Tag Archives: php framework

Laravel 5.1 Released

Laravel 5.1 is released today and it’s awesome. While there are only a few differences between 5 and 5.1, they are impactful, and really cement Laravel’s position as an enterprise framework. One of the most obvious changes is LTS, long term support, which fixes bugs (2 years) and security patches (3 years). This is obviously critical to enterprise development.

Another leap forward is the quality of the documentation. It’s incredible. Taylor Otwell wrote the documentation himself, and put the same obsessive care into the docs as he does the framework itself. This attention to detail really shows.

The first huge feature of the docs is the search window.  It’s easy to overlook, since I’m not used to using it and there is no label, but this is powerful.  It autocompletes what you are looking for and even does a good job of guessing on typos.  For example, when I typed in redur, it correctly understood I was looking for redirect.

Type in something like val and select validation.   Look at how great the Validation docs are. In the validation quickstart section, he begins with a route definition and takes you all the way through form validation, so it’s clear and comprehensive. We learn for example that all validation errors are automatically flashed to the session and are always available in the view through an $errors variable. Then of course we get a comprehensive list of validators.

If your validation requires a dependency, there is a great example, using the sometimes method to show you how to do it under the complex conditional validation section.

Another example of how thorough the documentation is the section on migrations. It’s a complete reference to:

      Creating Tables
      Renaming / Dropping Tables
      Creating Columns
      Modifying Columns
      Dropping Columns
      Creating Indexes
      Dropping Indexes
      Foreign Key Constraints

In the past I never really liked migrations, but I have come to appreciate them, especially since the workflow and execution on Laravel is so good.

The validation and migration sections are typical of the quality of the docs, I pretty much chose them at random.

Not only do great docs make it easier for beginners to find what they need, but obviously, they are a must have for enterprise development. Great documentation leads to coder happiness. Happy coders are productive coders. Productivity is essential for a successful enterprise.

Another change in 5.1 is the move to PSR-2 coding style, which is the one I’m most familiar with, so no complaints here.

Laravel 5.1 also introduces parameters on the middleware. If you are unfamiliar with the middleware class, it replaces the filters from previous versions of laravel. At first, I found this part of the structure a little complicated, but I have grown to appreciate it.

Basically middleware is a series of filters that are injected into requests via route definition or controller. They are super simple and easy to use, once you understand it, and once you see how it fits into the application structure. Not only that, but Laravel 5.1, like 5.0, has code generators for these specific classes via artisan, which will place them into the appropriate folders for you. So this helps you deal with the folder structure more easily.

While it’s true that new folder structures of 5/5.1 are way more complicated than what I was previously used to, they have had a curious side-effect. It’s actually easier for me to conceptualize or visualize the application as a whole. The discreet parts of the application make more sense to me. In the long run, the complicated folder structure makes application development easier and cleaner. You get far fewer overstuffed classes in favor of a greater number of leaner, more focused classes. It makes for cleaner code.

The release of 5.1 also includes the new @inject method for blade, which allows you to bring in a class instance from a service provider or helper class directly into your views. Normally, you would bring in all of your object variables into the view via the controller, but this could lead to code duplication. So, as in the latest example from Laracasts, if you have a stats object that you wish to use in many views, you can simply access it directly from within the view via @inject. This helps make code re-use simpler, since you don’t have to bind a view composer to a route.

Since I mentioned Laracasts, they have a bunch of new videos released today for 5.1, all worth checking out. Everyone here at work loves Laracasts.

The last new features that I’ll talk about in 5.1 are the model factories for seeding and the enhanced test integration. Model factories help automate the data seeding process, a very handy feature. It was already fairly easy to seed data and this just takes it a step further.

I’m going to defer to the testing video at Laracasts for the new testing improvements explanation, but I will say that it’s got the developers here excited about how easy it will be to test forms. It’s a huge plus.

For more info about the release, check out the Laravel 5.1 release notes.

Ok, so to wrap it up, let’s offer congratulations to Taylor Otwell and the rest of the Laravel team for releasing such a great enterprise framework. It’s through the work of teams like this that innovation and success becomes more accessible to all of us. It is much appreciated.

Yii 2 For Beginners New Bonus Material Released Growl and Rating System

I’m happy to announce today the release of bonus chapter 17, the latest update of Yii 2 For Beginners, with 60 pages of new bonus material as of 7:00 pm pacific standard time on April 6, 2015. Anyone who has purchased on or before that date, and that includes today, can login to leanpub.com and pull down the latest version of the book.

As always, updates and bonus material for the book are free for the life of the book. I highly recommend that you update to the latest version to get the most out of your purchase and take advantages of the new features built into the template.

In this bonus chapter, we utilize Kartik’s Yii 2 widgets extension, which includes numerous widgets that we will use, in this chapter, and in future chapters. Specifically, in this chapter, we will be working with the StarRatings widget and the Growl widget.

We create a functioning rating system for our Faqs, so users can rate them. You can use this as a prototype for any model that you want to have ratings for, so this is very handy.

We also implement the Growl widget, which takes a plain flash message and animates it, so you can add some life to the frontend.

We also do one cleanup task, which is to add a checkbox to the signup page, so we can have users agree to the terms of service. It’s a little detail, but since almost every application will require it, we provide a working solution.

And finally in this chapter, we return to the data-driven carousel to make it more adaptable to mobile browsers. Now, when the browser is scaled down, the carousel will switch to a mobile image that is also 100% controlled by our backend admin UI.

I felt it was really important to get this detail right. And after seeing some great comments and reviews on my book, I decided we couldn’t settle for second best, so I made sure we got what we needed. I think you will love the results.

Everyone appreciates the efforts of those who wrote in with typo notices, it makes for a better reading experience for everyone, so thanks to everyone who contributes.

I will continue to do my best to develop the template and bring you more bonus material. Any efforts on your part to help spread the word on the book will be greatly appreciated. Thanks again for purchasing the book and for your support.

Yii 2.0.3 Released

Yii 2.0.3 was released today, and while that’s great news, it means I have to make sure everything in my book, Yii 2 For Beginners, is 100% working with the update.

So, today, I ran the composer update and everything went smoothly. In about 2 minutes, I was fully up-to-date and you have to love this framework for that.

Just for those who are unfamiliar with composer, the framework files live in a vendor folder, and when you run composer update, it reads your composer.json file and brings your vendor files up-to-date with the latest versions and dependencies.

So composer knew that once 2.0.3 was released, 2.0.2 was out of date, and it stripped everything out and replaced it with the newer version. What a fantastic way to maintain a framework.

The Yii 2 advanced template is somewhat of a unique case however, because the template code lives in the backend, common, and frontend folders, and that can change with a version release. Yikes!

This means I have to check every aspect of the advanced template to see if there are any changes that impact the re-usable template we build in the book as well as the out-of-the-box code, since I take us through the complete setup and explain things like the site controller and the related form models.

I have to review all that line by line. I’m happy to report only one minor change in the login method, which I quickly updated in the book, so as of now, we are 100% code working and 100% compatible with Yii 2.0.3.

For those following along in the book, no change is necessary due to today’s version release. I do recommend that you stay current on the latest release and do a composer update.

I’m happy to say that I got the full review of the release and the update of the book done on the day of the 2.0.3 release. I know from your comments, emails and reviews that this hard work is helpful to a lot of people.

The readers of the book have been helpful too, letting me know about grammatical errors and other typos. I typically respond within 24 hours to email requests. There hasn’t been any code breaking in quite a while and we’re closing in on 100% of the grammatical errors. I really appreciate the help and it makes a better reading experience for everyone else and this is helping drive the positive reviews.

Since no other action was required on my part due to today’s release, this gave me a chance to tighten anything up that was previously less clear and to cover anything unusual.

For example, a reader wrote in to tell me that he couldn’t get the date to work on the profile model unless he added the php prefix in the validation rule:

[['birthdate'], 'date', 'format'=>'php:Y-m-d'],

I couldn’t reproduce his issue, but I thought I would mention this in case you run into a similar problem and I updated the book to reflect that.

Anyone who purchases the book gets free updates for the life of the book, all you have to do is login to your leanpub.com account and download the latest copy.

For minor issues, like the above, I generally don’t make email announcements. However, I’m also working on bonus material that I’m adding on a quarterly basis (approximately) and I have more new material coming soon, so there will definitely be an announcement with that release.

The core material in the book is 100% complete, and you can get up and running quickly with it. But the template we build in the book is also one I use personally, so I’m always working on it, and it only makes sense to share it with you. Those updates are free for the life of the book.

The other thing notable to me about today’s Yii 2.0.3 release is that this is the third minor release since the 2.0 release 4 months ago. This means you can have confidence that the Yii 2 framework is being very actively developed.

In their own words, Version 2.0.3 is a patch release of Yii 2.0 which contains about 50 minor new features and bug fixes. These include some performance optimizations for RBAC, Page caching for RESTful repsonses, and more. You can read about it here.

Even though a version release for Yii 2 is a hectic time for me, I really do enjoy it. I love the architecture of the framework, and reviewing it for a version release reminds me how easy it really is to use and how it just keeps getting better.

Let me end with a special thanks to all the programmers from around the world who participate in the this blog by reading the aricles, taking the polls, leaving comments and writing reviews. It is very much appreciated and keeps me working hard to continuously improve. Thanks again.

Yii 2 vs. Laravel 5

It’s time for a new PHP framework poll, please feel free to participate and make your voice heard. The last poll, published March 15, 2014, was very successful and over 1100 programmers participated. Thanks to everyone who voted, it was a very interesting result.

UPDATED 4/27/15

Originally I wrote about the comparison between Laravel 5 and Yii 2. I decided I was overly negative to Laravel 5 and that I needed more time to fully explore the possibilities of that framework, so I have removed the review portion of this post.

In any event, both Laravel 5 and Yii 2 are great frameworks. Try them for yourselves and decide for yourselves. I hope you’ll participate in the poll at the top of the page and let us know what you think.

Yii 2 Learning Your First PHP Framework

I’d like to start today’s post with a big thanks for the positive reviews I’m getting on GoodReads.com, please add yours if you can.

Also, a big thanks to everyone who has emailed me with supportive comments for the Yii 2 For Beginners book and for the positive comments on this blog.

I’ve made it my mission to help introduce people to the wonderful Yii 2 framework, and I know from first hand experience how hard it is to get up and running on something as big as a PHP framework, especially if you’ve never worked with one before.

The decision to use one framework over another is a personal choice. The major frameworks that I talk about, Yii 2, Laravel, and Symfony, are all great frameworks. You have to pick the one that suits your development style and this can certainly be a challenge when you haven’t worked with them because how are you supposed to know how well it fits?

Well, it’s like expensive clothing, you won’t know if it fits until you try it on. Obviously I’m recommending Yii 2 as the first choice among the frameworks from my point of view. Here’s why:

Top 10 reasons I would start with learning Yii 2:

1. Yii 2’s Advanced Application Template. This template comes with a working user model that includes registration, login, and forgot password functionality right out of the box. It also includes backend and frontend separation, so that you are clear on how to structure your admin area. You can get up and running quickly.

2. Gii. Yii 2 has an amazing code generation tool named Gii, which helps you stand up your models, controllers, and views quickly. The generated code almost always needs refinement, but once you know how to do that, things move along with lightning speed. It takes about 2 minutes to generate 8 files, a model, a search model, controller, and 5 view files. You’ll be amazed how far you can go in so little time.

3. Clear MVC pattern. Yii 2 has folders named models, controllers, and views, so the application structure is just what you would expect from an MVC.

4. No Routing. Most of the other frameworks require you to explicitly name the routes through the site, which can be tedious and at times confusing. Yii 2 handles this automatically. Of course you can set things like pretty URLs and any other customizations that you need, but the basic routing is handled by the framework. This is makes it very easy and intuitive to work with.

5. Widgets. Yii 2 supplies an incredible number of widgets to help develop your application. They cover everything from GridView, Pagination, Forms, DatePicker, etc., it really is impressive what you get out of the box. The widget class is easy to extend, so you can quickly build your own widgets. And once you start using these, you will get spoiled very quickly because you will want to use them for everything.

6. Mobile-First Bootstrap. So right out of the box, Yii 2 incorporates Twitter Bootstrap, which of course is device-responsive, so you can jump into mobile-first design right from the start. Wouldn’t you love to pitch that to your client?

7. Validation Made Easy. Validation in Yii 2 is handled on the model, with a very intuitive Rules method that simply holds an array of settings. The settings include the name of the attribute you wish to validate, the validator, and the options.

For example, do you need to make your email addresses unique so two users can’t have the same email address? It’s one line added to the Rules method.


['email', 'unique'],

It’s that simple.

8. Behaviors. Yii 2 incorporates a method named behaviors in both the models and controllers and this is another intuitive winner. In models, behaviors are used to manage events, like automatically inserting timestamp for creating and updating records, which is a useful behavior for a model to have. You can see how intuitive that sounds.

On Controllers, behaviors help you manage access control, things like restricting pages to logged in users only. Again, very intuitive and easy to work with. You can reference some of the tutorials on this blog for examples.

9. Native ORM. So first, what is ORM? According to wikipedia:

Object-relational mapping is a programming technique for converting data between incompatible type systems in relational databases and object-oriented programming languages. This creates, in effect, a “virtual object database” that can be used from within the programming language.

It’s a perfectly scientific explanation, but I don’t find it particularly helpful. We can break it down to something more digestible.

In the simplest terms, the ORM manages how your application communicates with the database, greatly simplifying the syntax. Example:

return $users = User::find()->asArray()->all();

The above code returns all the users from the user table in an array. No having to open a connection, no SQL, no binding parameters, no specifying fetch mode, etc. It’s just one line that reads like a sentence. Look at how simple that is!

Because Yii 2’s Active Record ORM is native, it is integrated seamlessly into the framework, and this is one of the reasons why Gii is so effective at generating code. The other frameworks use Doctrine, which brings with it the excess baggage of their repository structure etc., and in my view, making it more complicated and less efficient.

10. Enterprise Capability. If you are just starting out with framework development, you are probably not ready to jump into enterprise development. But wouldn’t it be wise to learn the framework that can take you there? Learning Yii 2 ultimate builds value into your career as a programmer.

Ok, so that’s my short list of why I would start with Yii 2 as opposed to some of the other choices out there.

The key to learning a PHP Framework, if you have never done this kind of development before, is patience. Yii 2 hands you an amazing amount of features, but you have to be willing to take the time to learn them.

Another key to success in programming is this: Don’t quit. Just keep going until you get it. You will get it.

Yii 2 has a great community that is willing to help you. Also, I wrote a book that can get anyone with a moderate amount of PHP skills up and running quickly.

I’ve also augmented that with free tutorials on this blog, and I’ve also included bonus material into the book. Everyone who purchases the book gets the free bonus updates for the life of the book. I plan to keep working on it for the foreseeable future.

Working with a PHP framework is a journey, not a destination. It’s hard work but it can also be a lot of fun. I’m very happy to share this journey with you.

Thanks again for all the positive comments and reviews. As always, any comments, reviews, word-of-mouth referrals, are greatly appreciated.

Yii 2 for Beginners Bonus Material Released

I’m happy to announce that the first chapter of bonus material for Yii 2 For Beginners has been released. The book has gone from a previous page count of 290 pages to 412 pages, so this is a very substantial addition.

Everyone who purchases Yii 2 For Beginners gets FREE updates for the life of the book. Just log into your leanpub account and download the latest version. I’m planning to continue to do updates and write bonus material for the foreseeable future. There are a number of reasons for this.

1. Striving For Excellence. I want to build a reputation for excellence and quality as a technical writer and I’m deeply committed to this project.

2. Framework Updates. I want to stay on top of Framework updates. The latest version of Yii 2 is 2.0.2, released two days before I released my bonus material. This meant I had to frantically rebuild the entire application from scratch, following the directions in the book, just to make sure everything is working. There were a few minor changes and I caught them all.

3. Maintaining the Template. The template we build in the book is a useful template for creating sites, including my own. I need to stay on top of version changes as much as anyone else, and as I’m doing that, it only makes sense to share the version improvements with my readers.

4. Sharing the Journey. Working with Yii 2 is an amazing experience that I would like to share with my fellow programmers and engineers. Working on this book is a way to express my passion for Yii 2 and grow at the same time.

I’d like to thank everyone who emailed or commented for the wonderful feedback, especially the positive reviews on GoodReads.

I really appreciated the notices on the typos as well. Most of the typos are trivial, but I still want to correct them. I won’t be satisfied until the book is 100% free of typos and I think we are probably close to that now.

I know for a fact the code is 100% working. The build I did over the past few days was from code taken directly from the book, via the gists, and it works perfectly. For anyone who doesn’t know, a gist is a code snippet hosted by Github.

Copying code from a PDF can be a real pain and I had multiple requests from readers to post the code. So, in response, I have supplied a gist for any block of code that is over 3 lines. The gists are inline in context in the book, so you just click a link and you get the relevant code. This means you don’t have to bookmark or organize anything, it’s already done for you.

New in this Update

1. Yii 2 Version Update. I already mentioned that Yii 2.0.2 was released a couple of days before I finished and this was perfect timing for me. The three notable changes concerning the template were:

A. The advanced template doesn’t ship with a role column on the user table like it did before.

B. Forgot password methods changed.

C. The typo generated by Gii when creating a controller has been fixed.

So nothing here required any dramatic changes on my part, just some instructional text had to change. This worked out well. I should point out that I ran into an unknown problem when I tried to run composer update, composer just got hung up. Another user experienced an issue as well.  My work around was to build from scratch. I had to do this anyway because I had to test everything 100% on a new build. My code is 100% compatible with both Yii 2.0.1 and Yii 2.0.2. If you do a fresh build, everything will work perfectly.  So that’s the good news there.

2. Fine Tuning Core Book. Doing an update always gives me the chance to go back over the instructions in the book to fine tune them for maximum clarity. I also catch typos, and obviously any bugs in the code. I can’t claim a 100% on typos, but I know the code is 100% working because I use it myself, and like I said before, I just rebuilt the application from scratch using the code from the book. Nothing in the core book changed in terms of how we were doing things, so nothing of substance to report.

For those that don’t know, the core book takes you through setup and install of Yii 2, then onto building a reusable template that also includes:

  • A Working user model
  • User registration and login
  • User Profile
  • Forgot password recovery
  • Frontend and backend separation with Admin UI
  • Helper classes
  • Access control
  • Free/Paid content control
  • RBAC with backend UI
  • JUI DatePicker
  • Bootstrap Mobile Responsive CSS
  • Facebook Social Widgets
  • Font-Awesome Implementation

The bonus material extends the core template with useful features, at the same time, we continue learning more about the framework.

3. Autoresponder. In the bonus material, we build an auto-responder. This is similar to the one I talk about on the blog, only this is the full set of instructions, with tested code. So again you know it’s 100% working.

4. Dropdown Navigation. We implement dropdown navigation links from my own solution. It’s quick and easy and you will love it.

5. We build an FAQ model for the template. FAQs are common to most sites and this will come in handy. This implementation has a full frontend/backend UI with extensible data structure. It is very useful code.

6. Components. We build the component application structure and show you how to create a component in the Advanced Template, including all the config details.

7. Custom Widget. Creating widgets are easy once you know how. This is a very powerful piece of the Yii 2 architecture that you will fall in love with. I will be blogging more about this in the future, it’s just amazing.

8. Closing A Potential Hole. There is no hole in the code if everything is coded correctly, but what happens when someone makes a typo? This section makes a nice adjustment to the ValueHelpers class that helps prevent accidental exposure.

9. CDN. We finish the first round of bonus material with a simple config implementation to use CDN for the core CSS and JS assets. This can dramatically increase the speed of the application.

All in all, it’s over 100 pages of new material. To reiterate, this is all 100% FREE to anyone who has previously purchased the book. Just log into your leanpub.com account to download the latest version.

I really had to work hard to get this to you in a timely manner. I put another book-writing project on hold, so I could make sure I live up to the commitments in supporting Yii 2 For Beginners. Now I need a few days off before I collapse from exhaustion.

Thanks again to all the readers from all over the world who were supportive with positive comments and are supporting my work. Your feedback motivates me to keep going. For example, on GoodReads, we are averaging 4 out 5 stars, with some nice comments even from the lower rating, which came before the additional 100+ pages of material was added to the book.

Please keep the comments, links, positive reviews, and word-of-mouth-referrals coming, they are greatly appreciated. See you soon.

Yii 2 Gii code generation

One of things about Yii 2 that is drastically different from some of the other frameworks is Gii, it’s code generation tool. I cover the use of Gii extensively in my book, Yii 2 For Beginners.

On the surface, this might just seem like a fun feature to use, a time-saver in certain circumstances. And that’s probably true of a lot of code generators, they only take you so far. But Gii is different.

Gii is so powerful that it has very meaningful impact on work flow. And this impact reaches deep into our profession. You can look at it from two perspectives, one, the individual developer doing work for clients, and two, from a team perspective, which can bring you up to full enterprise level.

So let me talk first about how it impacts the individual, and since a lot of my readers are beginners, it will help them understand the importance of Yii 2 and Gii.

1. Planning. Use of Gii impacts planning. Before you code a single line of code, you can factor in not only the efficiency of Gii, but also the workflow.

For example, to start, you look at the scope of the project and begin sketching out the table structure. The more well-thought out this data-structure is, the useful Gii becomes. If you use foreign keys to relate tables, Gii will understand this and generate relationships in the models.

This gives you the ability to imagine the project, and better yet, diagram the tables in MySql workbench, before any PHP is involved. And once you know the number of tables you are working with, you will have some idea of how long basic development will take. This is possible because you can average how long each table takes to convert to model to controller to view.

In a typical implemenation, there are 8 files generated. And they also typcially need customization, but once you have an idea of what you generally use for that, even the 1st level of customization goes quickly. When I say quickly, I mean crazy fast. It’s awesome. Awesome is not a technical word, but you have to give me a pass on that one, I really love Gii.

2. Strong MVC Pattern. The code that Gii generates is a beautiful implementation of the MVC pattern. It’s probably the easiest structure to follow of all the frameworks because you literally get folders named models, controllers, and views. And once you understand how it’s all stiched together, it just makes perfect sense.

3. Learn Good Practices. As your workflow and project planning are impacted by Gii, you begin to develop a discipline to the structure. While you are certainly not locked into anything, if you follow the breadcrumbs of good practices that Yii 2 and Gii are putting out there for you, your project becomes very tight and focused. Things are always done the same way, at least at the base level.

It’s understood of course that I’m talking about the bones of the project, not the skin. Presenting the data in the views often requires a lot of customization, but of course Yii 2 helps you bigtime there too with its widgets. But the widgets will have to be the subject of another post.

4. Grow As A Developer. As an individual developer, you build value into your skill set by following best practices. Today you are an individual developer or student. Tomorrow, you may work in a team environment. And those looking to hire programmers are looking for programmers that can follow a discipline and they’re most likely looking for programmers who have framework experience. And the good news is that this is a very accessible framework. You can learn it and benefit from it.

And that gives us the perfect transition to talk about team development. All the benefits that individual developers get from using Yii 2 and Gii are amplified in team and enterprise development. While time estimates are also important to individual developers, they can be absolutely critical in a company environment, where commitments are made to clients or to the backers of a venture.

So you can look at the list of benefits like this:

1. Workflow Standardization. The planning and flow of the project always follows the same path. Team members are assigned specific roles, which is certainly not unusual, but knowing the power of the framework and the capabilities of Gii enhances the strategic deployment of those resources.

2. Common Starting Point For Code. If the conversation starts with data-structure, it will lead to using Gii, in most cases. Obviously there are exceptions to everything. But to the extent that Gii gives us a common starting point for code, it gives the security of building a proven structure. The tight association it creates between model, controller, and view is not something you want to go out of your way to break, unless you have very good reason to do so.

3. Rapid Prototyping. Gii gives you the ability for rapid prototyping. Companies rarely have the luxury of asking “what if?” But with Gii, you can do that. You can even set aside a prototype branch with a separate DB, and playout those whatif scenarios quickly. No company would ever do that unless they could do it quickly and efficiently. But having that ability can give you a competitive advantage, so this is great.

4. Security Of Standardization. Lastly, I should state one of the most obvious benefits to the standardization that both Yii 2 and Gii offer. What if someone leaves the team? Someone else will have to take over their responsibilities, and wouldn’t it be better to know that they can do that efficiently because the structure and discipline of Yii 2 and Gii were adhered to? Of course it would. That’s a big reason why companies use frameworks in the first place.

Besides all the reasons I stated about the benefits of using Yii 2 and Gii, I thought about why it is so good at what it does and why I haven’t seen a competing framework offer something as compelling, at least not from my point of view. And I think the answer is that Yii 2 has it’s own native ORM implementation, which just makes their code generation seemless.

Having their own native ORM also gives Yii 2 the freedom to structure their MVC implementaion how they wish, so they’re able to keep it intuitive, without having to make sacrifices because of 3rd party ORM or other considerations. I believe this is a huge advantage and is one reason why Yii 2 is able to offer so much out of the box. If you haven’t tried this framework, I would strongly encourage you to do so.

I’d like to take a moment and thank all the programmers from around the world who are reading my blog, I hope you are finding it useful. And thanks again to everyone who has supported my book. Feel free to contribute with your own comments, links, and reviews, it is greatly appreciated.

Yii 2 MVC

Happy Holidays to everyone around the world, to our wonderful international following, I hope everyone has a great holiday season. I’ve been hard at work on a new writing project, a new book, which I will be releasing details on in the near future. One of the benefits of constantly doing technical writing is that you get to see things from many angles, which often gives you new perspective, even on the most basic things.

Since my blog is oriented towards beginners, I thought I would share some thoughts about the MVC pattern, and why I think Yii 2 does such a great job utilizing and preserving it. And while I’m mentioning Yii 2, a word of thanks to everyone who has bought Yii 2 For Beginners, I really appreciate your encouragement and support, it helps me vigorously pursue this work.

Ok, so jumping into MVC, it’s such a simple idea in many ways, that it quickly gets diluted, or at least our sense of it, depending on how an application is organized. I’m a big fan of an application having folders clearly named models, views, and controllers. in the basic app, these are very easy to find, right there in the root folder.

In the Advanced Application, which is the one I work with, the application has folders for frontend, backend, and common, and within those folders, you find the model, view, and controller folders. I know I’ve mentioned it before, but it bears repeating, the Advanced Application gives you a working user model, with registration, login, and forgot password functionality as well as the frontend/backend separation that I just talked about, so I actually found that easier to work with than the basic app. Just a heads up if you are relatively new to all this.

So from a basic organizational standpoint, Yii 2 is very intuitive and very well defined. Now I know that might sound a little vague, so let me try to be a little more specific and talk about an advantage that Yii 2 has over many other frameworks.

In Yii 2, you do not have to manually define each route. Yii 2 has built-in routing logic that sends the user request to the appropriate controller and view. By itself, that’s pretty cool, it alleviates you from having to keep track of all the different routes moving through the system as well as it relieves you from constantly having to bounce around to a routes file or equivalent. You don’t have to keep track of the path, so no headaches when there is a typo in the route or you forgot to reference something correctly. You can avoid that entirely, so that’s a plus for Yii 2.

But there’s another big plus from Yii 2’s architecture, and this may be a by-product of Yii 2’s built-in route definition, and that is it gives you a sense of a well-defined MVC right out of the box. You get to see how the controllers interact with the views, how they utilize the models, and how it all fits together. In a sense, the framework itself defines the MVC pattern more strongly, and it teaches you a very efficient and effective structure that you can use as you build out your application.

In the advanced application especially, you get enough examples of validation, form models, and the user model, to really see the MVC pattern operating beautifully. You get just the right amount of logic in the controllers to keep them thin. If you were, for example, to extract too much logic out, so you have almost no logic in the controller, you would be constantly drilling dwon into other classes to keep track of what’s going on. If you have too much logic, the core mission of a controller, which is essentially routing, is lost in clutter. Yii 2 finds the perfect balance for you right out of the box.

Another measure of a successful implementation of the MVC pattern is how little PHP ends up in the view file, always a challenge in modern development. If you look at Yii 2’s implementation of a form view, for example, you will be amazed at how clean it is, and how little is actually there. It’s one of many things I love about the framework.

In the MVC pattern, models are supposed to carry the most weight in terms of volume of code, since they do so much. The models in Yii 2 have been consturcted to push a lot of their logic into the parent classes, which you do not have to write, so you get to focus on setting up your validation rules and relationships. For example, when you create a model in Yii 2 from a table, the model knows the attributes, you don’t have to declare them at the top of the class.

Not only is that convenient, but it also keeps the code clean and gives you a great structure that the models will adhere to. Depending on your level of OOP experience, this might not seem as apparent at first, because, as it is with any larger structure, there’s a lot to get used to. Just the sheer size of the framework can be a little overwhelming, expecially for newer programmers or those with less framework experience.

But learning a new framework always involves taking in a lot of new information, and if you think about it, constant learning is one of the defining characteristics of being a programmer, especially given how quickly things can change. Don’t worry, you are not alone in that, and the good news is that is a lot of support out there for Yii 2. A lot of programmers love this framework.

In the months ahead, I hope to be able to bring you more insights and tutorials that will help get the most out of your experience with Yii 2. Once again Happy Holidays to everyone around the world.

And thanks again to everyone who has supported my blog and book. Feel free to contribute with your own comments, links, and reviews, it is greatly appreciated.

Yii 2 Avanced Template

A question I’ve seen on numerous occasions in the Yii 2 Forum is should I use the Yii 2 Advanced Template or the Basic Install? The answer to this depends quite a bit on what you want to accomplish and how. The first thing to mention is that if you are considering this question, you really should install a copy of both to get a hands on feel for yourself.

The instructions for installation of basic are here in the Guide. The instructions for the Yii 2 Advanced Template Installation is here.

Now if you are familiar with this blog, you know that I’m a big fan of the advanced template and that I use it in my book, Yii 2 For Beginners. It’s a little counter-intuitive, but I actually found that easier to work with than the basic application. The reason for this is that in the advanced template, they provide a fully-functional, database-driven user model, which is out of the box ready to register and login users. You even get the forgot password functionality, working out of the box, so you don’t have to code anything for that either.

So I found this to be incredibly helpful when I was new to the framework and I still feel strongly about it now, it’s a great template. The basic application is awesome too, after all, it’s the same framework. And depending on your application needs, it might make sense to start with that.

In my view, if you are just learning the framework, I think it’s easier to get started with the advanced template, even though you have to do a little more work in configuration and with the second host entry for the backend. Any medium to large size project would probably want separation of backend and frontend areas of the application, so the advanced template gives you a working blueprint for that. And considering it was made by the same team that developed the framework, it’s a strong blueprint. You can learn a lot from it.

Although they give you a working user registration and login in the advanced template, it’s only a starting point, and you still have to implement your own RBAC and any special logging that you might want to do, recording the ip address of the user for example.

Yii 2 does include an RBAC component that you can use with either template, and it is now well-documented and feature rich. I don’t use this implementation in my book, going for something simpler because I prefer to be closer to the RBAC code, so I can modify it more easily. It’s one of those things that just seems like I would have so many custom requirements that it’s just easier to go my own way with it. But that’s not to say anything negative about the Yii 2 RBAC, it’s really cool and ready for you to use if it meets your needs. It’s just another awesome feature that the framework provides for you.

In a sense you could apply the above statement to things like the user model, depending on how you wanted to build your application. So for example, if you had some custom implementation of a user model that was just too different from the advanced template, you could simply build it from scratch with the basic application.

Also, the way the backend and frontend are divided in the Advanced Application is obviously not the only way to do it. Some applications will not require a separate backend, though this is probably a minority. In smaller apps, you don’t necessarily even need a separate set of directories for backend, but keep in mind that apps tend to grow over time, so in my view, it’s best to account for this upfront. The advanced template is perfect for this. But you could also structure your backend differently by setting it up as a module.

Personally, I like the Advanced Template, I think it’s the perfect starting point for a medium to large application, or maybe even a smaller application where there is enough of a backend to imagine managing users through a backend UI.

Another thing I really liked about the advanced template, getting back to what I said earlier, is that you get to see a beautiful implementation of the user model that you can learn from, especially when you are just learning the framework.  For example, did you know that the Yii 2 Advanced Template doesn’t use a password field in the DB?  Instead it uses password_hash, and you can get the full details on that by doing the setup.  It’s just a great example of a user model.

In another example, when I wrote my Super Simple RBAC Tutorial, which gets you a working RBAC for the advanced template in 6 easy steps, I looked at the methods on the User model and the form model and followed their format and it really helped, everything just flowed beautifully. The point being that for newer and beginning programmers, learning how the framework does things is very useful and instructive and will help you progress faster in the long run.

If your are part of a team of professional developers deciding which version to use, basic or advanced, just keep in mind that both are equally capable of delivering enterprise level performance. So it just makes sense to see if the Advance Template represents a good starting point or simply will end up getting in the way, and obviously, no one can answer that question for you, you have to decide that for yourself.

Thanks again to everyone from around the world who has supported my blog and book. Feel free to contribute with your own comments, links, and reviews, it is greatly appreciated.

Yii 2 FAQ

As part of our ongoing series to build a reusable template in Yii 2, we are going to do a tutorial on our FAQ model. We will focus mostly on our frontend implementation, but we will also be talking about the data structure, differences in the frontend and backend, and we will make use of Yii 2’s ArrayDataProvider, a very handy iterator for use in sending data to the views.

Ok, so if you are just joining the blog, and have not yet gotten started on the basics, I recommend my book, Yii 2 For Beginners, which is a step by step guide to get you installed, up and running, and into development. The book is oriented toward beginning programmers who are just making the transition into frameowrk development and in addition to explaining how things work, we take care to explain why things are done they way they are done.

This blog is meant to be an extension of the book, great for tips and tutorials, which will be included in the quarterly updates of the book. Anyone who purchases the book is entitled to the free quarterly updates for the entire life of the book, so hopefully you can take advantage of that.

One of the other big themes I like to explore is the idea of working for a client and keeping the client satisfied. I’m just going to assume that you will be building applications for a client who is difficult to please.

When we think of FAQs, we think of simplicity, just questions and answers, and simplicity typically serves us well. But if we think about our demanding client and things that are important to them, the order of the questions, for example, might be very important. And obviously, the order they want will most likely not match the ascending or descending timestamp for creation or alphabetical order.

In most cases, the client won’t even know what order they want the questions in until long after the project has been developed. So what we need is a way for them to determine the order via backend UI. Now this is really simple to do of course. We just add a faq_value field, with a data type of int, that we can sort either ascending or desceding depending on our preference.

For example, in an ascending sort, an FAQ with a value of 10 will be higher on the list than an FAQ with a value of 20. And as long as we give the client a method for changing the value of an FAQ from backend UI, the problem is anticipated and solved before it ever becomes an issue.