Validation

Validation

Validation is a very common task in web applications. Data entered in forms needs to be validated. Data also needs to be validated before it is written into a database or passed to a web service.

Symfony ships with a Validator component that makes this task easy and transparent. This component is based on the JSR303 Bean Validation specification.

The Basics of Validation

The best way to understand validation is to see it in action. To start, suppose you've created a plain-old-PHP object that you need to use somewhere in your application:

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// src/AppBundle/Entity/Author.php
namespace AppBundle\Entity;

class Author
{
    public $name;
}

So far, this is just an ordinary class that serves some purpose inside your application. The goal of validation is to tell you if the data of an object is valid. For this to work, you'll configure a list of rules (called constraints) that the object must follow in order to be valid. These rules can be specified via a number of different formats (YAML, XML, annotations, or PHP).

For example, to guarantee that the $name property is not empty, add the following:

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    // src/AppBundle/Entity/Author.php
    
    // ...
    use Symfony\Component\Validator\Constraints as Assert;
    
    class Author
    {
        /**
         * @Assert\NotBlank()
         */
        public $name;
    }
    
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    # src/AppBundle/Resources/config/validation.yml
    AppBundle\Entity\Author:
        properties:
            name:
                - NotBlank: ~
    
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    <!-- src/AppBundle/Resources/config/validation.xml -->
    <?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" ?>
    <constraint-mapping xmlns="http://symfony.com/schema/dic/constraint-mapping"
        xmlns:xsi="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema-instance"
        xsi:schemaLocation="http://symfony.com/schema/dic/constraint-mapping http://symfony.com/schema/dic/constraint-mapping/constraint-mapping-1.0.xsd">
    
        <class name="AppBundle\Entity\Author">
            <property name="name">
                <constraint name="NotBlank" />
            </property>
        </class>
    </constraint-mapping>
    
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    // src/AppBundle/Entity/Author.php
    
    // ...
    use Symfony\Component\Validator\Mapping\ClassMetadata;
    use Symfony\Component\Validator\Constraints\NotBlank;
    
    class Author
    {
        public $name;
    
        public static function loadValidatorMetadata(ClassMetadata $metadata)
        {
            $metadata->addPropertyConstraint('name', new NotBlank());
        }
    }
    

Tip

Protected and private properties can also be validated, as well as "getter" methods (see Constraint Targets).

Using the validator Service

Next, to actually validate an Author object, use the validate() method on the validator service (class Validator). The job of the validator is easy: to read the constraints (i.e. rules) of a class and verify if the data on the object satisfies those constraints. If validation fails, a non-empty list of errors (class ConstraintViolationList) is returned. Take this simple example from inside a controller:

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// ...
use Symfony\Component\HttpFoundation\Response;
use AppBundle\Entity\Author;

// ...
public function authorAction()
{
    $author = new Author();

    // ... do something to the $author object

    $validator = $this->get('validator');
    $errors = $validator->validate($author);

    if (count($errors) > 0) {
        /*
         * Uses a __toString method on the $errors variable which is a
         * ConstraintViolationList object. This gives us a nice string
         * for debugging.
         */
        $errorsString = (string) $errors;

        return new Response($errorsString);
    }

    return new Response('The author is valid! Yes!');
}

If the $name property is empty, you will see the following error message:

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AppBundle\Author.name:
    This value should not be blank

If you insert a value into the name property, the happy success message will appear.

Tip

Most of the time, you won't interact directly with the validator service or need to worry about printing out the errors. Most of the time, you'll use validation indirectly when handling submitted form data. For more information, see the Form Validation.

You could also pass the collection of errors into a template:

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if (count($errors) > 0) {
    return $this->render('author/validation.html.twig', array(
        'errors' => $errors,
    ));
}

Inside the template, you can output the list of errors exactly as needed:

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    {# app/Resources/views/author/validation.html.twig #}
    <h3>The author has the following errors</h3>
    <ul>
    {% for error in errors %}
        <li>{{ error.message }}</li>
    {% endfor %}
    </ul>
    
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    <!-- app/Resources/views/author/validation.html.php -->
    <h3>The author has the following errors</h3>
    <ul>
    <?php foreach ($errors as $error): ?>
        <li><?php echo $error->getMessage() ?></li>
    <?php endforeach ?>
    </ul>
    

Note

Each validation error (called a "constraint violation"), is represented by a ConstraintViolation object.

Configuration

The Symfony validator is enabled by default, but you must explicitly enable annotations if you're using the annotation method to specify your constraints:

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    # app/config/config.yml
    framework:
        validation: { enable_annotations: true }
    
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    <!-- app/config/config.xml -->
    <?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" ?>
    <container xmlns="http://symfony.com/schema/dic/services"
        xmlns:xsi="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema-instance"
        xmlns:framework="http://symfony.com/schema/dic/symfony"
        xsi:schemaLocation="http://symfony.com/schema/dic/services http://symfony.com/schema/dic/services/services-1.0.xsd
            http://symfony.com/schema/dic/symfony http://symfony.com/schema/dic/symfony/symfony-1.0.xsd">
    
        <framework:config>
            <framework:validation enable-annotations="true" />
        </framework:config>
    </container>
    
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    // app/config/config.php
    $container->loadFromExtension('framework', array(
        'validation' => array(
            'enable_annotations' => true,
        ),
    ));
    

Constraints

The validator is designed to validate objects against constraints (i.e. rules). In order to validate an object, simply map one or more constraints to its class and then pass it to the validator service.

Behind the scenes, a constraint is simply a PHP object that makes an assertive statement. In real life, a constraint could be: 'The cake must not be burned'. In Symfony, constraints are similar: they are assertions that a condition is true. Given a value, a constraint will tell you if that value adheres to the rules of the constraint.

Supported Constraints

Symfony packages many of the most commonly-needed constraints:

Basic Constraints

These are the basic constraints: use them to assert very basic things about the value of properties or the return value of methods on your object.

String Constraints

Number Constraints

Date Constraints

File Constraints

Financial and other Number Constraints

Other Constraints

You can also create your own custom constraints. This topic is covered in the How to Create a custom Validation Constraint article.

Constraint Configuration

Some constraints, like NotBlank, are simple whereas others, like the Choice constraint, have several configuration options available. Suppose that the Author class has another property called gender that can be set to either "male", "female" or "other":

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    // src/AppBundle/Entity/Author.php
    
    // ...
    use Symfony\Component\Validator\Constraints as Assert;
    
    class Author
    {
        /**
         * @Assert\Choice(
         *     choices = { "male", "female", "other" },
         *     message = "Choose a valid gender."
         * )
         */
        public $gender;
    
        // ...
    }
    
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    # src/AppBundle/Resources/config/validation.yml
    AppBundle\Entity\Author:
        properties:
            gender:
                - Choice: { choices: [male, female, other], message: Choose a valid gender. }
            # ...
    
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    <!-- src/AppBundle/Resources/config/validation.xml -->
    <?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" ?>
    <constraint-mapping xmlns="http://symfony.com/schema/dic/constraint-mapping"
        xmlns:xsi="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema-instance"
        xsi:schemaLocation="http://symfony.com/schema/dic/constraint-mapping http://symfony.com/schema/dic/constraint-mapping/constraint-mapping-1.0.xsd">
    
        <class name="AppBundle\Entity\Author">
            <property name="gender">
                <constraint name="Choice">
                    <option name="choices">
                        <value>male</value>
                        <value>female</value>
                        <value>other</value>
                    </option>
                    <option name="message">Choose a valid gender.</option>
                </constraint>
            </property>
    
            <!-- ... -->
        </class>
    </constraint-mapping>
    
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    // src/AppBundle/Entity/Author.php
    
    // ...
    use Symfony\Component\Validator\Mapping\ClassMetadata;
    use Symfony\Component\Validator\Constraints as Assert;
    
    class Author
    {
        public $gender;
    
        // ...
    
        public static function loadValidatorMetadata(ClassMetadata $metadata)
        {
            // ...
    
            $metadata->addPropertyConstraint('gender', new Assert\Choice(array(
                'choices' => array('male', 'female', 'other'),
                'message' => 'Choose a valid gender.',
            )));
        }
    }
    

The options of a constraint can always be passed in as an array. Some constraints, however, also allow you to pass the value of one, "default", option in place of the array. In the case of the Choice constraint, the choices options can be specified in this way.

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    // src/AppBundle/Entity/Author.php
    
    // ...
    use Symfony\Component\Validator\Constraints as Assert;
    
    class Author
    {
        /**
         * @Assert\Choice({"male", "female", "other"})
         */
        protected $gender;
    
        // ...
    }
    
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    # src/AppBundle/Resources/config/validation.yml
    AppBundle\Entity\Author:
        properties:
            gender:
                - Choice: [male, female, other]
            # ...
    
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    <!-- src/AppBundle/Resources/config/validation.xml -->
    <?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" ?>
    <constraint-mapping xmlns="http://symfony.com/schema/dic/constraint-mapping"
        xmlns:xsi="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema-instance"
        xsi:schemaLocation="http://symfony.com/schema/dic/constraint-mapping http://symfony.com/schema/dic/constraint-mapping/constraint-mapping-1.0.xsd">
    
        <class name="AppBundle\Entity\Author">
            <property name="gender">
                <constraint name="Choice">
                    <value>male</value>
                    <value>female</value>
                    <value>other</value>
                </constraint>
            </property>
    
            <!-- ... -->
        </class>
    </constraint-mapping>
    
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    // src/AppBundle/Entity/Author.php
    
    // ...
    use Symfony\Component\Validator\Mapping\ClassMetadata;
    use Symfony\Component\Validator\Constraints as Assert;
    
    class Author
    {
        protected $gender;
    
        public static function loadValidatorMetadata(ClassMetadata $metadata)
        {
            // ...
    
            $metadata->addPropertyConstraint(
                'gender',
                new Assert\Choice(array('male', 'female', 'other'))
            );
        }
    }
    

This is purely meant to make the configuration of the most common option of a constraint shorter and quicker.

If you're ever unsure of how to specify an option, either check the API documentation for the constraint or play it safe by always passing in an array of options (the first method shown above).

Constraint Targets

Constraints can be applied to a class property (e.g. name), a public getter method (e.g. getFullName()) or an entire class. Property constraints are the most common and easy to use. Getter constraints allow you to specify more complex validation rules. Finally, class constraints are intended for scenarios where you want to validate a class as a whole.

Properties

Validating class properties is the most basic validation technique. Symfony allows you to validate private, protected or public properties. The next listing shows you how to configure the $firstName property of an Author class to have at least 3 characters.

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    // src/AppBundle/Entity/Author.php
    
    // ...
    use Symfony\Component\Validator\Constraints as Assert;
    
    class Author
    {
        /**
         * @Assert\NotBlank()
         * @Assert\Length(min=3)
         */
        private $firstName;
    }
    
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    # src/AppBundle/Resources/config/validation.yml
    AppBundle\Entity\Author:
        properties:
            firstName:
                - NotBlank: ~
                - Length:
                    min: 3
    
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    <!-- src/AppBundle/Resources/config/validation.xml -->
    <?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" ?>
    <constraint-mapping xmlns="http://symfony.com/schema/dic/constraint-mapping"
        xmlns:xsi="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema-instance"
        xsi:schemaLocation="http://symfony.com/schema/dic/constraint-mapping http://symfony.com/schema/dic/constraint-mapping/constraint-mapping-1.0.xsd">
    
        <class name="AppBundle\Entity\Author">
            <property name="firstName">
                <constraint name="NotBlank" />
                <constraint name="Length">
                    <option name="min">3</option>
                </constraint>
            </property>
        </class>
    </constraint-mapping>
    
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    // src/AppBundle/Entity/Author.php
    
    // ...
    use Symfony\Component\Validator\Mapping\ClassMetadata;
    use Symfony\Component\Validator\Constraints as Assert;
    
    class Author
    {
        private $firstName;
    
        public static function loadValidatorMetadata(ClassMetadata $metadata)
        {
            $metadata->addPropertyConstraint('firstName', new Assert\NotBlank());
            $metadata->addPropertyConstraint(
                'firstName',
                new Assert\Length(array("min" => 3))
            );
        }
    }
    

Getters

Constraints can also be applied to the return value of a method. Symfony allows you to add a constraint to any public method whose name starts with "get", "is" or "has". In this guide, these types of methods are referred to as "getters".

The benefit of this technique is that it allows you to validate your object dynamically. For example, suppose you want to make sure that a password field doesn't match the first name of the user (for security reasons). You can do this by creating an isPasswordLegal() method, and then asserting that this method must return true:

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    // src/AppBundle/Entity/Author.php
    
    // ...
    use Symfony\Component\Validator\Constraints as Assert;
    
    class Author
    {
        /**
         * @Assert\IsTrue(message = "The password cannot match your first name")
         */
        public function isPasswordLegal()
        {
            // ... return true or false
        }
    }
    
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    # src/AppBundle/Resources/config/validation.yml
    AppBundle\Entity\Author:
        getters:
            passwordLegal:
                - 'IsTrue': { message: 'The password cannot match your first name' }
    
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    <!-- src/AppBundle/Resources/config/validation.xml -->
    <?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" ?>
    <constraint-mapping xmlns="http://symfony.com/schema/dic/constraint-mapping"
        xmlns:xsi="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema-instance"
        xsi:schemaLocation="http://symfony.com/schema/dic/constraint-mapping http://symfony.com/schema/dic/constraint-mapping/constraint-mapping-1.0.xsd">
    
        <class name="AppBundle\Entity\Author">
            <getter property="passwordLegal">
                <constraint name="IsTrue">
                    <option name="message">The password cannot match your first name</option>
                </constraint>
            </getter>
        </class>
    </constraint-mapping>
    
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    // src/AppBundle/Entity/Author.php
    
    // ...
    use Symfony\Component\Validator\Mapping\ClassMetadata;
    use Symfony\Component\Validator\Constraints as Assert;
    
    class Author
    {
        public static function loadValidatorMetadata(ClassMetadata $metadata)
        {
            $metadata->addGetterConstraint('passwordLegal', new Assert\IsTrue(array(
                'message' => 'The password cannot match your first name',
            )));
        }
    }
    

Now, create the isPasswordLegal() method and include the logic you need:

public function isPasswordLegal()
{
    return $this->firstName !== $this->password;
}

Note

The keen-eyed among you will have noticed that the prefix of the getter ("get", "is" or "has") is omitted in the mappings for the YAML, XML and PHP formats. This allows you to move the constraint to a property with the same name later (or vice versa) without changing your validation logic.

Classes

Some constraints apply to the entire class being validated. For example, the Callback constraint is a generic constraint that's applied to the class itself. When that class is validated, methods specified by that constraint are simply executed so that each can provide more custom validation.

Final Thoughts

The Symfony validator is a powerful tool that can be leveraged to guarantee that the data of any object is "valid". The power behind validation lies in "constraints", which are rules that you can apply to properties or getter methods of your object. And while you'll most commonly use the validation framework indirectly when using forms, remember that it can be used anywhere to validate any object.

This work, including the code samples, is licensed under a Creative Commons BY-SA 3.0 license.