A capistrano deployment system for CakePHP supporting compass and composer.
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Deploying with Capistrano: CakePHP, Composer, and Compass

NOTE: This project is deprecated and will most likely not be updated. It remains a working deployment solution for CakePHP 2.x apps, but will not be updated for CakePHP 3.x.

Capistrano, originally developed to deploy Rails websites, is an extremely useful tool for deploying anything. I'm using it to deploy CakePHP based sites which use Composer to manage dependencies, Compass and sass for css, and jammit for javascript compiling and minifying. Getting everything wired together involved some work, but it was well worth the effort. I decided not to use the fully featured capcake gem, primarily because I wanted to fine tune the deployment for my configuration and fully understand each step.

The deployment script is available on GitHub as capistrano-cake.


I use rvm to manage ruby on OS X, but it doesn't really matter how you do it as long as you can install ruby gems.

gem install capistrano
gem install railsless-deploy

The railsless-deploy gem removes most of the railsisms that come with capistrano.

The Setup

I usually use a shared CakePHP core on my production servers, so deployment from development consists of transferring my app files and dependencies (plugins, etc.). Managing dependencies with Composer is well worth the effort, and allows you to easily add packages from Packagist or from your own private repositories.

My app to deploy is structured like this:


I'm splitting up my deploy script into two files, app.rb and deploy.rb. This lets me reuse deploy.rb for every CakePHP deployment, while only changing a few variables in app.rb. Both of these files are put in my app's Config directory. The Capfile in the root of my app simply loads things:

require 'rubygems'
require 'railsless-deploy'
load	'Config/app'
load    'Config/deploy'

In Config/app.rb, I set the required variables for deployment:

set :application, "testapp.chronon.us"
set :repository,  "ssh://git.chronon.us/home/repos/testapp"
set :deploy_to, "/var/www/#{application}"
set :branch, "master"
role :web, "server.chronon.us"

The deploy strategy here is that I'm developing the site locally, pushing changes to a private git repository (git.chronon.us), and have the production server (server.chronon.us) pull changes from the git repository.


With my app.rb configured, I can set things up on the remote server:

cap deploy:setup

This creates two directories on the remove server, releases and shared. In shared, the following directories are created by the CakePHP deploy.rb specifically for a CakePHP app and permissions are set correctly for the tmp directory.


The config files core.php, bootstrap.php, and database.php are uploaded to shared/Config. Before deploying, make the necessary changes to these to match your production server environment.

To deploy an app for the first time:

cap deploy -S composer=install

The -S composer=install part passes the install command to the composer task in the deploy script. By default, composer runs the update command, so future deployments will require only cap deploy.

Upon deployment, a few special things happen:

  • The tmp, Plugin, and Vendor directories in the app directory on the server are removed, and symlinked to the corresponding directories in the shared directory capistrano made.

  • The files core.php, bootstrap.php, and database.php in the Config directory are removed, and symlinked to corresponding names in the shared/Config directory.

  • The CakePHP tmp directory structure (cache, sessions, tests, logs) is created in shared/tmp.

  • If a composer.json project file exists, composer runs install, putting plugins into shared/Plugins and vendor files into shared/Vendor.

  • If a compass project exists and set :compile_css, true has been set in app.rb, the command compass compile compass is run locally. The compiled css files are then transferred to the remote server, eliminating the need to compile assets on a production server.

  • If javascript compilation and minification has been configured with jammit and set :compile_js, true has been set in app.rb, the command jammit -c compass/assets.yml -o webroot/js/ runs locally. The compiled js files are then transferred to the remote server.


A few other variables can be set in app.rb, all are optional:

set :cake_config_files, %w{core.php database.php bootstrap.php} # these are the defaults if not set
set :cake_shared_dirs, %w{tmp Vendor Plugin} # these are the defaults if not set
set :upload_dirs, %w{img/contents img/options files/downloads}
set :upload_children, %w{ img/contents/thumbs } # subdirectories created under upload_dirs
set :compile_css, true
set :compile_js, true
set :files_to_remove, %w{webroot/css/cake*.css webroot/img/cake.* webroot/img/test-*.png webroot/test.php}
  • cake_config_files: the config files to symlink and upload during initial setup.
  • cake_shared_dirs: the directories to symlink from app to shared.
  • upload_dirs: sets the listed directories to be created in the shared directory and symlinked, just like Plugin and Vendor.
  • compile_css: runs compass compile, requires compass to be set up in your app's compass directory.
  • compile_js: runs jammit, requires an assets.yml file in your app's compass directory.
  • files_to_remove: array of files to delete at the end of deployment.


Obviously this setup is pretty specific to how I have things set up for development. Hopefully all or at least parts of the workflow and script can helpful in deploying CakePHP sites with capistrano.