Installing and configuring Symfony2

Symfony2 is a fantastic framework for developing your web applications and services and installing and configuring Symfony2 is extremely easy.  With the use of composer and the Symfony installer you can get started in just a couple of minutes and with only a few simple commands.

Installing Composer

Symfony2 uses composer as the package manager for managing all of the dependencies within your applications and is a prerequistie to developing with Symfony2 so we will install this first.

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Creating your Symfony2 Application

Next we will create your Symfony2 application.  This can be done using the following steps:

1) Download the Symfony installer

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2) Create your Symfony2 Application

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3) Set the appropriate permissions

Symfony2 has various files which must be writeable by both the command line and the web server, however these often run as different users and you can end up with file permissions issues as a result.  To resolve that you need to allow your user account and the web server user account (apache, nginx etc) to be able to write and overwrite each others file.  This can be done using the following commands:-

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If you system does not support the chmod command you can find alternatives in the Symfony2 installation documentation.

4) Launch your application with the built-in PHP web server (PHP >= 5.4.0)

With our file permissions configured we can now use PHP's built in web server to quickly check that the site works correctly and Symfony2 provides a nice wrapper command to run your application with it.

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Now open up http://localhost:8000 in a browser and you should see the Symfony2 welcome page.

Symfony2 Welcome Screen

5) Setup database connection

Your application will likely need database access and Symfony2 comes set up to use Doctrine2 with MySQL straight out of the box.  To get your application to use a MySQL database you simply need to add the correct details for your MySQL server & database in app/config/parameters.yml .

Once the settings have been updated you can verify they are correct by running the following command.

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If it is is all configured correctly then you should be presented a screen similar to the one below


And if there is a problem with your database configuration it will be fairly obvious to see:


While this has tested the database connection works we have not tried to insert or retrieve any data (as we do not have any database tables set up yet) and that is a topic for another day.  With the following step complete you now have a basic installation of Symfony2 up and running.

Installing the Symfony2 Demo Application

Symfony2 can be quite complicated, especially if you are trying it out for the first time.  Thankfully there is a demo application which can be downloaded which is designed to help make the transition into Symfony2 a bit easier.  The demo application has loads of comments and notes to help you understand what is going and you can install it using the commands below:-

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And if you now open a browser and go to http://localhost:8000 you should get:


Once the demo application is installed you only need to run the last 2 steps to get it running in future.

Please note that the demo application is not a bundle within your application (like the AcmeDemoBundle was) but it is an application all of it's own which you can poke and prod and disassemble as much as you like so you can gain a better understanding on how everything works together.

Set up an Apache / nginx Web Server

Using PHP's built-in web server is extremely useful to quickly test your setup and is recommended for development with Symfony2, however I have always preferred to configure a proper web server such as Apache or nginx to run my application and use a fully qualified domain name rather than using http://localhost:8000.

It is important to understand how to set up your application on a webserver such as Apache or nginx as even if you are happy using the build in web server for development, it is not recommended to use it in a production enviroment.  

Granted there is a little more configuration involved but it does provides me with a development environment which matches my production environment as closely as possible and allows me to rule out mis-configurations with things like

  • running multiple applications in development i.e. a main application and one or more micro services 
  • issues with web server directives i.e. htaccess works fine in development but production is running nginx so does not use the .htaccess file

In my next post I will cover how to set up a development enviroment with a fully qualified domain name using Apache or nginx.


I am a web developer specialising in web driven applications using PHP, MySQL, Symfony and Zend and I am currently working for the The Drum in Glasgow, Scotland.

Most days I can be found frantically coding away with EuroDance in my ears and consuming what I hope to be a never ending supply of coffee... happy days!

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