Tuesday 28 March 2023

PHP / Symfony: working through "Symfony: The Fast Track", part 2: creating a controller (eventually)


Sit. rep.

OK so last time (PHP / Symfony: working through "Symfony: The Fast Track", part 1: preparation and pre-requisites (and not actually any Symfony!)) I didn't make much Symfony progress, but I got my ducks (and my Docker containers) in a row, ready to start. I had worked through "Symfony: The Fast Track › Checking your Work Environment", and prepped as much as I could. Running symfony book:check-requirements yields this:

root:/var/www# symfony book:check-requirements
[OK] Git installed
[OK] PHP installed version 8.2.4 (/usr/local/bin/php)
[OK] PHP extension "xsl" installed - required
[OK] PHP extension "tokenizer" installed - required
[OK] PHP extension "xml" installed - required
[OK] PHP extension "redis" installed - optional - needed only for chapter 31
[OK] PHP extension "amqp" installed - optional - needed only for chapter 32
[OK] PHP extension "json" installed - required
[OK] PHP extension "session" installed - required
[OK] PHP extension "curl" installed - optional - needed only for chapter 17 (Panther)
[OK] PHP extension "pdo_pgsql" installed - required
[OK] PHP extension "mbstring" installed - required
[OK] PHP extension "openssl" installed - required
[OK] PHP extension "sodium" installed - required
[OK] PHP extension "zip" installed - optional - needed only for chapter 17 (Panther)
[OK] PHP extension "gd" installed - optional - needed only for chapter 23 (Imagine)
[OK] PHP extension "ctype" installed - required
[OK] PHP extension "intl" installed - required
[OK] Composer installed
[KO] Cannot find Docker, please install it https://www.docker.com/get-started
[KO] Cannot find Docker Compose, please install it https://docs.docker.com/compose/install/
[KO] Cannot find the npm package manager, please install it https://www.npmjs.com/
You should fix the reported issues before starting reading the book.

I'm not bothered about the last three as I'm already in a Docker container, and Node.js is running in a separate container, pointing at the same application directory. Thinking about it, it's quite odd they require using Docker, but it doesn't occur to them to run the app itself in a container. I hope my approach doesn't some how unstick me somewhere along the way.

Right. Let's crack on with it. Next page…

Introducing the project

Here they discuss "learning is doing", whilst not actually doing anything. But there's a diagram of where we get to in this project:

(this is no doubt © Symfony. I am using it in the context of critically evaluating their book, so I think this is "fair use". If someone from Symfony wishes to disagree: hit me up).

That's ambitious! Cool.

The also list how little code is needed to achieve this:

  • 20 PHP classes under src/ for the website;
  • 550 PHP Logical Lines of Code (LLOC) as reported by PHPLOC;
  • 40 lines of configuration tweaks in 3 files (via attributes and YAML), mainly to configure the backend design;
  • 20 lines of development infrastructure configuration (Docker);
  • 100 lines of production infrastructure configuration (Platform.sh);
  • 5 explicit environment variables.


What's missing from that list? No tests. That's disappointing in 2023. I realise this book is about Symfony, but no code exercise in 2023 should normalise "no tests" as an approach. I will try to take a TDD approach with everything, if it seems viable (which it should be?).

There's instructions how to download / install / start the final working app. This seems a bit pre to me. I want to write the thing, not just look at it. "Learning is doing", I read somewhere, recently. I hope this step is not integral to the rest of the process cos I ain't doing it.

(Ah OK, a few paras on the author alludes to DIYing the code, so I guess this is just for reference. Good-o).

Going from Zero to Production

OK, so I now need to create a new Symfony app. This is done via a Symfony helper:

symfony new guestbook --version=6.2 --php=8.1 --webapp --docker --cloud

I know from past experience ("Part 6: Installing Symfony" and "Symfony: installing in my PHP8 container (for a second time, as it turns out)") that Symfony whines if I try to create a new project in a directory that already has stuff in it, so I'll do what I did last time: install it in a temp directory then migrate stuff back into my project directory. I will also lift the test I used last time to verify it's working OK. The code is in that second article I linked to above, I'll not repeat it here, but will link to it in the repo once I've tagged it.

I also know that Symfony uses a bad namespace for its apps (Symfony: getting rid of App namespace and using a well-formed one), so I'm going to sort that out straight away too. I'll not repeat any of the steps to make these changes and get that test passing, unless there's anything different I need to do this time. It's well-documented in that earlier article.

Bear with me for a bit. Back soon …

I ran this in a shell within my PHP container:

root:/var/www# cd /var/tmp
root:/var/tmp# symfony new SymfonyFastTrack --version=6.2 --php=8.2 --webapp --docker --cloud

I then copied the ensuing /var/tmp/SymfonyFastTrack (source) directory down to my host machine and did a file compare on that directory and my existing SymfonyFastTrack (destination) directory, doing the following:

  • Where the source directory had files not in destination, I simply copied them across.
  • Where there were clear additions to a file for the new Symfony app, I just merged it (sometimes by hand) into my own version of the file. EG this diff of the two versions of composer.json:

  • There was a docker-compose.yml and docker-compose-override.yml plonked into the root directory. These added containers for a stub/fake STMP server and a "BlackFire" server (whatever that is). I lifted the relevant bits of that out and put it in my own docker/docker-compose.yml file and deleted the ones in the root.
  • I followed the instructions about setting up a Blackfire account, got the various keys I needed and stuck them into a docker/blackfire/envVars.private (not source controlled) file which I got the docker/docker-compose.yml to load into the Blackfire container.
  • Symfony hard-codes its APP_SECRET value into the codebase. If it's supposed to be a secret then treat it that way: I lifted it out and set an env var for it (via docker/php/envVars.private (again, not source controlled)).
  • I set Symfony's DATABASE_URL as an environment variable instead of Symfony's config files. No reason to really, except every component of it (host, user, password, DB etc) came from adjacent environment variables, so I figured I'd keep it all in one place.
  • The /config/packages/doctrine.yaml file was setting a db_suffix value which had the effect of the Connection object trying to connect to a DB called db1test (it's just db1. I have no reason to add suffixes to my DB name because of the environment). I'm not sure why this would be out-of-the-box behaviour but… I suspect this is just one more example of me going "please stop trying to be helpful, Symfony", and I should get used to it. Oh yeah, this surfaced because the tests put the APP_ENV into test mode, and I have integration tests (see below) hitting the DB. Yay for tests.

I also wrote a few tests; or, as I said above: lifted them from another project ([during proofreading]: I also said I wasn't going to repeat them here… hrm…):

  • To test Symfony came up OK:

    /** @testdox It serves the Symfony welcome page after installation */
    public function testSymfonyWelcomeScreenDisplays()
        $ch = curl_init();
        curl_setopt_array($ch, [
            CURLOPT_URL => "http://host.docker.internal:8062/",
        $response = curl_exec($ch);
        if (curl_error($ch)) {
            $this->fail(sprintf("curl failed with [%s]", curl_error($ch)));
        $this->assertEquals(Response::HTTP_NOT_FOUND, curl_getinfo($ch, CURLINFO_HTTP_CODE));
        $document = new \DOMDocument();
        $document->loadHTML($response, LIBXML_NOWARNING | LIBXML_NOERROR);
        $xpathDocument = new \DOMXPath($document);
        $hasTitle = $xpathDocument->query('/html/head/title[text() = "Welcome to Symfony!"]');
        $this->assertCount(1, $hasTitle, "Could not find title 'Welcome to Symfony!'");
  • To test its console also runs OK:

    /** @testdox It can run the Symfony console in a shell */
    public function testSymfonyConsoleRuns()
        $appRootDir = dirname(__DIR__, 3);
        exec("{$appRootDir}/bin/console --help", $output, $returnCode);
        $this->assertEquals(0, $returnCode);
  • And to test that DATABASE_URL got loaded into the Connection object in Symfony's DI container:
    /** @testdox It has configured the Connection in the container with the correct DATABASE_URL */
    public function testContainerConnection()
        $container = $this->getContainer();
        $connection = $container->get("database_connection");
        $result = $connection->executeQuery("SELECT version() AS version");
        $this->assertStringStartsWith("PostgreSQL 15", $result->fetchOne());

I had the first two tests in there before I started the app installation process - a nod to TDD - but the third one I wrote after the fact to make sure my messing around had worked.

All my tests still/now pass, so I'm ready for the next step…

The rest of the page discussing pushing the "nothing" I so far have to production, under the guise of "deploy early and often". I have no aspirations to ship this to production, it's just a learning exercise. I guess there could be vagaries of deploying in "Production mode", but there's not even enough here yet to worry about that I think. I'll skip this for now.

Adopting a Methodology

A page dedicated to reminding one to commit one's work. I'm beginning to think the author was being paid by the word ;-)

Troubleshooting Problems

This page has some stuff about the debugging bumpf Symfony has at the bottom of the page (in dev mode wth debug on):


It also discusses different environment modes. EG in dev mode the default first-install index page 404s with:

Switch to prod mode, and one gets this instead:

This is most easily done in .env:

# In all environments, the following files are loaded if they exist,
# the latter taking precedence over the former:
#  * .env                contains default values for the environment variables needed by the app
#  * .env.local          uncommitted file with local overrides
#  * .env.$APP_ENV       committed environment-specific defaults
#  * .env.$APP_ENV.local uncommitted environment-specific overrides
# Real environment variables win over .env files.
# …

I left the guidance about the order of env file loading there, and I like how real env vars trump them all.

I tried to write functional tests loading the app in different modes and checking their output, but this won't work:

/** @testdox Testing variations of APP_ENV */
class AppEnvTest extends WebTestCase
    /** @testdox it shows the Welcome page for the / 404 if in dev mode */
    public function testDevMode()
        $client = static::createClient([
            'environment' => 'dev',
            'debug' => false

        $client->request('GET', '/');

        $this->assertSelectorTextContains('h1', 'Welcome to Symfony');

    /** @testdox it shows a plain error for / 404 if in prod mode */
    public function testProdMode()
        $client = static::createClient([
            'environment' => 'prod',
            'debug' => false

        $client->request('GET', '/');

        $this->assertSelectorTextContains('h1', 'Oops! An Error Occurred');

I got an initially enigmatic error:

LogicException: You cannot create the client used in functional tests if the "framework.test" config is not set to true.

But I tracked it back through the code and found this:

protected static function getContainer(): ContainerInterface
    if (!static::$booted) {

    try {
        return self::$kernel->getContainer()->get('test.service_container');
    } catch (ServiceNotFoundException $e) {
        throw new \LogicException('Could not find service "test.service_container". Try updating the "framework.test" config to "true".', 0, $e);

This is called as part of my createClient call in the test. Bottom line: the only mode one can do functional tests in is in test mode. I'm not entirely on board with this, if I'm honest. This is not Symfony application code; this is code they have specifically written for testing. If I wanna create a test client in other modes, that ought to be up to me, not Symfony. A problem I have with these large frameworks that tout themselves as being "opinionated" (as if this is a good thing) is that they start second-guessing stuff, and every second-guess they make closes a door on a situation that didn't occur to them. This is why I much preferred simpler frameworks like Silex (RIP), which just did routing, DI and exposed a coupla other things, but otherwise got out of my way. Never mind though, it's not a biggie.

Creating a Controller

Cool. Maybe I'll be able to write some code now.

Not yet.

They show some of the symfony console stuff which is very… thorough. Here's the list function showing all the options under the make functioanlity:

root:/var/www# symfony console list make
Symfony 6.2.7 (env: dev, debug: true) #StandWithUkraine https://sf.to/ukraine

  command [options] [arguments]

  -h, --help            Display help for the given command. When no command is given display help for the list command
  -q, --quiet           Do not output any message
  -V, --version         Display this application version
      --ansi|--no-ansi  Force (or disable --no-ansi) ANSI output
  -n, --no-interaction  Do not ask any interactive question
  -e, --env=ENV         The Environment name. [default: "dev"]
      --no-debug        Switch off debug mode.
  -v|vv|vvv, --verbose  Increase the verbosity of messages: 1 for normal output, 2 for more verbose output and 3 for debug

Available commands for the "make" namespace:
  make:auth                   Creates a Guard authenticator of different flavors
  make:command                Creates a new console command class
  make:controller             Creates a new controller class
  make:crud                   Creates CRUD for Doctrine entity class
  make:docker:database        Adds a database container to your docker-compose.yaml file
  make:entity                 Creates or updates a Doctrine entity class, and optionally an API Platform resource
  make:fixtures               Creates a new class to load Doctrine fixtures
  make:form                   Creates a new form class
  make:functional-test        Creates a new test class
  make:message                Creates a new message and handler
  make:messenger-middleware   Creates a new messenger middleware
  make:migration              Creates a new migration based on database changes
  make:registration-form      Creates a new registration form system
  make:reset-password         Create controller, entity, and repositories for use with symfonycasts/reset-password-bundle
  make:serializer:encoder     Creates a new serializer encoder class
  make:serializer:normalizer  Creates a new serializer normalizer class
  make:stimulus-controller    Creates a new Stimulus controller
  make:subscriber             Creates a new event subscriber class
  make:test                   [make:unit-test|make:functional-test] Creates a new test class
  make:twig-component         Creates a twig (or live) component
  make:twig-extension         Creates a new Twig extension with its runtime class
  make:unit-test              Creates a new test class
  make:user                   Creates a new security user class
  make:validator              Creates a new validator and constraint class
  make:voter                  Creates a new security voter class

I'm buggered if I know what any of that means, but… yeah cool. All that stuff.

It looks like I'm going to be creating my controller with a wziard instead of just… creating/editing some files. I guess it saves me copying and pasting some boilerplate. Let's see what it does:

root:/var/www# symfony console make:controller ConferenceController
 ! [NOTE] It looks like your app may be using a namespace other than "App".
 !        To configure this and make your life easier,
          see: https://symfony.com/doc/current/bundles/SymfonyMakerBundle/index.html#configuration

In Generator.php line 62:

Could not determine where to locate the new class "App\Controller\ConferenceController", maybe try with a full namespace like "\My\Full\Namespace\ConferenceController"
make:controller [--no-template] [--] [<controller-class>] root:/var/www#

That's actually quite helpful, cool.

Looking at those docs, I need to create config/packages/dev/maker.yaml:

# config/packages/dev/maker.yaml
# create this file if you need to configure anything
    # tell MakerBundle that all of your classes live in an
    # Acme namespace, instead of the default App
    # (e.g. Acme\Entity\Article, Acme\Command\MyCommand, etc)
    root_namespace: 'adamcameron\symfonythefasttrack'

Let's see if that helps.

After I saw a post on Stack Overflow advising that after adding the file I also needed to clear the cache, it all worked fine:

root@4b91bad4b422:/var/www# symfony console make:controller ConferenceController

 created: src/Controller/ConferenceController.php
 created: templates/conference/index.html.twig

Next: Open your new controller class and add some pages! root@4b91bad4b422:/var/www#

It just occurs to me that I've let down Team TDD a bit here. I shoulda had a test ready for this lot! I should have read ahead to see what I was gonna end up with, when running this code. I've written a test before I ran the code though:

/** @testdox Tests the functionality of ConferenceController */
class ConferenceControllerTest extends WebTestCase
    /** @testdox The index action returns a successful response */
    public function testIndex()
        $client = static::createClient();
        $client->request("GET", "/conference");

        $this->assertSelectorTextContains("h1", "Hello ConferenceController!");

(I checked the twig file for the file content).

This doesn't help with the "red" part of red-green-refactor, but it's something at least.

Looking at the generated controller:

class ConferenceController extends AbstractController
    #[Route('/conference', name: 'app_conference')]
    public function index(): Response
        return $this->render('conference/index.html.twig', [
            'controller_name' => 'ConferenceController',

I'm not a fan of munging routing into controllers, so I'm gonna move that back into the routing config (routes.yaml):

        path: ../src/Controller/
        namespace: adamcameron\symfonythefasttrack\Controller
    type: attribute

    resource: routes/conference.yaml
    prefix: /conference/
    path: /
    methods: [GET]
    controller: adamcameron\symfonythefasttrack\Controller\ConferenceController::index

And here the test helps: I can refactor that routing config, and my test stays green!

Everything else seems fine.

The rest of the page messes with that controller to show using inline HTML in the controller (just why? would you even show that??), and output some debugging stuff. The debug stuff was interesting. One can put a dump in one's code and it will send the dump down to the browser, but different from var_dump it's not part of the main response, it's part of the debug bar (which I have only just clocked is a separate request, done via AJAX from the main response). Example (no link to this code as I'm not keeping it):

public function index(Request $request): Response
    return new Response("<html><body></body></html>");

(note that for the debug bar to show up, it needs to be an "HTML" response with a body element)


Right, that was a lot of effort to make not much progress. There was quite a bit of googling in places when things didn't quite go how I expected, which I just summarised in the text. Anyway, I'm nackered so am gonna draw a line under this one.

All the code for this lot is tagged as 1.5.

Oh and I've done the next article in this series: PHP / Symfony: working through "Symfony: The Fast Track", part 3: doing some ORM / DB config.