How to Pretty Print JSON in PHP

On 5/13/2016
This php tutorial discusses about pretty printing json in php.

I admit json format is self-descriptive and easy on human eyes. But have you ever created json data and tried printing or storing it in a file? Well! I'm sure you wouldn't say it human-friendly anymore if you take a look on it. All those cluttered characters and braces without proper indentation is a nightmare to read - to say the least.

A while back I tried for a php script to export mysql to json to backup data and use it for later. When I had a look on the file, what I see is this one...


instead of something like this with proper indentation and white-space and all...

    "a": "ABC",
    "p": "PQR",
    "X": "XYZ"

It sucks! If you use PHP 5.4 or above, consider yourself fortunate as it offers a great option to pretty print json with indentation. All you have to do is to use this option JSON_PRETTY_PRINT when you encode json.

Here let me show you how to pretty print json in php.

Pretty Print JSON in PHP

Recently I shared a php script with my blog readers to write json to file. That one converts an associative array to json string and save it into a file. Let me take the same example and show you how to pretty print json with php script.

$arr = Array (
    "0" => Array (
        "id" => "MMZ301",
        "name" => "Michael Bruce",
        "designation" => "System Architect"
    "1" => Array (
        "id" => "MMZ385",
        "name" => "Jennifer Winters",
        "designation" => "Senior Programmer"
    "2" => Array (
        "id" => "MMZ593",
        "name" => "Donna Fox",
        "designation" => "Office Manager"

//pretty print json
header('Content-type: text/javascript');
echo json_encode(array('data' => $arr), JSON_PRETTY_PRINT);

The above script produces a result similar to this one,

    "data": [
            "id": "MMZ301",
            "name": "Michael Bruce",
            "designation": "System Architect"
            "id": "MMZ385",
            "name": "Jennifer Winters",
            "designation": "Senior Programmer"
            "id": "MMZ593",
            "name": "Donna Fox",
            "designation": "Office Manager"

Pretty good! But this will just print json on the browser window. If you want to save json into a file then use these below lines of code instead of echoing.

Pretty Print JSON to File

// encode json
$json = json_encode(array('data' => $arr), JSON_PRETTY_PRINT);

header('Content-type: text/javascript');

//save json as file
if (file_put_contents("data.json", $json))
    echo "Saved json to file...";
    echo "Oops! Error saving json...";

That's all about pretty printing json in php. With this simple tweak you will get a json file which is easily readable by humans.


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