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Sage - Insightful PHP debugging assistant ☯

At first glance Sage is just a drop-in replacement for var_dump() and debug_backtrace().

However, it's much, much more.

For an overview of Sage's outstanding features jump to the F.A.Q.


composer require php-sage/sage --dev

Or if you prefer, download the phar and simply

require 'sage.phar';

sage('Hello, 🌎!');

Or if your PHP version does not support either, download the latest source code and include Sage.php

require 'sage-main/Sage.php';

sage('Hello, 🌎!');


sage($GLOBALS, $_SERVER); // dump any number of parameters

saged($i); // alias for sage();die;

sage(1); // shortcut for dumping trace
Function Shorthand
sage s Dump (same as \Sage::dump())
saged sd Dump & die
ssage ss Simple dump
ssaged ssd Simple dump & die
sagetrace s(1) Debug backtrace (same as \Sage::trace())

Simple dump:

simple mode example

Debug backtrace:

Trace view

Guarantees ✅

  1. Sage just works and it displays ALL available information (or in cases when something is truncated - that is clear too).

  2. Each release is vigorously tested. Or - use the bleeding edge dev-main version at your own risk.

  3. Semver versioning ensures there's no compatibility breaks if you use it in your production (eg. reporting).

  4. Sage has gotten lots of love and improvements in the last >10 years. It is used by a lot of real people in a lot of real-world scenarios, it is battle tested and has a lot of advanced features no other tool has.

More cool stuff

Sage displays the passed variable name and supports prefixes to the dump function call. Use it for some common on-the-fly adjustments to the dump output.

~ss($var); // outputs plain text
$output = @ss($var); // returns output instead of displaying it
! sage($var); // ignores depth limit for large objects
+ sage($var); // auto-expands the view
print sd($var); // saves output into "sage.html" in the current directory
print ! sd($var); // saves output into "sage.html" while also ignoring the output depth limit!

Sage tokenizes & introspects the calling code to get all this information. All that can be done with prefixes can also be achieved with standard, verbose syntax:

// is equivalent to:

See Advanced section below if you want more tips & tricks.

Verbose versions

If you want to use Sage as part of permanent code (e.g. part of a test helper/logger/exception reporter etc), you can use the verbose way to invoke Sage:

// instead of sage()
Sage::dump('this looks way less hacky (yeah right:)');

// equivalent to sage(1);

// a real-life test helper:
class TestHelper{
  public function getVarDump(mixed $providedContext): string
      if (! $providedContext) {
          return '';
      $state = Sage::saveState();
      Sage::$aliases[]         = __CLASS__ . '::' . __FUNCTION__;
      Sage::$returnOutput      = true;
      Sage::$displayCalledFrom = false;
      $debugOutput             = Sage::dump($providedContext);
      Sage::saveState($state); // now reset settings to presumed defaults
      return PHP_EOL . $debugOutput;


The main goal of Sage is to be zero-setup. There are also several customization options for advanced uses.

Where to store the configuration?

  1. Add this entry to the autoload.files configuration in composer.json:
"autoload": {
    "files": [
        "config/sage.php" /* <--------------- create this file with your settings! */
}, ...
  1. Put settings inside of php.ini:
; change sage theme:
sage.theme = solarized-dark
; always display all dump levels, almost always crashes the browser:
sage.maxLevels = 0
; set your IDE links
sage.editor = vscode
; disable Sage unless explicitly enabled
sage.enabled = 0 
  1. Include the desired settings in your bootstrap process anywhere™.
require 'sage.phar';
Sage::$theme = Sage::THEME_LIGHT;

All available options

Sage::$theme = Sage::THEME_ORIGINAL;

Currently available themes are:


Sage::$editor = ini_get('xdebug.file_link_format');

Make visible source file paths clickable to open your editor. Available options are:

'phpstorm-remote' - default (requires IDE Remote Control plugin), 'sublime', 'textmate', 'emacs', 'macvim', 'phpstorm', 'idea', 'vscode', 'vscode-insiders', 'vscode-remote', 'vscode-insiders-remote', 'vscodium', 'atom', 'nova', 'netbeans', 'xdebug'

Or pass a custom string where %file should be replaced with full file path, %line with line number to create a custom link. Set to null to disable linking.

Sage::$displayCalledFrom = true;

Whether to display where Sage was called from

Sage::$maxLevels = 7;

Max array/object levels to go deep, set to zero/false to disable

Sage::$expandedByDefault = false;

Draw rich output already expanded without having to click

Sage::$cliDetection = true; 

Enable detection when running in command line and adjust output format accordingly.

Sage::$cliColors = true;

In addition to above setting, enable detection when Sage is run in UNIX command line. Attempts to add coloring, but if opened as plain text, the color information is visible as gibberish.

Sage::$charEncodings =  [ 'UTF-8', 'Windows-1252', 'euc-jp' ]

Possible alternative char encodings in order of probability.

Sage::$returnOutput = false;

Sage returns output instead of printing it.


Add new custom Sage wrapper names. Optional, but needed for backtraces, variable name detection and modifiers to work properly. Accepts array or comma separated string. Use notation Class::method for methods.

🧙 Advanced Tips & Tricks

this section is under construction :)

// we already saw:
sage($GLOBALS, $_SERVER); 
// you can also go shorter for the same result:
// or you can go the verbose way, it's all equivalent:
Sage::dump($GLOBALS, $_SERVER); 

// ss() will display a more basic, javascript-free display (but with colors)
// to recap: s() or sage() - dumps. Add "d" to die afterwards: sd(), saged()
// preppend "s" to simplify output: ss(), ssage().
// works in combination, too: ssd() and ssagedd() will dump in "simple mode" and die!

// prepending a tilde will make the output *even more basic* (rich->basic and basic->plain text)
~d($GLOBALS, $_SERVER); // more on modifiers below

// show a trace
s(1); // shorthand works too!
s(2); // trace - but just the paths 
Sage::dump( debug_backtrace() ); // you can even pass a custom result from debug_trace and it will be recognized

// dump and die debugging
sd($GLOBALS, $_SERVER); // dd() might be taken by your framework
saged($GLOBALS, $_SERVER); // so this is an equivalent alternative
ssd($GLOBALS, $_SERVER); // available for plain display too!

// this will disable Sage completely
sd('Get off my lawn!'); // no effect
  • Sage supports keyboard shortcuts! Just press d when viewing output and the rest is self-explanatory, try it out! (p.s. vim-style hjkl works as well);

  • Call Sage::enabled(Sage::MODE_PLAIN); to switch to a simpler, js-free output.

  • Call Sage::enabled(Sage::MODE_TEXT_ONLY); for pure-plain text output which you can save or pass around by first setting Sage::$returnOutput = true;

  • Sage can provide a plain-text version of its output and does so automatically when invoked via PHP running in command line mode.

  • Double clicking the [+] sign in the output will expand/collapse ALL nodes; triple clicking a big block of text will select it all.

  • Clicking the tiny arrow on the right of the output will open it in a separate window where you can keep it for comparison.

  • Sage supports themes:

    For customization instructions read the section below.

  • If a variable is an object, its classname can be clicked to open the class in your IDE.

  • There are several real-time prefix modifiers you can use (combinations possible):

    Prefix Example
    print Puts output into current DIR as sage.html print sage()
    ! Dump ignoring depth limits for large objects ! sage()
    ~ Simplifies sage output (rich->html->plain) ~ sage()
    - Clean up any output before dumping - sage()
    + Expand all nodes (in rich view) + sage()
    @ Return output instead of displaying it @ sage()
  • Sage also includes a naïve profiler you may find handy. It's for determining relatively which code blocks take longer than others:

Sage::dump( microtime() ); // just pass microtime() - also works if you pass NOTHING: s();
sleep( 1 );
Sage::dump( microtime(), 'after sleep(1)' );
sleep( 2 );
sd( microtime(), 'final call, after sleep(2)' );


💬 How is it different or better than symfony/var-dumper?

  • Visible Variable name
  • Keyboard shortcuts. Type d and the rest is just self-explanatory (use arrows, space, tab, enter, you'll get it!).
  • Debug backtraces with full insight of arguments, callee objects and more.
  • Custom display for a lot of recognized types: custom types
  • Has text-only, plain and rich views, has several visual themes - created by a professional designer.
  • A huge number of usability enhancements - like the (clickable) call trace in the footer of each output.
  • Supports convenience modifiers, for example @sage($var); will return instead of outputting, -sage($var); will ob_clean all output to be the only thing on page (see advanced section above for more).
  • Compatibility! Fully works on PHP 5.1 - 8.1+!
  • Code is way less complex - to read and contribute to.
  • Sage came first - developed since pre-2012. It inspired the now ubiquitous dd shorthand, pioneered a lot of the concepts in the tool niche.

💬 What are the other dumpers out there

💬 Why does Sage look so much like Kint? A.K.A. Why does this repo have so few stars?

Because it is Kint, and I am its author, however the project was forcibly taken over by a malicious contributor!

Instead of fighting windmills I chose to fork and rename the last good version and continue under a new name!

You can use Sage as a drop-in replacement for Kint. Simple.

💬 How is var_dump - style debugging still relevant when we have Xdebug?

  1. In practice, Xdebug is quite often very difficult and time-consuming to install and configure.
  2. There's many use-cases where dump&die is just faster to bring up.
  3. There is no way you can visualise a timeline of changed data with XDebug. For example, all values dumped from within a loop.
  4. And there's more subtle use-cases, eg. if you stepped over something there's no way to go back, but with var-dumping the values are still there...

I use xdebug almost daily, by the way. Side by side with Sage.


🎲 Prerequisites

  • Install Docker Compose.
  • If you're on Windows 10+ you need to use WSL2:
    1. Setup: wsl --install
    2. Set Ubuntu as your default wsl shell: wsl --set-version Ubuntu 2.
    3. All commands listed below must be run from inside wsl shell: wsl

Do your changes but before committing run

 docker compose run php composer build
 # OR (see Makefile):
 make build

To compile resources and build the phar file.


Rokas Šleinius (Raveren)



Licensed under the MIT License

Hope you'll love using Sage as much as I love creating it!