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Bazel based PHP codebase

This project is a work in progress which builds on the bazel's philosophy of reproducible builds, targeting PHP. Bazel, used with these PHP build rules provides several advantages:

  1. Allows specifying encapsulated targets. E.g. a small PHP library with a few source files.
  2. Binds code modules through specified dependencies. You don't have to care about include or require, only the use keyword for namespaces and class autoloading - bootstrapping the libraries should take care of the rest.
  3. Only affected targets get rebuilt. You don't have to run the entire test suite on each change, only the files which can actually be affected, provided you don't break the target encapsulation. Bazel does this out of the box.
  4. Easy packaging for production. Build docker images with simple rules.

Note: This is still highly experimental and should not be used in production.

The first example application in this repository is a clunky complex number calculator.

For example, you may run:

bazel run app/calc:calc -- "3+3i * 2+4i"

To get the output:

-6 + 18i

This is a simplified dependency graph of the project:

  base/except:except (exceptions)  @phpunit//:phpunit (external composer lib)
            ^                                                         ^
            |                                                         |
  base/type:immutable (immutable object class)                        |
            ^       ^                                                 |
            |       |                                                 |
            |      base/type:immutable_test (unit test) --------------|
            |                                                         |
  base/math/complex:complex (complex number representation)           |
            ^       ^                                                 |
            |       |                                                 |
            |      base/math/complex:complex_test (unit test) --------|
            |                                                         |
  app/calc:calc (calculator app)                                      |
                    ^                                                 |
                    |                                                 |
                   app/calc:calc_test (unit test for the app) ________|

The second example is an app which reads an integer index and outputs a story associated with that index. This serves as an example for accessing static data from source files.

        app/story/data (static data)  @phpunit//:phpunit (external composer lib)
            ^                     ^          ^
            |                     |          |
  app/story:story (story app)     |          |
                   ^              |          |
                   |              |          |
                  app/story:story_test (unit test)

Current features

Build rules

  • php_library - a set of PHP files which are checked and bootstrapped.
  • php_binary - same as library, with an extra entry point named by the target.
  • php_test - same as library, with an extra test runner executable named by the target.
  • php_image - same as binary, but as a docker image instead.
  • php_resource - a static resource library, e.g. for reading static files.

Workspace rules

  • composer_repository - a wrapper for fetching a composer library and placing the vendor directory into {project_root}/external/{target_name}, you can simply reference this as a dependency, see the phpunit target as example.

Setup instructions

  • Install bazel

  • Install docker if you want to build images

  • Pull in this repository with git

Working with PHP 5.6. Planning to add support for PHP 7.0, 7.1

Concepts and terminology

Since PHP is an interpreted language, a library and a binary don't fall in to the conventional concept of those terms.

Building ensures that all source files have valid syntax and can reach runtime. It also extracts only the required files from the entire source tree which get executed. It is therefore easy to package and ship those files either as a container or an application in the traditional sense (folder with PHP files).

Here we touch on the build rules associated with building PHP code:

  • PHP library
  • PHP binary
  • PHP test

PHP library

A library is a set of symbols defined in one or more files which live in the same directory. A library should not execute code, apart from defining symbols like constants, functions and classes. One library may depend on other libraries living in other source tree directories.

To build a library is in essence to copy the source files into an output directory, preserving the path structure and not modifying any code.

PHP binary

A PHP binary is a single script file which executes PHP code, meaning it takes inputs and produces outputs. An executable may depend on PHP libraries. The main file should have a class with public static function main($args) {}, similar to Java or C# and this is considered the entry point method.

Building an executable is achieved through copying the executable source files, all transitive dependencies (i.e. libraries) to their respective directories and also produce a bootstrapping entry point which handles autoloading of symbols, includes the executable sources and calls YourMainClass::main(array_slice($argv, 1)).

PHP test

A PHP test is a library which can execute test methods from test case classes. A test usually depends on at least one library or an executable.

To build a PHP test is similar as to building a library, the main difference is we also produce an executable file which runs all the test cases.


Bootstrapping a PHP target is like doing a dry-run on the source code, which implies loading all the sources to try and find dependency issues before actual runtime.

This is achieved by generating an autoload function with whitelisted sources, as bazel does not remove files of a built target if you remove a dependency to it from another target. This holds for php_library, php_binary and php_test.

When building a library, the source files are only loaded so to find any issue in static references outside scoped code (e.g. outside classes, such as an extended class). This ensures that if we, for example extend a class from an external dependency, that the base class can be autoloaded (i.e. is whitelisted).

For executables and tests, the bootstrap process is the same and the autoload function generated for the executable script or test runner also has whitelisted sources. The only difference is we also generate the code to achieve the runtime: invoking tests or running the main().

Style guide

There's no particular style guide imposed for the code layout, however the build rules do expect some structure in your source files.


Each source file should have it's namespace which matches the full directory path from the project root. So having a foo/bar/baz.php would have:

namespace foo\bar;

And the Baz class should be referenced as:

use foo\bar\Baz;

For external dependencies, such as composer libraries, use their canonical namespaces. For example:

use PHPUnit\Framework\TestCase;

It's common to forget including Exception from the root namespace:

use \Exception;


Each source file should encapsulate the code into a class, similar to Java. The class name should exactly match the source file's basename without the extension. Example:

File: foo/bar/MyClass.php


namespace foo\bar;

class MyClass {}

Multiple classes per file are allowed, but discouraged. Only if you consider those classes as private, then place them into the same file.


Libraries should not execute code, only declare symbols such as classes, interfaces, traits, functions and constants.

Using define() is discouraged, rather have a Constants class and put them there.


A binary should have one top-level class named after the file, for example:

File: foo/bar/AddArgs.php


namespace foo\bar;

class AddArgs {
  public static function main($args) {
    echo array_sum($args) . "\n";
    return 0;

The class must have the public static function main() which is the entry point.

Also notice how you should provide an exit code, similar how a C program would return 0 on success. If you return nothing, the bootstrapping script calling main will convert this to 0.

Binaries, as well as libraries can have a test target. You only need to specify the target in the php_test deps.

Static files

For accessing static files such as templates, default data and other content which should live in separate files, rather than source code, use the php_resource rule. This will create a library with a StaticResource class which you can access in the source files. See the app/story as an example.


  • php_image target requires src and deps, it should also be able to work with simply referencing a php_binary as to avoid having conflicting actions.

  • Consider doing apriory symbol bootstraping - for example, find all PHP tokens of type T_STRING which refer to a class/interface/trait, resolve their namespace and load them. This proved to be harder to do than initially anticipated.

  • Check that dependencies are actually used, i.e. need a build cleaner.

  • Devise a way to automatically add dependencies based on PHP use statements.

  • Install PHP beautifier (can't do newlines properly)

sudo pear install channel://

  • Install php-cs-fixer (can't do indent of 2 spaces)

composer global require friendsofphp/php-cs-fixer


These notes are mostly bazel related tips and tricks which I occasionally find useful:

Find and run all tests

grep -r --include=BUILD -oP "name=\"(\K\w+_test)" | \
  sed s#/BUILD## | \
  xargs bazel test --test_output=errors

Build all targets

grep -r --include=BUILD -oP "name=\"(\K\w+)" | \
  sed s#/BUILD## | \
  xargs bazel build


A bazel-based PHP codebase







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