PHP is one of the most popular server-side scripting languages. As websites become more and more popular, the code needed to build the websites becomes increasingly complex. Beyond a certain point, it becomes very difficult to start website projects from scratch. Frameworks represent a way by which some of the code gets pre-built and you can build your code on top of the frameworks.
Here are some of the top frameworks which best streamline the process of PHP development.
Laravel is a fairly new PHP framework and many surveys rank it among the most popular frameworks for developers. Laravel has a large ecosystem with a platform for deployment and hosting. Its official website has a number of screencast tutorials available.
There are several features of Laravel that make Rapid Application Development possible. It has a lightweight templating engine called Blade which helps you get a quick start on your app development. Laravel’s syntax is elegant and helps you perform frequently required tasks such as sessions, caching, queueing, authentication and RESTful routing. There is also a local development environment called Homestead included with Laravel. Laravel also boasts of migrations that are database agnostic and a powerful schema builder. It also provides simple authentication, a powerful queue library and painless routing.
The Symfony 2 framework is used by several large projects like phpBB and the Drupal CMS. In fact, Laravel itself uses it. Symfony is extremely popular among the developer community. The components inside Symfony are reusable libraries that enable you complete several smaller tasks or actions such as routing, form creation, authentication, object configuration and templating. Any of these components can be installed with the PHP dependency manager. Some of the components include BrowserKit, Cache, ClassLoader, Debug, FileSystem and many more.
The Symfony website has an extensive showcase section where you can have a look at some projects implemented using Symfony. With more than 2000 contributors, 300,000+ developers and about 29 million downloads every month, it is among the most popular frameworks around.
CodeIgniter is a lightweight framework that has been around for about 10 years. It has a straightforward installation process that needs only minimal configuration, and hence can save you a considerable amount of hassle. It is also an excellent option if you want to avoid conflicts because of PHP versions, given the fact that it works well on pretty much all dedicated and shared hosting platforms.
CodeIgniter is not exactly based on the MVC development pattern. Using controller classes is mandatory but views and models are optional. Basically, it encourages MVC but does not force it on you. It boasts of something called Zero configuration. What this means is that most of the configuration is done by convention, as in for instance, putting the models in a models folder. However, there are still a number of configurations available which can be enabled by using scripts in the config folder.
You can use your personal naming and coding conventions. It is a lean framework amounting to only 2 MB. However, it permits you to use third-party plugins if you require more complex functionality to be implemented.
The Yii framework will give a significant boost to site performance as it is more rapid than other PHP networks owing to the fact that it uses a lazy loading technique. Yii2 is fully object oriented and having been based on the (Don’t Repeat Yourself) concept, it gives you a logical and clean code base. Yii is richly featured, coming with MVC, I18N/L10N, caching, role-based access control, authentication, DAO/ActiveRecord, scaffolding and testing.
Being integrated with jQuery and the fact that it ships with a set of Ajax-enabled features makes it a fantastic option for people with a frontend side exposure. The fact that it also implements a theming and easy-to-use skinning mechanism, makes it all the more so. Also, it has a class code generator by the name Gii which facilitates rapid prototyping and OOP. Additionally, it also has a web based interface which allows you to generate the code you need via a GUI. Security comes standard with Yii including handling of output filtering, input validation, cross-site scripting and SQL injection.
The Phalcon framework was specifically written in C++ and C to achieve the maximum performance optimization that is attainable. Released in the year 2012, it quickly became popular among the PHP community. The claim is that it is as fast as a falcon. However, all the code is exposed in the form of PHP classes ready for use in any application.
Given the fact that Phalcon is built as a C extension, it has architecture that is optimized at a very low level. This reduces the overhead that is commonly seen in apps based on MVC. Phalcon decreases the usage of resources and also increases execution speeds. Phalcon comes packed with features such as asset management, translation, security, caching, a universal auto loader and many others. It is a framework that is facile to use and well documented. The code is compiled and not interpreted. This is owing to the fact that it is already pre-compiled for a specific processor and platform. Functions and Classes that are enabled by the extension are ready for use by any application.
CakePHP is among the oldest PHP frameworks around and is still among the most popular frameworks around as enhanced versions continue to get released. The latest version termed 3.0 enhanced session management has improved the modularity of the application by executing decoupling of many components. The latest version also has increased the application’s ability to create additional standalone libraries. CakePHP boasts a modern framework of PHP7 with a flexible access layer for databases. It also has a strong scaffolding system that makes building both complex and simple systems easier and simpler. Configuration is simple with no YAML or XML files required. All you need to do is setup your database and you are ready to go.
CakePHP has an excellent set of references, among them the websites for Hyundai, BMW and Express. It is strong on the security side and is a great tool for building applications with strong security requirements. It has several in built security features including prevention of SQL injection, input validation, (Cross-site request forgery) CSRF protection and prevention of cross site scripting(XSS), among others.
Slim is a PHP framework that is minimalistic by design. Thus, it is excellent for apps for which a full stack framework would be an exaggeration. Slim is popularly used for developing RESTful APIs and associated services. The kind of features that Slim comes with includes URL routing, session encryption, cookie encryption and client-side caching (HTTP). It also supports flash messages on HTTP. Slim enables a powerful and fast router that maps call-backs to specific request methods and URIs. It also supports pattern matching and parameters.
FuelPHP is a full stack PHP framework that supports both MVC and HVMC (Hierarchical Model View Controller) at the architecture level. What FuelPHP does is that it adds a class called Presenter (formerly termed as ViewModel) between the View and Controller layers to implement the logic required to generate views.
FuelPHP is modular and extensible. It takes care of security concerns by means of providing features such as URI filtering, output encoding and input filtering. It comes with a separate authentication framework of its own with several other advanced features.
PHPixie was built in the year 2012 with the express goal of having a framework specifically for websites that are read only. Just like FuelPHP, PHPixie implements the HMVC design pattern and has been built with independent components which can be utilized even in the absence of the framework. All the components of PHPixie are completely unit tested and need only minimum dependencies.
There are many use cases detailed on their blog. Among the standard features, there are caching, standard ORM (object relational mapping), input validation, authorization and authentication. PHPixie also permits you to utilize the HAML markup language and allows the migration of schemas.
There are a number of excellent frameworks available for PHP. The specific framework you choose depends on which are the focus areas of importance for you. If security is a focus area for you, ensure that the framework is strong in security. If modularization is a prime area of focus, then make your choice accordingly.