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Command-line interface

You've already learned how to use the command-line interface to do some things. This chapter documents all the available commands.


In the Libraries chapter we looked at how to create a composer.json by hand. There is also an init command available that makes it a bit easier to do this.

When you run the command it will interactively ask you to fill in the fields, while using some smart defaults.

$ php composer.phar init


The install command reads the composer.json file from the current directory, resolves the dependencies, and installs them into vendor.

$ php composer.phar install

If there is a composer.lock file in the current directory, it will use the exact versions from there instead of resolving them. This ensures that everyone using the library will get the same versions of the dependencies.

If there is no composer.lock file, composer will create one after dependency resolution.


  • --prefer-source: There are two ways of downloading a package: source and dist. For stable versions composer will use the dist by default. The source is a version control repository. If --prefer-source is enabled, composer will install from source if there is one. This is useful if you want to make a bugfix to a project and get a local git clone of the dependency directly.
  • --dry-run: If you want to run through an installation without actually installing a package, you can use --dry-run. This will simulate the installation and show you what would happen.
  • --dev: By default composer will only install required packages. By passing this option you can also make it install packages referenced by require-dev.


In order to get the latest versions of the dependencies and to update the composer.lock file, you should use the update command.

$ php composer.phar update

This will resolve all dependencies of the project and write the exact versions into composer.lock.


  • --prefer-source: Install packages from source when available.
  • --dry-run: Simulate the command without actually doing anything.
  • --dev: Install packages listed in require-dev.


The search command allows you to search through the current project's package repositories. Usually this will be just packagist. You simply pass it the terms you want to search for.

$ php composer.phar search monolog

You can also search for more than one term by passing multiple arguments.


To list all of the available packages, you can use the show command.

$ php composer.phar show

If you want to see the details of a certain package, you can pass the package name.

$ php composer.phar show monolog/monolog

name     : monolog/monolog
versions : master-dev, 1.0.2, 1.0.1, 1.0.0, 1.0.0-RC1
type     : library
names    : monolog/monolog
source   : [git] 3d4e60d0cbc4b888fe5ad223d77964428b1978da
dist     : [zip] 3d4e60d0cbc4b888fe5ad223d77964428b1978da
license  : MIT

Monolog : src/

php >=5.3.0

You can even pass the package version, which will tell you the details of that specific version.

$ php composer.phar show monolog/monolog 1.0.2


  • --installed: Will list the packages that are installed.
  • --platform: Will list only platform packages (php & extensions).


The depends command tells you which other packages depend on a certain package. You can specify which link types (require, require-dev) should be included in the listing. By default both are used.

$ php composer.phar depends --link-type=require monolog/monolog



  • --link-type: The link types to match on, can be specified multiple times.


You should always run the validate command before you commit your composer.json file, and before you tag a release. It will check if your composer.json is valid.

$ php composer.phar validate


To update composer itself to the latest version, just run the self-update command. It will replace your composer.phar with the latest version.

$ php composer.phar self-update


You can use Composer to create new projects from an existing package. There are several applications for this:

  1. You can deploy application packages.
  2. You can check out any package and start developing on patches for example.
  3. Projects with multiple developers can use this feature to bootstrap the initial application for development.

To create a new project using composer you can use the "create-project" command. Pass it a package name, and the directory to create the project in. You can also provide a version as third argument, otherwise the latest version is used.

The directory is not allowed to exist, it will be created during installation.

php composer.phar create-project doctrine/orm path 2.2.0

By default the command checks for the packages on


  • --repository-url: Provide a custom repository to search for the package, which will be used instead of packagist. Can be either an HTTP URL pointing to a composer repository, or a path to a local packages.json file.
  • --prefer-source: Get a development version of the code checked out from version control.


To get more information about a certain command, just use help.

$ php composer.phar help install

Environment variables

You can set a number of environment variables that override certain settings. Whenever possible it is recommended to specify these settings in the config section of composer.json instead. It is worth noting that that the env vars will always take precedence over the values specified in composer.json.


By setting the COMPOSER env variable it is possible to set the filename of composer.json to something else.

For example:

$ COMPOSER=composer-other.json php composer.phar install


By setting this var you can make composer install the dependencies into a directory other than vendor.


By setting this option you can change the bin (Vendor Bins) directory to something other than vendor/bin.

http_proxy or HTTP_PROXY

If you are using composer from behind an HTTP proxy, you can use the standard http_proxy or HTTP_PROXY env vars. Simply set it to the URL of your proxy. Many operating systems already set this variable for you.

Using http_proxy (lowercased) or even defining both might be preferrable since some tools like git or curl will only use the lower-cased http_proxy version. Alternatively you can also define the git proxy using git config --global http.proxy <proxy url>.


The COMPOSER_HOME var allows you to change the composer home directory. This is a hidden, global (per-user on the machine) directory that is shared between all projects.

By default it points to /home/<user>/.composer on *nix, /Users/<user>/.composer on OSX and C:\Users\<user>\AppData\Roaming\Composer on Windows.


This env var controls the time composer waits for commands (such as git commands) to finish executing. The default value is 300 seconds (5 minutes).

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