Quick Start to Zend_Application_Bootstrap

We added Zend_Application to Zend Framework starting in version 1.8.0. The intent behind the component was to formalize the application bootstrapping process, and provide a simplified, configuration-driven mechanism for it.

Zend_Application works in conjunction with Zend_Application_Bootstrap, which, as you might guess from its name, is what really does the bulk of the work for bootstrapping your application. It allows you to utilize plugin bootstrap resources, or define local bootstrap resources as class methods. The former allow for re-usability, and the latter for application-specific initialization and configuration.

Additionally, Zend_Application_Bootstrap provides for dependency tracking (i.e., if one resource depends on another, you can ensure that that other resource will be executed first), and acts as a repository for initialized resources. This means that once a resource has been bootstrapped, you can retrieve it later from the bootstrap itself.

How it works

Now that you know what it does, let's jump into the basics.

If you use the zf command-line tool provided with Zend Framework to generate your project (zf create project), you'll get a bootstrap and a default configuration right out of the gate. This includes the following files in the tree:

|-- Bootstrap.php
|   `-- configs/
|   |   `-- application.ini

The Bootstrap.php file will contain the class Bootstrap which extends Zend_Application_Bootstrap_Bootstrap; this class will be empty at first. The application.ini file will contain the following:

phpSettings.display_startup_errors = 0
phpSettings.display_errors = 0
includePaths.library = APPLICATION_PATH "/../library"
bootstrap.path = APPLICATION_PATH "/Bootstrap.php"
bootstrap.class = "Bootstrap"
appnamespace = "Application"
resources.frontController.controllerDirectory = APPLICATION_PATH "/controllers"
resources.frontController.params.displayExceptions = 0

[staging : production]

[testing : production]
phpSettings.display_startup_errors = 1
phpSettings.display_errors = 1

[development : production]
phpSettings.display_startup_errors = 1
phpSettings.display_errors = 1
resources.frontController.params.displayExceptions = 1

Zend_Application runs in three stages. First, it initializes the PHP environment, using INI settings from your configuration if provided, and setting up the include_path and autoloading. Second, it initializes and executes the bootstrap class. Finally, it then "runs" the application (by calling the bootstrap's run() method).

Configuration Settings

What we see in the above listing is a set of:

  • PHP initialization settings (here, they indicate whether or not to display errors)
  • include_path settings
  • Settings that indicate the name and location of the bootstrap class
  • Application resource settings

The phpSettings key accepts any php.ini keys as subkeys, and these key/value pairs will be passed to ini_set. This can be useful when you need to either ensure specific INI settings are made, particularly when you want them to vary based on environment. (In the example above, display_errors is enabled in testing and development, but disabled otherwise.)

When it comes to the include_path and autoloading, probably the most often asked question is, "How do I add namespace prefixes for code other than ZF to the autoloader?" This can be done easily in the configuration file using the autoloaderNamespaces key, and appending namespace prefixes to it:

autoloaderNamespaces[] = "Phly_"

Regarding the bootstrap class and file location, typically the defaults will be fine. However, if you want to specify a custom name — for instance, to provide a class prefix — or perhaps if your default module is in a subdirectory, you can notify Zend_Application of this via the bootstrap.class and boostrap.path settings:

bootstrap.class = "Application_Bootstrap"
bootstrap.path = APPLICATION_PATH "/modules/application/Bootstrap.php"

Getting started with Bootstrap Resources

Now we finally get to the true fun: the bootstrap resources themselves.

Yes, I'm aware I'm glossing over the "appnamespace" setting; I'l cover that at another time.

Bootstrap resources may be one of two things:

  • A protected method in the bootstrap class prefixed with _init; e.g., protected function _initFoo()
  • A class implementing Zend_Application_Resource_Resource

In the former case, _init*() methods, each will be executed in each request. In the latter, only those that you specify in your configuration will be executed, allowing you to selectively choose which of the various shipped resource plugins (or those you have written yourself!) will be used.

In the case of the default configuration, only the "frontcontroller" resource plugin will be used, corresponding to Zend_Application_Resource_Frontcontroller. As of the upcoming 1.10 release, you can pick and choose from the following additional resource plugins as well:

  • Cachemanager
  • Db
  • Dojo
  • Layout
  • Locale
  • Log
  • Mail
  • Modules
  • Multidb
  • Navigation
  • Router
  • Session
  • Translate
  • View

Each has its own configuration options, documented in the manual.

Writing Resource Methods

Writing your own resource methods is trivial: you simply create the method, and do some work. You then have the option of returning a value; if you do, it will be stored within the bootstrap so that you may retrieve it later. As an example:

class Bootstrap extends Zend_Application_Bootstrap_Bootstrap
    protected function _initRegistry()
        $registry = new Zend_Registry();
        return $registry;

If we wanted to retrieve the registry later, we could do so using the bootstrap's getResource() method:

$registry = $bootstrap->getResource('Registry');

Note that we pass the name of the method minus the _init prefix; this "short name" is how the resource is referred to within the bootstrap, and how you will refer to it later.

Now, let's say you have a resource that depends on your "Registry" resource; for instance, let's say you want to create a Zend_Currency object, and pass it to the registry. Zend_Application_Bootstrap was designed to handle this very situation, and institutes some powerful dependency tracking (this is, in fact, why the initialization methods are protected; it prevents them being called directly). Simply call the bootstrap() method with the name of the resource to initialize. Additionally, the getResource() method can then be used to retrieve the value registered for that resource. As an example:

class Bootstrap extends Zend_Application_Bootstrap_Bootstrap
    protected function _initCurrency()
        $registry = $this->getResource('Registry');

        $currency = new Zend_Currency('$');
        $registry['Zend_Currency'] = $currency;
        return $currency;

    protected function _initRegistry()
        $registry = new Zend_Registry();
        return $registry;

What will happen is this:

  • Zend_Application will call bootstrap() with no arguments, which loops through the internal resource methods first, and then any configured resource plugins.
  • The bootstrap will execute the _initCurrency() method
  • It sees the bootstrap() call, and executes it
  • The bootstrap() call executes the _initRegistry() method, storing a Zend_Registry instance (which was returned from the method) internally on completion
  • Execution of _initCurrency() resumes, starting with the getResource() call; this returns the Zend_Registry instance stored under that key in the bootstrap.
  • Execution of _initCurrency() completes, and the bootstrap stores the returned Zend_Currency instance.
  • The bootstrap() method then attempts to call the _initRegistry() method, but notes that it has already been executed, and thus moves on to execute resource plugins.

As you can see by now, the bootstrap functionality is quite flexible and powerful, and provides a number of benefits immediately out of the box.

Until next time…

At this point, you should have enough to get started writing your own bootstrap initialization resources. In coming weeks, I'll blog about how to build reusable resource plugins, as well as discuss how bootstrapping fits into modular applications.