PHP provides a large number of predefined variables to any script which it runs. Many of these variables, however, cannot be fully documented as they are dependent upon which server is running, the version and setup of the server, and other factors. Some of these variables will not be available when PHP is run on the command line. For a listing of these variables, please see the section on Reserved Predefined Variables.
In PHP 4.2.0 and later, the default value for the PHP directive register_globals is off. This is a major change in PHP. Having register_globals off affects the set of predefined variables available in the global scope. For example, to get DOCUMENT_ROOT you'll use $_SERVER['DOCUMENT_ROOT'] instead of $DOCUMENT_ROOT, or $_GET['id'] from the URL http://www.example.com/test.php?id=3 instead of $id, or $_ENV['HOME'] instead of $HOME.
For related information on this change, read the configuration entry for register_globals, the security chapter on Using Register Globals , as well as the PHP » 4.1.0 and » 4.2.0 Release Announcements.
Using the available PHP Reserved Predefined Variables, like the superglobal arrays, is preferred.
From version 4.1.0 onward, PHP provides an additional set of predefined arrays containing variables from the web server (if applicable), the environment, and user input. These new arrays are rather special in that they are automatically global--i.e., automatically available in every scope. For this reason, they are often known as "superglobals". (There is no mechanism in PHP for user-defined superglobals.) The superglobals are listed below; however, for a listing of their contents and further discussion on PHP predefined variables and their natures, please see the section Reserved Predefined Variables. Also, you'll notice how the older predefined variables ($HTTP_*_VARS) still exist. As of PHP 5.0.0, the long PHP predefined variable arrays may be disabled with the register_long_arrays directive.
Note: Variable variables
Superglobals cannot be used as variable variables inside functions or class methods.
Even though both the superglobal and HTTP_*_VARS can exist at the same time; they are not identical, so modifying one will not change the other.
If certain variables in variables_order are not set, their appropriate PHP predefined arrays are also left empty.