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Using ini_set seems a bit chicken and egg to me... I would want the include path set before I do anything on my page, then include the header with simply include('header.php') and not worry about the path (same with all other includes from then on).
But if I have to put ini_set at the top of every page on my site, that defeats the point a little, considering I want a globally managed include path that I can set in one place. So then if I put the ini_set in a globally included file... how do I include it without a relative/absolute URL if ini_set has not yet happened?
Is there a solution that allows me to set the includes path somewhere for the entire site, without ever having to then specify include paths later? .htaccess perhaps?
You may be able to change php settings using .htaccess depending on your server configuration. Take a look at PHP: How to change configuration settings - Manual [php.net]