Efficient and flexible multi-environment config for Craft CMS
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Craft3-Multi-Environment for Craft CMS 3.x

Efficient and flexible multi-environment config for Craft CMS

Related: Craft-Multi-Environment for Craft 2.x


Multi-Environment Configs let you easily run a Craft CMS project in local dev, staging, and production. They allow different people to work in different environments without painful setup or coordination. You can read a more in-depth discussion of it in the Multi-Environment Config for Craft CMS article.

Why another multi-environment config?

There are a number of good approaches to implementing a multi-environment config in Craft CMS, but they each have drawbacks. There are two main approaches typically used are:

  1. Multi-Environment Configs - The problem with this approach is that it often results in data stored in a git repo (such as passwords, Stripe keys, etc.) that really shouldn't be.
  2. PHP dotenv - The problem with this approach is that PHP dotenv is fairly heavy, and indeed the authors warn against using it in production. Instantiating the Composer auto-loader and reading in the .env file for every request adds unnecessary overhead.

Craft-Multi-Environment (CME) is my attempt to create something that finds a middle-ground between the two approaches.

You can read more about it in the Setting up a New Craft 3 CMS Project article. You can also alternatively have Craft 3 Multi-Environment installed & configured for you via the nystudio107/craft project package.

How does it work?

CME works by including a .env.php file (which is never checked into git) via the Craft index.php file that is loaded for every non-static request.

The .env.php file sets some globally-accessible settings via putenv() for common things like the database password, database user, base URL, etc. You're also free to add your own as you see fit. The config/general.php and config/db.php can thus remain abstracted, and each environment can have their own local settings.

This is more performant than auto-loading a class and reading a .env file for each request, but maintains the same flexibility. Additionally, since we are using getenv() to access the settings, these can be set directly by the webserver (without using the .env.php file at all) for additional security and performance.

Also, since we're using getenv(), these settings are globally accessible in the PHP session, and can for instance be used in a Craft Commerce commerce.php file, accessed via plugins, etc.

Using Craft-Multi-Environment


CME assumes that you have a folder structure such as this for your project root:


If your folder structure is different, that's fine. But you may need to adjust the path to .env.php in the index.php file, and you may need to adjust the way CRAFTENV_BASE_PATH is constructed in your .env.php (or just hardcode the path).

CME will also work fine with localized sites as well, you'll just need to adjust the aforementioned paths as appropriate.

Setting it up

  1. Copy config/db.php, config/general.php & config/volumes.php to your project's config/ folder
  2. Copy web/index.php to your project's web/ folder
  3. Copy the script craft to your project's root (this is the console bootstrap file for Craft)
  4. Copy example.env.php to your project's root folder, then duplicate it, and rename the copy .env.php
  5. Edit the .env.php file, replacing instances of REPLACE_ME with your appropriate settings
  6. Add /.env.php to your .gitignore file

The web/index.php file included with CME just has the following that supplants the Dotenv lines (it is otherwise unchanged):

// Load the local craft3-multi-environment
if (file_exists(CRAFT_BASE_PATH . DIRECTORY_SEPARATOR . '.env.php')) {
    require_once CRAFT_BASE_PATH . DIRECTORY_SEPARATOR . '.env.php';

// Default environment
if (!defined('CRAFT_ENVIRONMENT')) {

You will need to create an .env.php file for each environment on which your Craft CMS project will be used (other team member's local dev, staging, production, etc.), but the db.php, general.php, and index.php are the same on all environments.

It's recommended that the example.env.php is checked into your git repo, so others can use it for a guide when creating their own local .env.php file.

Custom environmentVariables

Craft 3 does away with the notion of environmentVariables. If you have custom variables that you wish to set in a multi-environment way, put them in the custom array in general.php:

// Custom site-specific config settings
'custom' => [
    'craftEnv' => CRAFT_ENVIRONMENT,
    'staticAssetsVersion' => 1,

The custom sub-array in the config setup is for any non-Craft defined config settings that you might want to include in general.php. Since Craft does a recursive merge on the config settings, you can change just the config settings you need on a per-environment basis.

You can access these in your templates via craft.app.config.general.custom.SETTING.

Asset Volumes and Aliases

For things like your baseUrl and basePath for assets, you can set aliases in your general.php:

// Aliases parsed in sites’ settings, volumes’ settings, and Local volumes’ settings
'aliases' => [
    '@basePath' => getenv('CRAFTENV_BASE_PATH'),
    '@baseUrl' => getenv('CRAFTENV_BASE_URL'),

In your templates, Craft CMS 3 RC7 adds than alias() Twig function that you can use to resolve an alias, e.g.:

{{ alias('@baseUrl') }}
{{ alias('@baseUrl/assets/img/' }}

Aliases work for paths as well as URLs:

{{ alias('@basePath') }}
{{ alias('@basePath/assets/img/' }}

There are also several preset aliases that you might find useful:

  • @web - the base URL of the current request
  • @webroot - the web root directory of the current request. It is determined based on the directory containing the entry script

These aliases can be used in sites’ Base URL settings, volumes’ Base URL settings, and Local volumes’ File System Path settings in the AdminCP.

They can also be used in the volumes.php file:

// All environments
'*' => [
    'ASSET_HANDLE' => [
        'path' => '@basePath/ASSET_PATH',
        'url' => '@baseUrl/ASSET_PATH',

Put the Asset Volume handle in ASSET_HANDLE key, and put the path to the asset in ASSET_PATH.

Since each Asset Volume can have a different url and path, you'll need to create an array for each Asset Volume that your website uses. Here's an example:

// All environments
'*' => [
    'siteAssets' => [
        'url' => '@baseUrl/img/site',
        'path' => '@basePath/img/site',
    'blogImages' => [
        'url' => '@baseUrl/img/blog',
        'path' => '@basePath/img/blog',

This is a config with two Asset Volumes with the handles siteAssets and blogImages, with the file system & URI paths of img/site and img/blog, respectively.

Local environments

CME suggests the following environments, each of which can have different Craft settings per environment, independent of the private settings defined in .env.php:

  1. * - applies globally to all environments
  2. live - your live production environment
  3. staging - your staging or pre-production environment for client review, external testing, etc.
  4. local - your local development environment

The db.php and config.php define each environment, and you can put whatever Craft Config Settings you desire for each environment in each. The names of the environments and the default settings for each are just suggestions, however. You can change them to be whatever you like.

Extending it

If you have additional settings that need to be globally accessible, you can just add them to the .env.php. For example, let's say we need a private key for Stripe, you can add this to .env.php by adding it to the $craftenv_vars array:

// The private Stripe key.

CME will auto-prefix all settings in the $craftenv_vars with CRAFTENV_ for semantic reasons, and to avoid namespace collisions.

You should also update the example.env.php to include any settings you add, for reference and your team's reference.

Accessing the settings in general.php

You can access any variables defined in the general.php file in Twig via {{ craft.app.config.general }}. e.g.:

{% if craft.app.config.general.custom.craftEnv == "local" %}
{% endif %}

The custom sub-array in the config setup is for any non-Craft defined config settings that you might want to include in general.php. Since Craft does a recursive merge on the config settings, you can change just the config settings you need on a per-environment basis.

Production via webserver config

It's perfectly fine to use CME as discussed above in a production environment. However, if you want an added measure of security and performance, you can set up your webserver to set the same globally accessible settings via webserver config.

It's slightly more secure, in that only a user with admin privileges should have access to the server config files. It's ever so slightly more performant, in that there's no extra .env.php file that is being processed with each request.

This is entirely optional, but if you're interested in doing it, here's how.

  1. Use the index.php that comes with CME, but ensure that there is no .env.php file in your project root. CME will gracefully not attempt to load this file if it doesn't exist.
  2. Configure your webserver as described below, and then restart it


Inside the <VirtualHost> block:


(...and any other custom config settings you've added)


Inside the server {} or location ~ \.php {} block or in the fastcgi_params file:


(...and any other custom config settings you've added)

Brought to you by nystudio107