Simple PHP version management
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phpenv - PHP multi-version installation and management for humans.

Key features:

  • Based on the totally awesome rbenv and ruby-build, the way you like it
  • Build php directly from the git repository source, saves you bandwidth
  • Build multiple versions of the same release, exactly what you need
  • Easily customizable configuration options, gives you freedom
  • Restart a failed installation from anywhere, saves you time
  • Include custom build extensions both static and shared, gives you options
  • Includes Apache apxs support and switching versions, as you wish
  • Installs pear and pyrus for each installation (where supportod), as you prefer
  • Developed by humans for humans, just like you

My name is phpenv. I was designed for humans, to help simplify the management of multiple PHP custom build installations.

I was originally inspired by the outstanding work of both the projects which you already know and love with a whole bunch of PHP scentric additions to help you build your first release, simplify managing and working with diffirent releases and keep you building new release after new release like there's nothing to it.

You are a PHP developer, like we are, and you not only have to have the latest and freshest interpreter to spin your scripts but you also care to see what how they get treated when submitted to older inturpretations. Ever wondered why you can't run a CI on your own development machine? Well you just founh the answer doing when taken for a ride building PHP on their dev machines. Easily customize your configuration options and even build pecl extensions into PHP or manually afterwards. Configure and install custom builds of the same PHP release version directly from the PHP source code repository kept in your local .phpenv folder.

How It Works

phpenv operates on the per-user directory ~/.phpenv. Version names in phpenv correspond to subdirectories of ~/.phpenv/versions. For example, you might have ~/.phpenv/versions/5.3.8 and ~/.phpenv/versions/5.4.0.

Each version is a working tree with its own binaries, like ~/.phpenv/versions/5.4.0/bin/php and ~/.phpenv/versions/5.3.8/bin/pyrus. phpenv makes shim binaries for every such binary across all installed versions of PHP.

These shims are simple wrapper scripts that live in ~/.phpenv/shims and detect which PHP version you want to use. They insert the directory for the selected version at the beginning of your $PATH and then execute the corresponding binary.

Because of the simplicity of the shim approach, all you need to use phpenv is ~/.phpenv/shims in your $PATH which will do the version switching automagically.


Basic GitHub Checkout

This will get you going with the latest version of phpenv and make it easy to fork and contribute any changes back upstream.

  1. Check out phpenv into ~/.phpenv.

     $ cd
     $ git clone git:// .phpenv
  2. Add ~/.phpenv/bin to your $PATH for access to the phpenv command-line utility.

     $ echo 'export PATH="$HOME/.phpenv/bin:$PATH"' >> ~/.bash_profile
  3. Add phpenv init to your shell to enable shims and autocompletion.

     $ echo 'eval "$(phpenv init -)"' >> ~/.bash_profile
  4. Restart your shell so the path changes take effect. You can now begin using phpenv.

     $ exec $SHELL
  5. Rebuild the shim binaries. You should do this any time you install a new PHP binary.

     $ phpenv rehash


If you've installed phpenv using the instructions above, you can upgrade your installation at any time using git.

To upgrade to the latest development version of phpenv, use git pull:

$ cd ~/.phpenv
$ git pull

Apache Setup

phpenv support dynamic switching for Apache apxs libraries and install will build and install a shared library for Apache under the versions libexec folder.

By calling phpenv global to show or change the global PHP version a link is created under ~/.phpenv/lib/ for the appropriate release build. This link can be used for Apache's LoadModule php5_module directive and requires Apache to restart when changed.

Neckbeard Configuration

Skip this section unless you must know what every line in your shell profile is doing.

phpenv init is the only command that crosses the line of loading extra commands into your shell. Here's what phpenv init actually does:

  1. Sets up your shims path. This is the only requirement for phpenv to function properly. You could also do this by hand by prepending ~/.phpenv/shims to your $PATH.

  2. Installs autocompletion. This is entirely optional but pretty useful. Sourcing ~/.phpenv/completions/phpenv.bash will set that up. There is also a ~/.phpenv/completions/phpenv.zsh for Zsh users.

  3. Rehashes shims. From time to time you'll need to rebuild your shim files. Doing this on init makes sure everything is up to date. You can always run phpenv rehash manually.

  4. Installs the sh dispatcher. This bit is also optional, but allows phpenv and plugins to change variables in your current shell, making commands like phpenv shell possible. The sh dispatcher doesn't do anything crazy like override cd or hack your shell prompt, but if for some reason you need phpenv to be a real script rather than a shell function, you can safely skip it.

Run phpenv init - for yourself to see exactly what happens under the hood.


Like git, the phpenv command delegates to subcommands based on its first argument. The most common subcommands are:

phpenv install

It is advisable to install the ccache caching preprocessor which will greatly reduce the time taken to rebuild failed installations.

The phpenv installation script was originally based on the php-build installation script written by Christoph Hochstrasser (CHH) but has (almost entirely) been rewritten with humans in mind. Some of the differences to the original includes:

  • use of the php-src repo to compile your individual PHP installs as opposed to downloading a tarball from
  • reads configuration options from source files located in .phpenv/etc
  • allows you to do multiple builds per release
  • includes building custom extensions located in the ".phpenv/php-ext` folder, as per the configuration source files, both static or shared.
  • allows you to continue a failed installation from anywhere
  • and more...

You can list the available PHP releases by running:

$ phpenv install --releases

To build one of the listed releases run:

$ phpenv install php-5.3.20

This command will checkout a branch to build in and install that release to its own subdirectory in ~/.phpenv/versions/

The installation script gets its configuration options from source files in the .phpenv/etc folder and also includes instructions to build extensions or sets appropriate environment variables where required. These configuration options are usually specific to your development environment but several defaults for Darwin and dependencies installed with homebrew have been included for your convenience.

The configuration files are using the following naming convention:

<php major release><-optional specific build>.<platform>.source

If no qualifying specific build was found we fall back to the default major release version (without specific build).

To install multiple builds of the same release simply add a unique name for your additional builds after the release identifier.

$phpenv install php-5.3.20 debug

Will use the configuration options source file located at .phpenv/etc/php-5.3.20-debug.Darwin.source if installing on a Mac OS X environment and installs the version to .phpenv/versions/5.3.20-debug.

The build is kept in tact at location phpenv/php-src to simplify fault finding and allowing you to continue the installation process in the event of a failed build.

To continue from a previous step in the installation process use the --continue option.

$phpenv install php-5.3.20 -c 4

To start from the configuring stage of the installation process and rerun ./configure using the updated information from your configuration options source file.

When restarting an installation from scratch it may be useful to clean previously build and generated files, use

$phpenv install --clean

When installing a different release version it may be useful to do a deep clean and purge all previously build and generated files including those from custom extension located at .php-env/php-ext and purge the ccache (if used), use

$phpenv install --deep-clean

Running phpenv install with no arguments will output its usage, for detailed help documentation, use

$phpenv install --help

phpenv global

Sets the global version of PHP to be used in all shells by writing the version name to the ~/.phpenv/version file. This version can be overridden by a per-project .phpenv-version file, or by setting the PHPENV_VERSION environment variable.

$ phpenv global 5.4.0

The special version name system tells phpenv to use the system PHP (detected by searching your $PATH).

When run without a version number, phpenv global reports the currently configured global version.

phpenv local

Sets a local per-project PHP version by writing the version name to a .phpenv-version file in the current directory. This version overrides the global, and can be overridden itself by setting the PHPENV_VERSION environment variable or with the phpenv shell command.

$ phpenv local 5.3.8

When run without a version number, phpenv local reports the currently configured local version. You can also unset the local version:

$ phpenv local --unset

phpenv shell

Sets a shell-specific PHP version by setting the PHPENV_VERSION environment variable in your shell. This version overrides both project-specific versions and the global version.

$ phpenv shell 5.3.9

When run without a version number, phpenv shell reports the current value of PHPENV_VERSION. You can also unset the shell version:

$ phpenv shell --unset

Note that you'll need phpenv's shell integration enabled (step 3 of the installation instructions) in order to use this command. If you prefer not to use shell integration, you may simply set the PHPENV_VERSION variable yourself:

$ export PHPENV_VERSION=5.3.13

phpenv versions

Lists all PHP versions known to phpenv, and shows an asterisk next to the currently active version.

$ phpenv versions
* 5.4.0 (set by /YOUR-USERNAME/.phpenv/global)

phpenv version

Displays the currently active PHP version, along with information on how it was set.

$ phpenv version
5.4.0 (set by /YOUR-USERNAME/.phpenv/version)

phpenv rehash

Installs shims for all PHP binaries known to phpenv (i.e., ~/.phpenv/versions/*/bin/*). Run this command after you install a new version of PHP.

$ phpenv rehash

phpenv which

Displays the full path to the binary that phpenv will execute when you run the given command.

$ phpenv which pyrus


The phpenv source code is hosted on GitHub. It's clean, modular, and easy to understand (thanks to the rbenv project), even if you're not a shell hacker.

This project is basically a clone (Read: "search and replace") of the rbenv project. It's in need of love and support. If you're interested in improving it please feel free to fork, submit pull requests and file bugs on the issue tracker.


(The MIT license)

Copyright (c) 2012 Dominic Giglio

Permission is hereby granted, free of charge, to any person obtaining a copy of this software and associated documentation files (the "Software"), to deal in the Software without restriction, including without limitation the rights to use, copy, modify, merge, publish, distribute, sublicense, and/or sell copies of the Software, and to permit persons to whom the Software is furnished to do so, subject to the following conditions:

The above copyright notice and this permission notice shall be included in all copies or substantial portions of the Software.