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  • Symfony

What is Symfony?

Symfony is collection of powerful PHP development tools that includes a set of independent components and a full-fledged development framework that rides on top of those components. Symfony is at the core of a number of popular PHP applications and frameworks, including Drupal, PHPbb, and laravel.

What is an Application Framework?

A framework is an integrated collection of tools, templates, and methodologies for developing a software application. A framework doesn't just provide a bunch of independent tools and libraries. Rather, the benefit of a framework is in the integration of all its parts and the overall effect this has on the way you develop an application.

Application development frameworks provide:

  • Modules for frequently needed application features.
  • Tools for speeding up or automating application development tasks.
  • Methodologies or implementation patterns for building new features.
  • Structure for how to organize code and architectural components.
  • Philosophy of how to go about designing, building, and deploying a software application.

Why should I use an application development framework?

  • Why re-build the same features, over and over, for every new application?

  • Why do things manually when they could be automated?

  • Why do analogous tasks in different ways?

  • Why build from scratch when most applications are organized on similar principles?

  • Why walk alone when a community of developers has gone ahead of you?

The obvious answer to these questions is: You shouldn't do those things. Using an application development framework helps you avoid those fundamental errors in programming judgment.

It will probably save you a ton of time, too.


Symfony is an application development framework for building web applications in PHP. There are several other popular PHP frameworks, so let's focus on a couple things that really make Symfony stands out.

Modular Design

Symfony is highly modularized, more so than almost any other similar framework. It consists of a core set of individual modules which each provide a fairly granular amount of functionality. These components were designed so that they could be used individually. Indeed, you can add any one of them by itself to a project to get a specific feature benefit.

The key modules include:

  • BrowserKit is a simulated web browser.
  • ClassLoader autoloads classes as needed.
  • Config manages configuration settings and resolves conflicting configuration statements.
  • Console assists with running application functions from a terminal window.
  • CssSelector translates CSS into XPath.
  • Debug helps developers track down bugs.
  • DependencyInjection manages the creation of objects.
  • DomCrawler assists with DOM traversal.
  • EventDispatcher acts as a mediator between event listeners and the objects that trigger those events.
  • ExpressionLanguage evaluates the truth value of expressions without executing them.
  • Filesystem provides basic file and directory functions.
  • Finder finds and fetches files and directories (even if it doesn't already know where to look).
  • Form creates HTML web forms.
  • HttpFoundation adds object orientation to HTTP.
  • HttpKernel provides tools for building HTTP based frameworks.
  • OptionsResolver eases the creation of objects that need option arrays.
  • Process runs commands inside sub-processes.
  • PropertyAccess adds simple read/write (accessor) methods to objects.
  • Routing maps HTTP requests to application methods and arguments.
  • Security provides a sophisticated authorization scheme.
  • Serializer translates structured data from one format to another.
  • Stopwatch measures execution time for code.
  • Templating assists with the creation of views and template.
  • Translation helps with internationalization and localization.

These modules each provide a fairly specific set of features to application development. They can be used independently. In fact, they are developed and maintained independently --” each individual module has its own Github repo.

Taken as a whole, and with added structural components, they create a powerful development framework.

But the modularity doesn't end with the design of the framework itself. Additional functionality beyond these core modules can be added into the application by plugins. User management, mail server interaction, CSS preprocessing --” all these common applications features, and many others, can be added via plugins.

This structure also encourages application development to be done in a similarly modular way, which promotes re-use and also generally good programming practices.

Symfony Culture

The Symfony development team says over and over that it isn't just a set of tools and a framework: it is also a philosophy and a community.

The Symfony community provides an outstanding level of support and documentation, from detailed instructions on how to use each component, to talking points for explaining development frameworks to various stakeholders and decision makers.

This focus on the "soft"" aspects of software development promotes a high degree of overall programmer satisfaction and quality of code.

Symfony Hosting

At a minimum, Symfony requires:

  • PHP 5.3.3 or hight
  • JSON enabled
  • ctype enabled
  • php.ini must have date.timezone setting

Other components and settings are highly recommended. Please see the complete Symfony Requirements guide.

Also, applications built on Symfony might additionally require other features, modules, or settings at the server level.

Many webhosts already support Symfony, or can be configured to support it.

Symfony Frequently Asked Questions

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