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I have a file which includes another file:
<? php include('file_2.php'); ?>
file 2 can contain a statement as simple as:
<?php $testVar = "this is a test";?>
and I get this error:
Parse error: parse error, unexpected T_VARIABLE in file_2.php on line 1
The automatic indenting feature of many editors helps, too. I use it to spot errors in php, perl, css, html code.