.

  • loadCurUser()

    To save reads the current user's extended data is not loaded unless requested. The ID, Username, and Level are available in the $user->user array immediately. If you need the extended data, such as any custom attributes being stored, call loadCurUser() to populate the $user->user array with all the current user's information.

  • getUser()

    To get information on a user given an ID, you can call $user->getUser($id). This will return an associative array of all the details of that user.

  • lookupAttribute()

    To lookup users by anything other than their ID you can use lookupAttribute. It takes two parameters, the attribute to lookup by and a value to match. It will return an array of users (which are themselves associative arrays of all the user's attributes).

  • userLevel()

    Returns the string version of a permission level, pass it the result of $user-user['level'], for instance.

  • modifyUser()

    This method takes an associative array of parameters to new values. You can even change the username. You must specify the user id (obviously) but all other parameters are optional. What you don't specify stays the same.

  • deleteUser()

    Takes a user id to delete.

  • commitChanges()

    If you call any of the modifying methods (addUser, modifyUser, deleteUser) and have set autoCommit to false you need to call commitChanges() to process all the buffered commits at once. Note that internally when autoCommit is true modifications call commitChanges(), so if at any point you call a modifying method with autoCommit set to true all earlier uncommitted modifications will also be submitted.

Advanced Usage

You can extend the UserManager subclasses to enable more custom behavior, including new user levels, custom header and footer behavior, and more. It is also possible to extend UserManager itself to integrate with a new backend. How to do this is not presently documented, but replicating the contents of either XMLUserManager or MySQLUserManager with your backend of choice (JSONUserManager, for instance) will get you most of the way there.

New Permission Levels and Additional Fields

If you wish to create additional user levels, you must introduce a new constant, such as const SUBSCRIBER = 3; make the name descriptive, and make the value some integer to represent its rank. Larger numbers have higher permissions. Note that 0 is a guest, a normal user is 2, a super user is 4, and an administrator is 10. In addition to creating a new constant, you will need to add this value to the levels array in your constructor:

$this->levels['SUBSCRIBER'] = self::SUBSCRIBER;

You can also define permission groups, which do not have a logical hierarchy, but also are not mutually exclusive. A user can only be one level, and automatically inherits the privileges of any lower level, but can be a member of any number of groups. This is done by constructing a bitmasker object (see bitmasker.class.php for more) with the names of the groups you would like to exist, like so:

$this->groups = new bitmasker('author','editor','publisher');

Now you can specify a user's groups directly in addUser(), update them with modifyUser() (though you have to directly use the bitmasker object in this case), and most importantly handle permission checks with hasPerm() and require_login(). For instance, to confirm a user is either an author or a publisher, you can do the following:


Groups are stored as a bitmask, and as such you'll want to use the bitmask class to modify them or do more advanced handling of user groups:

$_user->groups->getValue($_user->user['groups'],'author'); // returns true if user is an author
// sets editor field to true and returns modified mask.  Saving the modified mask is a second step.
$newGroup = $_user->groups->setValue($_user->user['groups'], 'editor', true);
// returns an array of the groups a user is in
$groups = $_user->groups->maskToArray($_user->user['groups']);

Another way to extend UserManager is to introduce new attributes for the XML document / DB to store. Do this by appending an array of the attributes you want to add to the userFields array, for instance:

$this->userFields = array('name', 'email', 'gender', 'ip');

Make sure you call the parent constructor and pass it the file you want to reference, even if you don't want to extend either the user levels or the user attributes.

Extending the header() and footer() methods will allow you to display your own template when using the require_login() and manageUsers() functions. Simply insert your own template header and footer code into the respective methods. For instance, to work with the template system I normally use, I do the following:

function header($title) {
  global $template;

function footer() {
  global $template;

File Overview

  • UserManager.class.php - The abstract parent class of both UserManager objects, handles all backend-abstract behavior.
  • XMLUserManager.class.php - The XML-backed UserManager, include this file in your code and create an instance of it to use XML.
  • MySQLUserManager.class.php - The MySQL-backed UserManager, include this file in your code and create an instance of it to use XML.
  • bitmasker.class.php - A bitmap handling utility for storing and working with groups.
  • UserManager.Extended.class.php - This is an example demonstrating one possible way to extend the UserManager to draw more out of the application.

Version History

  • 1.5 - MySQLUserManager released
  • 1.5.0 - Major robustness improvements, UserManager compartmentalized and MySQLUserManager created
  • 1.0 - Initial UserManager
  • 1.0.2 - Minor Feature Improvements
  • 1.0.1 - Bug Fixes
  • 1.0.0 - Initial Release

©2010-2012 Michael Diamond

This program is free software: you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation, either version 3 of the License, or (at your option) any later version.

This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. See the GNU General Public License for more details.

You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License along with this program. If not, see