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Repositories

This chapter will explain the concept of packages and repositories, what kinds of repositories are available, and how they work.

Concepts

Before we look at the different types of repositories that exist, we need to understand some of the basic concepts that composer is built on.

Package

Composer is a dependency manager. It installs packages locally. A package is essentially just a directory containing something. In this case it is PHP code, but in theory it could be anything. And it contains a package description which has a name and a version. The name and the version are used to identify the package.

In fact, internally composer sees every version as a separate package. While this distinction does not matter when you are using composer, it's quite important when you want to change it.

In addition to the name and the version, there is useful metadata. The information most relevant for installation is the source definition, which describes where to get the package contents. The package data points to the contents of the package. And there are two options here: dist and source.

Dist: The dist is a packaged version of the package data. Usually a released version, usually a stable release.

Source: The source is used for development. This will usually originate from a source code repository, such as git. You can fetch this when you want to modify the downloaded package.

Packages can supply either of these, or even both. Depending on certain factors, such as user-supplied options and stability of the package, one will be preferred.

Repository

A repository is a package source. It's a list of packages/versions. Composer will look in all your repositories to find the packages your project requires.

By default only the Packagist repository is registered in Composer. You can add more repositories to your project by declaring them in composer.json.

Repositories are only available to the root package and the repositories defined in your dependencies will not be loaded. Read the FAQ entry if you want to learn why.

Types

Composer

The main repository type is the composer repository. It uses a single packages.json file that contains all of the package metadata.

This is also the repository type that packagist uses. To reference a composer repository, just supply the path before the packages.json file. In case of packagist, that file is located at /packages.json, so the URL of the repository would be packagist.org. For example.org/packages.json the repository URL would be example.org.

packages

The only required field is packages. The JSON structure is as follows:

{
    "packages": {
        "vendor/packageName": {
            "dev-master": { @composer.json },
            "1.0.x-dev": { @composer.json },
            "0.0.1": { @composer.json },
            "1.0.0": { @composer.json }
        }
    }
}

The @composer.json marker would be the contents of the composer.json from that package version including as a minimum:

  • name
  • version
  • dist or source

Here is a minimal package definition:

{
    "name": "smarty/smarty",
    "version": "3.1.7",
    "dist": {
        "url": "http://www.smarty.net/files/Smarty-3.1.7.zip",
        "type": "zip"
    }
}

It may include any of the other fields specified in the schema.

notify

The notify field allows you to specify an URL template for a URL that will be called every time a user installs a package.

An example value:

{
    "notify": "/downloads/%package%"
}

For example.org/packages.json containing a monolog/monolog package, this would send a POST request to example.org/downloads/monolog/monolog with following parameters:

  • version: The version of the package.
  • version_normalized: The normalized internal representation of the version.

This field is optional.

includes

For large repositories it is possible to split the packages.json into multiple files. The includes field allows you to reference these additional files.

An example:

{
    "includes": {
        "packages-2011.json": {
            "sha1": "525a85fb37edd1ad71040d429928c2c0edec9d17"
        },
        "packages-2012-01.json": {
            "sha1": "897cde726f8a3918faf27c803b336da223d400dd"
        },
        "packages-2012-02.json": {
            "sha1": "26f911ad717da26bbcac3f8f435280d13917efa5"
        }
    }
}

The SHA-1 sum of the file allows it to be cached and only re-requested if the hash changed.

This field is optional. You probably don't need it for your own custom repository.

VCS

VCS stands for version control system. This includes versioning systems like git, svn or hg. Composer has a repository type for installing packages from these systems.

There are a few use cases for this. The most common one is maintaining your own fork of a third party library. If you are using a certain library for your project and you decide to change something in the library, you will want your project to use the patched version. If the library is on GitHub (this is the case most of the time), you can simply fork it there and push your changes to your fork. After that you update the project's composer.json. All you have to do is add your fork as a repository and update the version constraint to point to your custom branch.

Example assuming you patched monolog to fix a bug in the bugfix branch:

{
    "repositories": [
        {
            "type": "vcs",
            "url": "http://github.com/igorw/monolog"
        }
    ],
    "require": {
        "monolog/monolog": "dev-bugfix"
    }
}

When you run php composer.phar update, you should get your modified version of monolog/monolog instead of the one from packagist.

Git is not the only version control system supported by the VCS repository. The following are supported:

To get packages from these systems you need to have their respective clients installed. That can be inconvenient. And for this reason there is special support for GitHub and BitBucket that use the APIs provided by these sites, to fetch the packages without having to install the version control system. The VCS repository provides dists for them that fetch the packages as zips.

The VCS driver to be used is detected automatically based on the URL. However, should you need to specify one for whatever reason, you can use git, svn or hg as the repository type instead of vcs.

PEAR

It is possible to install packages from any PEAR channel by using the pear repository. Composer will prefix all package names with pear-{channelName}/ to avoid conflicts. All packages are also aliased with prefix pear-{channelAlias}/

Example using pear2.php.net:

{
    "repositories": [
        {
            "type": "pear",
            "url": "http://pear2.php.net"
        }
    ],
    "require": {
        "pear-pear2.php.net/PEAR2_Text_Markdown": "*",
        "pear-pear2/PEAR2_HTTP_Request": "*"
    }
}

In this case the short name of the channel is pear2, so the PEAR2_HTTP_Request package name becomes pear-pear2/PEAR2_HTTP_Request.

Note: The pear repository requires doing quite a few requests per package, so this may considerably slow down the installation process.

Custom channel alias

It is possible to alias all pear channel packages with custom name.

Example: You own private pear repository and going to use composer abilities to bring dependencies from vcs or transit to composer repository scheme. Your repository list of packages:

  • BasePackage, requires nothing
  • IntermediatePackage, depends on BasePackage
  • TopLevelPackage1 and TopLevelPackage2 both dependth on IntermediatePackage.

For composer it looks like:

  • "pear-pear.foobar.repo/IntermediatePackage" depends on "pear-pear.foobar.repo/BasePackage",
  • "pear-pear.foobar.repo/TopLevelPackage1" depends on "pear-pear.foobar.repo/IntermediatePackage",
  • "pear-pear.foobar.repo/TopLevelPackage2" depends on "pear-pear.foobar.repo/IntermediatePackage"

When you update one of your packages to composer naming scheme or made it available through vcs, your older dependencies would not see new version, cause it would be named like "foobar/IntermediatePackage". Specifying 'vendor-alias' for pear repository, you will get all its packages aliased with composer-like names. Following example would take BasePackage, TopLevelPackage1 and TopLevelPackage2 packages from pear repository and IntermediatePackage from github repository:

{
    "repositories": [
        {
            "type": "git",
            "https://github.com/foobar/intermediate.git"
        },
        {
            "type": "pear",
            "url": "http://pear.foobar.repo",
            "vendor-alias": "foobar"
        }
    ],
    "require": {
        "foobar/TopLevelPackage1": "*",
        "foobar/TopLevelPackage2": "*"
    }
}

Package

If you want to use a project that does not support composer through any of the means above, you still can define the package yourself by using a package repository.

Basically, you define the same information that is included in the composer repository's packages.json, but only for a single package. Again, the minimum required fields are name, version, and either of dist or source.

Here is an example for the smarty template engine:

{
    "repositories": [
        {
            "type": "package",
            "package": {
                "name": "smarty/smarty",
                "version": "3.1.7",
                "dist": {
                    "url": "http://www.smarty.net/files/Smarty-3.1.7.zip",
                    "type": "zip"
                },
                "source": {
                    "url": "http://smarty-php.googlecode.com/svn/",
                    "type": "svn",
                    "reference": "tags/Smarty_3_1_7/distribution/"
                },
                "autoload": {
                    "classmap": ["libs/"]
                }
            }
        }
    ],
    "require": {
        "smarty/smarty": "3.1.*"
    }
}

Typically you would leave the source part off, as you don't really need it.

Hosting your own

While you will probably want to put your packages on packagist most of the time, there are some use cases for hosting your own repository.

  • Private company packages: If you are part of a company that uses composer for their packages internally, you might want to keep those packages private.

  • Separate ecosystem: If you have a project which has its own ecosystem, and the packages aren't really reusable by the greater PHP community, you might want to keep them separate to packagist. An example of this would be wordpress plugins.

When hosting your own package repository it is recommended to use a composer one. This is type that is native to composer and yields the best performance.

There are a few tools that can help you create a composer repository.

Packagist

The underlying application used by packagist is open source. This means that you can just install your own copy of packagist, re-brand, and use it. It's really quite straight-forward to do. However due to its size and complexity, for most small and medium sized companies willing to track a few packages will be better off using Satis.

Packagist is a Symfony2 application, and it is available on GitHub. It uses composer internally and acts as a proxy between VCS repositories and the composer users. It holds a list of all VCS packages, periodically re-crawls them, and exposes them as a composer repository.

To set your own copy, simply follow the instructions from the packagist github repository.

Satis

Satis is a static composer repository generator. It is a bit like an ultra- lightweight, static file-based version of packagist.

You give it a composer.json containing repositories, typically VCS and package repository definitions. It will fetch all the packages that are required and dump a packages.json that is your composer repository.

Check the satis GitHub repository and the Satis article for more information.

Disabling Packagist

You can disable the default Packagist repository by adding this to your composer.json:

{
    "repositories": [
        {
            "packagist": false
        }
    ]
}

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