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Laravel 4: things to note when creating Package

NOTE: This tutorial was written for Laravel version 4.0. I’ve added some notes for version 4.1 but they’re not tested yet. Do let me know if you see any problem.

When I first started using Laravel 4, I had been creating all my models, controllers and views in the root app folder. While things can get too comfortable and convenient here, it may not be a good idea to dump everything at the top. That’s when Package (or Bundle) comes in.

According to Laravel’s documentation:

“Packages are the primary way of adding functionality to Laravel.”

I found 2 great tutorials on creating your own Laravel 4 Package:

  1. http://culttt.com/2013/06/24/creating-a-laravel-4-package/
  2. http://jasonlewis.me/article/laravel-4-develop-packages-using-the-workbench

The following are some of the problems I’ve encountered and it took me quite some time to look for the solutions. Hope this will help someone else too.

1. Define your dependencies

A Package is like a sandbox module where it should contain its own dependencies (or vendors Packages). So you need to add your dependencies to your Package’s composer.json file.

As an example, I needed to include Cartalyst Sentry and Twitter Bootstrap to my Package, this is what I did under “require”:

"require": {
        "php": ">=5.3.0",
        "illuminate/support": "4.0.x",
        "cartalyst/sentry": "2.0.*",
        "twbs/bootstrap": "3.0.*"
},

 NOTE on Sentry:

After writing this blog, I’ve decided to move Sentry out of my package. Firstly, it will be cleaner and allow people using my package to choose their own authentication vendor. Secondly, I was getting so much trouble trying to get it to work properly. So it’s advisable to just put it on the Laravel app root instead.

Remember to run the following command line at your Package’s root folder:

php composer.phar update
php composer.phar dump-autoload

Note: On your first install, run “php composer.phar install”. Although using update will do the same thing too.

For dump-autoload, on the official documentation, they are using artisan instead of composer. I’m still not sure what’s the difference, but both seem to work.

php artisan dump-autoload

2. Extending Controller

When you download the Laravel 4 master, you will get a BaseController.php under the app\controllers folder. It looks something like this:

<?php

class BaseController extends Controller {

    /**
    * Setup the layout used by the controller.
    *
    * @return void
    */
    protected function setupLayout()
    {
        if ( ! is_null($this->layout))
        {
            $this->layout = View::make($this->layout);
        }
    }
}

And then all your custom controllers will extend this BaseController like this:

class CustomController extends BaseController {}

If you copy and paste this BaseController to your Package, it will not work. The Package will try to find “Controller” in your namespace Vendor\Package.

So to make it work, you must first define BaseController under your namespace, and then let Package knows that it needs to find the correct Controller.

In short, use this:

<?php namespace YourVendor\YourPackage;

use \Illuminate\Routing\Controllers\Controller;

class BaseController extends Controller {

     /**
     * Setup the layout used by the controller.
     *
     * @return void
     */
    protected function setupLayout()
    {
        if ( ! is_null($this->layout))
        {
            $this->layout = View::make($this->layout);
        }
    } 
}

Note for Laravel 4.1:

In Laravel 4.1, the Controller path has been moved. See http://laravel.com/docs/upgrade

Use this instead:

<?php namespace YourVendor\YourPackage;

use \Illuminate\Routing\Controller;

class BaseController extends Controller {

     // Your code
}

3. Using Sentry in your Package

Just to be clear, as some readers mistaken “Sentry” as my Package’s name. It’s a third party Package created by Cartalyst: “Sentry is a simple, powerful and easy to use authorisation and authentication package.” I wanted to include this third party Package in my custom Package to add authorisation and authentication capability.

But once Sentry is downloaded and installed to my Package, I still couldn’t get it to recognise the alias “Sentry”. So the following code produces an error:

Sentry::logout();

The FatalErrorException message was:

Class ‘Vendor\Package\Sentry’ not found

That’s right, the Package has mistakenly treated Sentry under my Package’s namespace.

If you remember from Laravel’s basic documentation, while in the app’s root folder, we can define aliases such as “Sentry” in the \app\config\app.php file. But there doesn’t seem to have any way to register that in my Package.

So what I did, as a workaround, is to include the namespace at the top of my file. Like this:

<?php namespace YourVendor\YourPackage;

use Cartalyst\Sentry\Facades\Laravel\Sentry;

class CustomController extends BaseController {
    public function logOut()
    {
        Sentry::logout();
    }
}

Works like charm! But if you know of a shorter and better way, please leave me a message!

Better solution (edited)

Thanks to hardik dangar, there’s actually a shorter way to do this. Simply add a backslash before Sentry so that php doesn’t search Sentry within my namespace.

<?php namespace YourVendor\YourPackage;

class CustomController extends BaseController {
    public function logOut()
    {
        \Sentry::logout();
    }
}

4. Using Illuminate Facades

Just as you thought everything is well and ready to code, you found yourself stuck at this line!

return View::make('vendorpackage::users/view');

And the FatalErrorException message is:

Class ‘Vendor\Package\View’ not found

What the?!

The same goes to Redirect, Input and Validator.

Base on my previous experience with Sentry, I got just the right idea.

Simply add the following to the top of your code:

<?php namespace YourVendor\YourPackage;

use Illuminate\Support\Facades\Validator;
use Illuminate\Support\Facades\Redirect;
use Illuminate\Support\Facades\Input;
use Illuminate\Support\Facades\View;

class CustomController extends BaseController {

Tada!!

Better solution (edited)

Thanks to hardik dangar, there’s actually a shorter way to do this. Simply add a backslash before View so that php doesn’t search View within my namespace.

return \View::make('vendorpackage::users/view');

5. Using Views in your Package

That right, you didn’t see it wrongly. This is how you call your Package’s view.

For example, we want view “users\view”, add your Package’s name to the front like this:

View::make('vendorpackage::users/view');

Then how about using master layout? Same logic, like this:

@extends('vendorpackage::layouts.master')

Where the directory is:

workbench\yourvendor\yourpackage\src\views\layouts\master.blade.php

6. Extending Eloquet in your own model

Laravel documentation taught us this:

class User extends Eloquent {}

This won’t work in a Package. Instead, you should do this:

<?php namespace YourVendor\YourPackage;

use Illuminate\Database\Eloquent\Model;

class User extends Model {}

7. Using Controller in your Package

This used to work:

{{ Form::open(array('action' => 'UserController@postStore')) }}

But to use your Package’s Controller, you need to add your Vendor\Package namespace to the Controller like this:

{{ Form::open(array('action' => 'YourVendor\YourPackage\UserController@postStore')) }}

8. Loading Package Config file

If you want to create a separate database for your package, you can define your database configuration within your package directory:

workspace\vendor\packagename\src\config\database.php

Then add this to the package service provider boot() method:

public function boot()
{
    $this->package('vendor/package');
    include __DIR__."/routes.php";

    // Add my database configurations to the default set of configurations                        
    $this->app['config']['database.connections'] = array_merge(
        $this->app['config']['database.connections']
       ,Config::get('package::database.connections')
    );
}

Source: http://stackoverflow.com/questions/15304722/eloquent-laravel-4-package-database-configuration-format

9. Loading external package within Providers and Aliases

In normal circumstances, when we add a new package to a Laravel installation, we would edit the config/app.php by adding the package namespace within the “Providers” and “Aliases” arrays.

However, when we need to add another external package that is a requirement within our own custom package, we wouldn’t want our users to edit a long lists of Providers and Aliases. Ideally, they should only include our custom package.

I’ve been searching for awhile and finally found a solution from this forum.

Solution:

In this example, we want to add an external package call “Markdown”.

In the file myLaravelProject/workbench/my-vendor/my-package/src/MyVendor/MyPackage/MyPackageServiceProvider,

put this in the boot() method:

$this->app->register('SomeExternalPackage\Markdown\MarkdownServiceProvider');

and this in the register() method:

$this->app->booting(function()
{
    $loader = \Illuminate\Foundation\AliasLoader::getInstance();
    $loader->alias('MyPackage', 'MyVendor\MyPackage\Facades\MyPackage');
    $loader->alias('Markdown', 'SomeExternalPackage\Markdown\Facades\Markdown');
});

10. Override config files of package

If you want to be able to allow the users who use your package to publish and modify the package’s config files, following this tutorial:

How to override config files of Laravel 4 package

References to good BYO PHP MVC Framework tutorials

When I first came across the term MVC (Model-View-Controller) few years back, the whole concept sounded so complex, especially for people with (old) ASP and PHP background. In those days, we were so used to mixing business logics inside the presentation layer. It was so logical and convenient, until the code got big and things got out of hand. We forgot where the codes were, and we risked stability even for small changes to the UI, because they were all intertwined with business logics.

Typical PHP-HTML mixed code:

<?php
  include "someFileContainsFunction.php";
  public function someLocalFunction( $param )
  {
    return "Business logic in <b>$param</b>!";
  }
?>
<html> 
  <title>HTML with PHP</title>
  <body>
    <h1>My Example</h1>
    <?php
      print someLocalFunction( "Inside body" );
    ?>
    <b>Here is some more HTML</b>
    <?php
      print functionFromExternalPHP();
    ?>
  </body>
 </html>

Then I was introduced to MVC during a Microsoft .NET bootcamp in Singapore. I was quite fascinated with the idea. Separating the 3 components enable us to distribute the work to programmers and designers, allowable them to do their work without touching the fields they’re not familiar with. It is also an ideal solution to multinational collaboration.

Although the .NET MVC framework was great as a development tool, I couldn’t understand the fundamentals of building an MVC. We merely followed the coding style requirements by the framework, and work our way through to make the application work.

So I went in search of other languages, and found many other frameworks such as Ruby on Rails (for Ruby) and CakePHP (for PHP). They are also great MVC frameworks, but then again, they’re very established with quite stringent coding style requirements that I always got lost halfway down the development.

http://www.netmagazine.com/features/choose-right-php-framework

I thought the best way to learn about something is to start from the beginning, and keep on testing and failing until I understand it. The following 2 tutorials are great starting points. I managed to write my own MVC framework within a day (or maybe a few hours) by following the tutorial from Domagoj Salopek. I would recommend going through this tutorial first before going to the next one, which is slightly more complex but covers a little more for MVC.

http://www.domagojsalopek.com/Details/Create-a-simple-PHP-MVC-Framework/28

http://johnsquibb.com/tutorials

Of course, there’re people who think that using MVC on a small project is an overkill. Trust me, it’ll help you in the long run. By writing a core MVC framework, you’ll be able to use it in all other projects in the future, regardless how big or small it is. Unless the client only wanted a “simple” website. I know clients always think their requirements are simple because they don’t understand the simpler it seems, the more work it takes. I’m referring to those instances where the project can be done just with HTML and JavaScript. In those cases, MVC is really too much.

Now, going back to fiddling the simple MVC framework that I have written.

Edited: After writing my own simple MVC framework, I went on to study other major PHP framework such as Symfony, CakePHP and CodeIgniter. I noticed that CodeIgniter uses a very similar approach to the simple framework introduced by Domagoj. So if you’re advancing to a more complex framework, take a look at CodeIgniter. You’ll be glad he had written something so fundamental to get us started.

Setting Aptana to read another file type as PHP

So recently I’ve been following this simple tutorial to learn about creating a simple MVC PHP framework: http://www.domagojsalopek.com/Details/Create-a-simple-PHP-MVC-Framework/28

It’s so simple that I got a MVC template in less than an hour. But it definitely took me some time to fully understand the code. Luckily I have some experience with WordPress and CakePHP so somehow it wasn’t too long for me. *Trigger proud-mode* 😛

As usual I was using my favorite IDE Aptana but something struck me: I don’t see the PHP color code for the *.tpl files that I have created for the MVC framework. It’s quite annoying and inconvenient.

Turns out it’s actually quite simple to “fix” it.

  1. Just go to Preference (Mac users check the “Aptana Studio 3” menu at the top panel, WIndows and Linux users should check the File or Tool menu)
  2.  Under General -> Editors -> File Associations
  3. Under File Types -> Choose Add, and enter: *.tpl
  4. After added, click on that file type
  5. At the bottom, click Add and choose “PHP Source Editor”.

Done!

Now when you reopen all the *.tpl files in Aptana, it will be recognized as PHP files.

Hope this is useful to you. 🙂