FuelPHP

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Learning FuelPHP for Effective PHP Development

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Use the flexible FuelPHP framework to quickly and effectively create PHP applications with this book and ebook

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by Ross Tweedie | November 2013 | Open Source Web Development

In this article by Ross Tweedie, author of the book Learning FuelPHP for Effective PHP Development, we will learn what is FuelPHP. FuelPHP is a fresh approach to frameworks that strive to be more community-driven. There are already more than a hundred developers contributing and extending the source code. There are many more helping to provide some of the best documentation for a framework currently available.

The topics covered in this article are:

  • A brief history of FuelPHP
  • Features of FuelPHP
  • What to look forward to in Version 2

(For more resources related to this topic, see here.)

Since it is community-driven, everyone is in an equal position to spot bugs, provide fixes, or add new features to the framework. This has led to the creation of features such as the new temporal ORM (Object Relation Mapper), which is a first for any PHP-based ORM. This also means that everyone can help build tools that make development easier, more straightforward, and quicker.

The framework is lightweight and allows developers to load only what they need. It's a configuration over convention approach. Instead of enforcing conventions, they act as recommendations and best practices. This allows new developers to jump onto a project and catch up to speed quicker. It also helps when we want to find extra team members for projects.

A brief history of FuelPHP

FuelPHP started out with the goal of adopting the best practices from other frameworks to form a thoroughly modern starting point, which makes full use of PHP Version 5.3 features, such as namespaces. It has little in the way of legacy and compatibility issues that can affect older frameworks.

The framework was started in the year 2010 by Dan Horrigan. He was joined by Phil Sturgeon, Jelmer Schreuder, Harro Verton, and Frank de Jonge. FuelPHP was a break from other frameworks such as CodeIgniter, which was basically still a PHP 4 framework. This break allowed for the creation of a more modern framework for PHP 5.3, and brings together decades of experience of other languages and frameworks, such as Ruby on Rails and Kohana. After a period of community development and testing, Version 1.0 of the FuelPHP framework was released in July 2011. This marked a version ready for use on production sites and the start of the growth of the community.

The community provides periodic releases (at the time of writing, it is up to Version 1.7) with a clear roadmap (http://fuelphp.com/roadmap) of features to be added. This also includes a good guide of progress made to date.

The development of FuelPHP is an open process and all the code is hosted on GitHub at https://github.com/fuel/fuel, and the main core packages can be found in other repositories on the Fuel GitHub account—a full list of these can be found at https://github.com/fuel/.

Features of FuelPHP

Using a Bespoke PHP or a custom-developed framework could give you a greater performance. FuelPHP provides many features, documentation, and a great community. The following sections describe some of the most useful features.

(H)MVC

Although FuelPHP is a Model-View-Controller (MVC) framework, it was built to support the HMVC variant of MVC. Hierarchical Model-View-Controller (HMVC) is a way of separating logic and then reusing the controller logic in multiple places. This means that when a web page is generated using a theme or a template section, it can be split into multiple sections or widgets. Using this approach, it is possible to reuse components or functionality throughout a project or in multiple projects.

In addition to the usual MVC structure, FuelPHP allows the use of presentation modules (ViewModels). These are a powerful layer that sits between the controller and the views, allowing for a smaller controller while still separating the view logic from both the controller and the views. If this isn't enough, FuelPHP also supports a router-based approach where you can directly route to a closure. This then deals with the execution of the input URI.

Modular and extendable

The core of FuelPHP has been designed so that it can be extended without the need for changing any code in the core. It introduces the notion of packages, which are self-contained functionality that can be shared between projects and people. Like the core, in the new versions of FuelPHP, these can be installed via the Composer tool . Just like packages, functionality can also be divided into modules. For example, a full user-authentication module can be created to handle user actions, such as registration. Modules can include both logic and views, and they can be shared between projects. The main difference between packages and modules is that packages can be extensions of the core functionality and they are not routable, while modules are routable.

Security

Everyone wants their applications to be as secure as possible; to this end, FuelPHP handles some of the basics for you. Views in FuelPHP will encode all the output to ensure that it's secure and is capable of avoiding Cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks. This behavior can be overridden or can be cleaned by the included htmLawed library.

The framework also supports Cross-site request forgery (CSRF) prevention with tokens, input filtering, and the query builder, which tries to help in preventing SQL injection attacks. PHPSecLib is used to offer some of the security features in the framework.

Oil – the power of the command line

If you are familiar with CakePHP or the Zend framework or Ruby on Rails, then you will be comfortable with FuelPHP Oil. It is the command-line utility at the heart of FuelPHP—designed to speed up development and efficiency. It also helps with testing and debugging. Although not essential, it proves indispensable during development.

Oil provides a quick way for code generation, scaffolding, running database migrations, debugging, and cron-like tasks for background operations. It can also be used for custom tasks and background processes.

Oil is a package and can be found at https://github.com/fuel/oil.

ORM

FuelPHP also comes with an Object Relation Mapper (ORM) package that helps in working with various databases through an object-oriented approach. It is relatively lightweight and is not supposed to replace the more complex ORMs such as Doctrine or Propel.

The ORM also supports data relations such as:

  • belongs-to
  • has-one
  • has-many
  • many-to-many relationships

Another nice feature is cascading deletions; in this case, the ORM will delete all the data associated with a single entry.

The ORM package is available separately from FuelPHP and is hosted on GitHub at https://github.com/fuel/orm.

Base controller classes and model classes

FuelPHP includes several classes to give a head start on projects. These include controllers that help with templates, one for constructing RESTful APIs, and another that combines both templates and RESTful APIs.

On the model side, base classes include CRUD (Create, Read, Update, and Delete) operations. There is a model for soft deletion of records, one for nested sets, and lastly a temporal model. This is an easy way of keeping revisions of data.

The authentication package

The authentication framework gives a good basis for user authentication and login functionality. It can be extended using drivers for new authentication methods. Some of the basics such as groups, basic ACL functions, and password hashing can be handled directly in the authentication framework.

Although the authentication package is included when installing FuelPHP, it can be upgraded separately to the rest of the application. The code can be obtained from https://github.com/fuel/auth.

Template parsers

The parser package makes it even easier to separate logic from views instead of embedding basic PHP into the views. FuelPHP supports many template languages, such as Twig, Markdown, Smarty, and HTML Abstraction Markup Language (Haml).

Documentation

Although not particularly a feature of the actual framework, the documentation for FuelPHP is one of the best available. It is kept up-to-date for each release and can be found at http://fuelphp.com/docs/.

What to look forward to in Version 2.0

Although this book focuses on FuelPHP 1.6 and newer, it is worth looking forward to the next major release of the framework. It brings significant improvements but also makes some changes to the way the framework functions.

Global scope and moving to dependency injection

One of the nice features of FuelPHP is the global scope that allows easy static syntax and instances when needed. One of the biggest changes in Version 2 is the move away from static syntax and instances. The framework used the Multiton design pattern, rather than the Singleton design pattern. Now, the majority of Multitons will be replaced with the Dependency Injection Container (DiC) design pattern , but this depends on the class in question.

The reason for the changes is to allow the unit testing of core files and to dynamically swap and/or extend our other classes depending upon the needs of the application. The move to dependency injection will allow all the core functionality to be tested in isolation.

Before detailing the next feature, let's run through the design patterns in more detail.

Singleton

Ensures that a class only has a single instance and it provides a global point of access to it. The thinking is that a single instance of a class or object can be more efficient, but it can add unnecessary restrictions to classes that may be better served using a different design pattern.

Multiton

This is similar to the singleton pattern but expands upon it to include a way of managing a map of named instances as key-value pairs. So instead of having a single instance of a class or object, this design pattern ensures that there is a single instance for each key-value pair. Often the multiton is known as a registry of singletons.

Dependency injection container

This design pattern aims to remove hard coded dependencies and make is possible to change them either at run time or compile time.

One example is ensure that variables have default values but also allow for them to be overridden, also allow for other objects to be passed to class for manipulation.

It allows for mock objects to be used whilst testing functionality.

Coding standards

One of the far-reaching changes will be the difference in coding standards. FuelPHP Version 2.0 will now conform to both PSR-0 and PSR-1. This allows a more standard auto-loading mechanism and the ability to use Composer. Although Composer compatibility was introduced in Version 1.5, this move to PSR is for better consistency. It means that the method names will follow the "camelCase" method rather than the current "snake_case" method names. Although a simple change, this is likely to have a large effect on existing projects and APIs.

With a similar move of other PHP frameworks to a more standardized coding standard, there will be more opportunities to re-use functionality from other frameworks.

Package management and modularization

Package management for other languages such as Ruby and Ruby on Rails has made sharing pieces of code and functionality easy and common-place. The PHP world is much larger and this same sharing of functionality is not as common. PHP Extension and Application Repository (PEAR) was a precursor of most package managers. It is a framework and distribution system for re-usable PHP components. Although infinitely useful, it is not as widely supported by the more popular PHP frameworks.

Starting with FuelPHP 1.6 and leading into FuelPHP 2.0, dependency management will be possible through Composer (http://getcomposer.org). This deals with not only single packages, but also their dependencies. It allows projects to consistently set up with known versions of libraries required by each project. This helps not only with development, but also its testability of the project as well as its maintainability.

It also protests against API changes. The core of FuelPHP and other modules will be installed via Composer and there will be a gradual migration of some Version 1 packages.

Backwards compatibility

A legacy package will be released for FuelPHP that will provide aliases for the changed function names as part of the change in the coding standards. It will also allow the current use of static function calling to continue working, while allowing for a better ability to unit test the core functionality.

Speed boosts

Although initially slower during the initial alpha phases, Version 2.0 is shaping up to be faster than Version 1.0. Currently, the beta version (at the time of writing) is 7 percent faster while requiring 8 percent less memory. This might not sound much, but it can equate to a large saving if running a large website over multiple servers. These figures may get better in the final release of Version 2.0 after the remaining optimizations are complete.

Summary

We now know a little more about the history of FuelPHP and some of the useful features such as ORM, authentication, modules, (H)MVC, and Oil (the command-line interface).

We have also listed the following useful links, including the official API documentation (http://fuelphp.com/docs/) and the FuelPHP home page (http://fuelphp.com).

This article also touched upon some of the new features and changes due in Version 2.0 of FuelPHP.

Resources for Article:


Further resources on this subject:


Learning FuelPHP for Effective PHP Development Use the flexible FuelPHP framework to quickly and effectively create PHP applications with this book and ebook
Published: November 2013
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About the Author :


Ross Tweedie

Ross Tweedie is a developer who specializes in creating applications using PHP and FuelPHP. He is passionate about using FuelPHP to test new ideas and concepts effectively. He is using open source technologies to enable people to collaborate with one another. His background is both in design and development, and he has experience in a wide range of industries.

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