Understanding how the Front Controller, Kernel and Environments Work together
Understanding how the Front Controller, Kernel and Environments Work together¶
The configuration environments section explained the basics on how Symfony uses environments to run your application with different configuration settings. This section will explain a bit more in-depth what happens when your application is bootstrapped. To hook into this process, you need to understand three parts that work together:
Usually, you will not need to define your own front controller or
Kernel class as Symfony provides sensible default implementations.
This article is provided to explain what is going on behind the scenes.
The Front Controller¶
The front controller is a design pattern; it is a section of code that all requests served by an application run through.
In the Symfony Skeleton, this role is taken by the
index.php file in the
public/ directory. This is the very first PHP script executed when a
request is processed.
The main purpose of the front controller is to create an instance of the
Kernel (more on that in a second), make it handle the request and return
the resulting response to the browser.
Because every request is routed through it, the front controller can be used to perform global initialization prior to setting up the kernel or to decorate the kernel with additional features. Examples include:
- Configuring the autoloader or adding additional autoloading mechanisms;
- Adding HTTP level caching by wrapping the kernel with an instance of HttpCache;
- Enabling the Debug component.
You can choose the front controller that’s used by adding it in the URL, like:
As you can see, this URL contains the PHP script to be used as the front
controller. You can use that to switch to a custom made front controller
that is located in the
You almost never want to show the front controller in the URL. This is achieved by configuring the web server, as shown in Configuring a Web Server.
bin/console script used when running Symfony on the command
line is also a front controller, only that is not used for web, but for command
The Kernel Class¶
Kernel is the core of
Symfony. It is responsible for setting up all the bundles used by
your application and providing them with the application’s configuration.
It then creates the service container before serving requests in its
The kernel used in Symfony applications extends from
and uses the
Kernel class leaves some methods from
unimplemented and the
MicroKernelTrait defines several abstract methods, so
you must implement them all:
- It must return an array of all bundles needed to run the application.
- It adds individual routes or collections of routes to the application (for example loading the routes defined in some config file).
- It loads the application configuration from config files or using the
loadFromExtension()method and can also register new container parameters and services.
To fill these (small) blanks, your application needs to extend the Kernel class
and use the MicroKernelTrait to implement these methods. Symfony provides by
default that kernel in the
This class uses the name of the environment - which is passed to the Kernel’s
method and is available via
to decide which bundles to enable. The logic for that is in
You are free to create your own, alternative or additional
All you need is to adapt your (or add a new) front controller to make use of the
The name and location of the
Kernel is not fixed. When putting
multiple kernels into a single application,
it might therefore make sense to add additional sub-directories, for example
src/api/ApiKernel.php. All that matters
is that your front controller is able to create an instance of the appropriate kernel.
There’s a lot more the
Kernel can be used for, for example
overriding the default directory structure.
But odds are high that you don’t need to change things like this on the
fly by having several
The second argument to the
Kernel constructor specifies if the application
should run in “debug mode”. Regardless of the
configuration environment, a Symfony
application can be run with debug mode set to
This affects many things in the application, such as displaying stacktraces on
error pages or if cache files are dynamically rebuilt on each request. Though
not a requirement, debug mode is generally set to
true for the
test environments and
false for the
1 2 3
# .env # set it to 1 to enable the debug mode APP_DEBUG=0
This value can be overridden for commands by passing the
before running them:
1 2 3 4 5
# Use the debug mode defined in the .env file $ php bin/console command_name # Ignore the .env file and enable the debug mode for this command $ APP_DEBUG=1 php bin/console command_name
Internally, the value of the debug mode becomes the
parameter used inside the service container.
If you look inside the application configuration file, you’ll see the
parameter used, for example, to turn Twig’s debug mode on:
1 2 3
# config/packages/twig.yaml twig: debug: '%kernel.debug%'
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
<?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:twig="http://symfony.com/schema/dic/twig" xsi:schemaLocation="http://symfony.com/schema/dic/services https://symfony.com/schema/dic/services/services-1.0.xsd http://symfony.com/schema/dic/twig https://symfony.com/schema/dic/twig/twig-1.0.xsd"> <twig:config debug="%kernel.debug%"/> </container>
1 2 3 4
$container->loadFromExtension('twig', [ 'debug' => '%kernel.debug%', // ... ]);
As mentioned above, the
Kernel has to implement another method -
This method is responsible for loading the application’s configuration from the
Configuration environments allow to execute
the same code using different configuration. Symfony provides three environments
by default called
More technically, these names are nothing more than strings passed from the
front controller to the
Kernel’s constructor. This name can then be used in
configureContainer() method to decide which configuration files to load.
Kernel class implements this method by loading first the
config files found on
config/packages/* and then, the files found on
config/packages/ENVIRONMENT_NAME/. You are free to implement this method
differently if you need a more sophisticated way of loading your configuration.
Environments and the Cache Directory¶
Symfony takes advantage of caching in many ways: the application configuration, routing configuration, Twig templates and more are cached to PHP objects stored in files on the filesystem.
By default, these cached files are largely stored in the
However, each environment caches its own set of files:
1 2 3 4 5 6
your-project/ ├─ var/ │ ├─ cache/ │ │ ├─ dev/ # cache directory for the *dev* environment │ │ └─ prod/ # cache directory for the *prod* environment │ ├─ ...
Sometimes, when debugging, it may be helpful to inspect a cached file to
understand how something is working. When doing so, remember to look in
the directory of the environment you’re using (most commonly
developing and debugging). While it can vary, the
includes the following:
- The cached “service container” that represents the cached application configuration.
- The PHP class generated from the routing configuration and used when generating URLs.
- The PHP class used for route matching - look here to see the compiled regular expression logic used to match incoming URLs to different routes.
- This directory contains all the cached Twig templates.
You can change the cache directory location and name. For more information read the article How to Override Symfony’s default Directory Structure.
This work, including the code samples, is licensed under a Creative Commons BY-SA 3.0 license.