Moving a PHP project to Composer

A few months ago, I’ve discovered Composer, which is a dependency manager for PHP (you can compare it to Maven, for Java). With Composer, you can simply checkout the main project, and install the dependencies.

The transition to a Composer project is very easy, so I decided to start using Composer in my ComicsCalendar project. In this post, I’ll explain how you can migrate to Composer for a very simple project (in this case, using PropelORM to access your databases).

The project structure at the start of this work is:

- comicslist
    - application
        + build
        + config
        + controllers
        + helper
        - plugins
            + propel
        + views

    + static
    + system

1. Install Composer

It’s really easy to install Composer. Just follow the instructions on the official documentation.

In the following commands, I’ll assume that you’ve installed Composer so you can run it with:

$ composer

2. Create the setup file

Each Composer project requires a composer.json file. This file (equivalent to the pom.xml file for Maven), contains a list or the project dependencies (and lots of other things I won’t mention here).

Create a composer.json file at the root of your project:

    "require": {
        "propel/propel1": "1.7.1"

As you can guess, this will install version 1.7.1 of PropelORM.

This is the only dependency you will install right now (Composer automatically installs the dependencies of your dependencies).

3. Install the dependencies

To install the dependencies, run from the project root:

$ composer install

This command created the vendor folder (if it doesn’t exist), and the vendor/autoload.php file, which contains the list of files to include into the project.

4. Include the dependencies in the project

The work is almost done, you just need to include the dependencies in your project. As I just explained, the file vendor/autoload.php contains the dependencies you need to include.

Just include this file in any “global” PHP file:


5. Clean-up the project

The last action is to clean-up the project from the previous Propel installation. Remove the application/plugins/propel folder (which contains the old Propel classes), the .gitmodules file (which contains references to the Git sub-modules), as well as the reference to the main Propel script (which is now referenced in the autoload.php file).

6. Configure Git

If you’re using Git to track your sources, you’ll need to add a few changes to your project.

Add a .gitignore file at the root of the vendor folder, containing:


This will allow you to commit the vendor folder, without any sub-folders (those will be re-created when running $ composer install).

You also need to add the composer.json and composer.lock files. The composer.lock file contains the actual versions of all your dependencies (since you can specify ranges in the versions), so someone who installs the dependencies will have the same versions as you do.

You’re now ready to keep using PropelORM, and add new dependencies that could help you (yes Monolog, I’m looking at you…).

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