PSR-7 stream examples
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PSR-7 Stream Examples

PSR-7 uses Psr\Http\Message\StreamableInterface to represent content for a message. This has a variety of benefits, as outlined in the specification. However, for some, the model poses some conceptual challenges:

  • What if I want to emit a file on the server, like I might with fpassthru() or stream_copy_to_stream($fileHandle, fopen('php://output'))?
  • What if I want to use a callback to produce my output?
  • What if I want to use output buffering and/or echo/printf/etc. directly?
  • What if I want to iterate over a data structure and iteratively output content?

These patterns are all possible with creative implementations of StreamableInterface.

In each, the assumption is that the application will short-circuit on receiving a response as a return value. Most modern frameworks do this already, and it's a guiding principle of middleware.

The code in this repository uses phly/http as the PSR-7 implementation; any PSR-7 implementation should behave similarly.

Analyzing the code

Emitting a file

For those who are accustomed to using readfile(), fpassthru() or copying a stream into php://output via stream_copy_to_stream(), PSR-7 will look and feel different. Typically, you will not use the aforementioned techniques when building an application to work with PSR-7, as they bypass the HTTP message entirely, and delegate it to PHP itself.

The problem with using these built-in PHP methods is that you cannot test your code as easily, as it now has side-effects. One major reason to adopt PSR-7 is if you want to be able to test your web-facing code without worrying about side effects. Adopting frameworks or application architectures that work with HTTP messages lets you pass in a request, and make assertions on the response.

In the case of emitting a file, this means that you will:

  • Create a Stream instance, passing it the file location.
  • Provide appropriate headers to the response.
  • Provide your stream instance to the response.
  • Return your response.

Which looks like what we have in copy-stream.php:

$image = __DIR__ . '/cuervo.jpg';

return (new Response())
    ->withHeader('Content-Type', 'image/jpeg')
    ->withHeader('Content-Length', (string) filesize($image))
    ->withBody(new Stream($image));
return $response;

The assumption is that returning a response will bubble out of your application; most modern frameworks do this already, as does middleware. As such, you will typically have minimal additional overhead from the time you create the response until it's streaming your file back to the client.

Direct output

Just like the above example, for those accustomed to directly calling echo, or sending data directly to the php://output stream, PSR-7 will feel strange. However, as noted before as well, these are actions that have side effects that act as a barrier to testing and other quality assurance activities.

There is a way to accomodate these, however, with a little trickery: wrapping any output-emitting code in a callback, and passing this to a callback-enabled stream implementation. The CallbackStream implementation in this repo is one potential way to accomplish it.

As an example, from php-output.php:

$output = new CallbackStream(function () use ($request) {
    printf("The requested URI was: %s<br>\n", $request->getUri());
    return '';
return (new Response())
    ->withHeader('Content-Type', 'text/html')

This has a few benefits over directly emitting output from within your web-facing code:

  • We can ensure our headers are sent before emitting output.
  • We can set a non-200 status code if desired.
  • We can test the various aspects of the response separately from the output.
  • We still get the benefits of the output buffer.

As noted previously, returning a response will generally bubble out of the application immediately, making this a very viable option for emitting output directly.

(Note: the callback could also aggregate content and return it as a string if desired; I wanted to demonstrate specifically how it can be used to work with output buffering.)

Iterators and generators

Ruby's Rack specification uses an iterable body for response messages, instead of a stream. In some situations, such as returning large data sets, this could be tremendously useful. Can PSR-7 accomplish it?

The answer is, succinctly, yes. The IteratorStream implementation in this repo is a rough prototype showing how it may work; usage would be as in iterator.php:

$output = new IteratorStream(new ArrayObject([
return (new Response())
    ->withHeader('Content-Type', 'text/html')

or, with a generator per generator.php:

$generator = function ($count) {
    while ($count) {
        yield(uniqid() . "<br>\n");

$output = new IteratorStream($generator(10));

return (new Response())
    ->withHeader('Content-Type', 'text/html')

This is a nice approach, as you can iteratively generate the data returned; if you are worried about data overhead from aggregating the data before returning it, you can always use print or echo statements instead of aggregation within the iterator stream implementation.

Testing it out

You can test it out for yourself:

  • Clone this repo
  • Run composer install
  • Run cd public ; php -S 0:8080 in the directory, and then browse to http://localhost:8080/{filename}, where {filename} is one of:
    • copy-stream.php
    • generator.php
    • iterator.php
    • php-output.php


This was a quick repository built to demonstrate that PSR-7 fulfills these scenarios; however, they are far from comprehensive. Some ideas:

  • IteratorStream could and likely should allow providing a separator, and potentially preamble/postfix for wrapping content.
  • IteratorStream and CallbackStream could be optimized to emit output directly instead of aggregating + returning, if you are worried about large data sets.
  • CallbackStream could cache the contents to allow multiple reads (though using detach() would allow it already).