Plugins

CakePHP allows you to set up a combination of controllers, models, and views and release them as a packaged application plugin that others can use in their CakePHP applications. Have a great user management module, simple blog, or web services module in one of your applications? Package it as a CakePHP plugin so you can reuse it in other applications and share with the community.

The main tie between a plugin and the application it has been installed into is the application’s configuration (database connection, etc.). Otherwise it operates in its own space, behaving much like it would if it were an application on its own.

In CakePHP 3.0 each plugin defines its own top-level namespace. For example: DebugKit. By convention, plugins use their package name as their namespace. If you’d like to use a different namespace, you can configure the plugin namespace, when plugins are loaded.

Installing a Plugin With Composer

Many plugins are available on Packagist and can be installed with Composer. To install DebugKit, you would do the following:

php composer.phar require cakephp/debug_kit

This would install the latest version of DebugKit and update your composer.json, composer.lock file, update vendor/cakephp-plugins.php, and update your autoloader.

If the plugin you want to install is not available on packagist.org, you can clone or copy the plugin code into your plugins directory. Assuming you want to install a plugin named ‘ContactManager’, you should have a folder in plugins named ‘ContactManager’. In this directory are the plugin’s src, tests and any other directories.

Plugin Map File

When installing plugins via Composer, you may notice that vendor/cakephp-plugins.php is created. This configuration file contains a map of plugin names and their paths on the filesystem. It makes it possible for plugins to be installed into the standard vendor directory which is outside of the normal search paths. The Plugin class will use this file to locate plugins when they are loaded with load() or loadAll(). You generally won’t need to edit this file by hand, as Composer and the plugin-installer package will manage it for you.

Loading a Plugin

After installing a plugin and setting up the autoloader, you should load the plugin. You can load plugins one by one, or all of them with a single method:

// In config/bootstrap.php
// Or in Application::bootstrap()

// Loads a single plugin
Plugin::load('ContactManager');

// Loads a plugin with a vendor namespace at top level.
Plugin::load('AcmeCorp/ContactManager');

// Loads all plugins at once
Plugin::loadAll();

loadAll() loads all plugins available, while allowing you to set certain settings for specific plugins. load() works similarly, but only loads the plugins you explicitly specify.

Note

Plugin::loadAll() won’t load vendor namespaced plugins that are not defined in vendor/cakephp-plugins.php.

There is also a handy shell command to enable the plugin. Execute the following line:

bin/cake plugin load ContactManager

This will put the Plugin::load('ContactManager'); snippet in the bootstrap for you.

Autoloading Plugin Classes

When using bake for creating a plugin or when installing a plugin using Composer, you don’t typically need to make any changes to your application in order to make CakePHP recognize the classes that live inside it.

In any other cases you may need to modify your application’s composer.json file to contain the following information:

"psr-4": {
    (...)
    "MyPlugin\\": "./plugins/MyPlugin/src",
    "MyPlugin\\Test\\": "./plugins/MyPlugin/tests"
}

If you are using vendor namespaces for your plugins, the namespace to path mapping should resemble the following:

"psr-4": {
    (...)
    "AcmeCorp\\Users\\": "./plugins/AcmeCorp/Users/src",
    "AcmeCorp\\Users\\Test\\": "./plugins/AcmeCorp/Users/tests"
}

Additionally, you will need to tell Composer to refresh its autoloading cache:

$ php composer.phar dumpautoload

If you are unable to use Composer for any reason, you can also use a fallback autoloading for your plugin:

Plugin::load('ContactManager', ['autoload' => true]);

Plugin Configuration

The load() and loadAll() methods can assist with plugin configuration and routing. Perhaps you want to load all plugins automatically while specifying custom routes and bootstrap files for certain plugins:

// In config/bootstrap.php,
// or in Application::bootstrap()

// Using loadAll()
Plugin::loadAll([
    'Blog' => ['routes' => true],
    'ContactManager' => ['bootstrap' => true],
    'WebmasterTools' => ['bootstrap' => true, 'routes' => true],
]);

Or you can load the plugins individually:

// Loading just the blog and include routes
Plugin::load('Blog', ['routes' => true]);

// Include bootstrap configuration/initializer file.
Plugin::load('ContactManager', ['bootstrap' => true]);

With either approach you no longer need to manually include() or require() a plugin’s configuration or routes file – it happens automatically at the right time and place.

You can specify a set of defaults for loadAll() which will apply to every plugin that doesn’t have a more specific configuration.

The following example will load the bootstrap file from all plugins, and additionally the routes from the Blog plugin:

Plugin::loadAll([
    ['bootstrap' => true],
    'Blog' => ['routes' => true]
]);

Note that all files specified should actually exist in the configured plugin(s) or PHP will give warnings for each file it cannot load. You can avoid potential warnings by using the ignoreMissing option:

Plugin::loadAll([
    ['ignoreMissing' => true, 'bootstrap' => true],
    'Blog' => ['routes' => true]
]);

When loading plugins, the plugin name used should match the namespace. For example, if you have a plugin with top level namespace Users you would load it using:

Plugin::load('User');

If you prefer to have your vendor name as top level and have a namespace like AcmeCorp/Users, then you would load the plugin as:

Plugin::load('AcmeCorp/Users');

This will ensure that classnames are resolved properly when using plugin syntax.

Most plugins will indicate the proper procedure for configuring them and setting up the database in their documentation. Some plugins will require more setup than others.

Using Plugins

You can reference a plugin’s controllers, models, components, behaviors, and helpers by prefixing the name of the plugin before

For example, say you wanted to use the ContactManager plugin’s ContactInfoHelper to output some pretty contact information in one of your views. In your controller, your $helpers array could look like this:

public $helpers = ['ContactManager.ContactInfo'];

Note

This dot separated class name is referred to as plugin syntax.

You would then be able to access the ContactInfoHelper just like any other helper in your view, such as:

echo $this->ContactInfo->address($contact);

Creating Your Own Plugins

As a working example, let’s begin to create the ContactManager plugin referenced above. To start out, we’ll set up our plugin’s basic directory structure. It should look like this:

/src
/plugins
    /ContactManager
        /config
        /src
            /Controller
                /Component
            /Model
                /Table
                /Entity
                /Behavior
            /View
                /Helper
            /Template
                /Layout
        /tests
            /TestCase
            /Fixture
        /webroot

Note the name of the plugin folder, ‘ContactManager‘. It is important that this folder has the same name as the plugin.

Inside the plugin folder, you’ll notice it looks a lot like a CakePHP application, and that’s basically what it is. You don’t have to include any of the folders you are not using. Some plugins might only define a Component and a Behavior, and in that case they can completely omit the ‘Template’ directory.

A plugin can also have basically any of the other directories that your application can, such as Config, Console, webroot, etc.

Creating a Plugin Using Bake

The process of creating plugins can be greatly simplified by using the bake shell.

In order to bake a plugin, use the following command:

bin/cake bake plugin ContactManager

Now you can bake using the same conventions which apply to the rest of your app. For example - baking controllers:

bin/cake bake controller --plugin ContactManager Contacts

Please refer to the chapter Code Generation with Bake if you have any problems with using the command line. Be sure to re-generate your autoloader once you’ve created your plugin:

$ php composer.phar dumpautoload

Plugin Controllers

Controllers for our ContactManager plugin will be stored in plugins/ContactManager/src/Controller/. Since the main thing we’ll be doing is managing contacts, we’ll need a ContactsController for this plugin.

So, we place our new ContactsController in plugins/ContactManager/src/Controller and it looks like so:

// plugins/ContactManager/src/Controller/ContactsController.php
namespace ContactManager\Controller;

use ContactManager\Controller\AppController;

class ContactsController extends AppController
{

    public function index()
    {
        //...
    }
}

Also make the AppController if you don’t have one already:

// plugins/ContactManager/src/Controller/AppController.php
namespace ContactManager\Controller;

use App\Controller\AppController as BaseController;

class AppController extends BaseController
{
}

A plugin’s AppController can hold controller logic common to all controllers in a plugin but is not required if you don’t want to use one.

Before you can access your controllers, you’ll need to ensure the plugin is loaded and the plugin routes are loaded. In your config/bootstrap.php add the following:

Plugin::load('ContactManager', ['routes' => true]);

If you are using Plugin::loadAll() ensure that routes are loaded:

Plugin::loadAll(['routes' => true]);

Then create the ContactManager plugin routes. Put the following into plugins/ContactManager/config/routes.php:

<?php
use Cake\Routing\Route\DashedRoute;
use Cake\Routing\Router;

Router::plugin(
    'ContactManager',
    ['path' => '/contact-manager'],
    function ($routes) {
        $routes->fallbacks(DashedRoute::class);
    }
);

The above will connect default routes for you plugin. You can customize this file with more specific routes later on.

If you want to access what we’ve got going thus far, visit /contact-manager/contacts. You should get a “Missing Model” error because we don’t have a Contact model defined yet.

If your application includes the default routing CakePHP provides you will be able to access your plugin controllers using URLs like:

// Access the index route of a plugin controller.
/contact-manager/contacts

// Any action on a plugin controller.
/contact-manager/contacts/view/1

If your application defines routing prefixes, CakePHP’s default routing will also connect routes that use the following pattern:

/:prefix/:plugin/:controller
/:prefix/:plugin/:controller/:action

See the section on Plugin Configuration for information on how to load plugin specific route files.

For plugins you did not create with bake, you will also need to edit the composer.json file to add your plugin to the autoload classes, this can be done as per the documentation Autoloading Plugin Classes.

Plugin Models

Models for the plugin are stored in plugins/ContactManager/src/Model. We’ve already defined a ContactsController for this plugin, so let’s create the table and entity for that controller:

// plugins/ContactManager/src/Model/Entity/Contact.php:
namespace ContactManager\Model\Entity;

use Cake\ORM\Entity;

class Contact extends Entity
{
}

// plugins/ContactManager/src/Model/Table/ContactsTable.php:
namespace ContactManager\Model\Table;

use Cake\ORM\Table;

class ContactsTable extends Table
{
}

If you need to reference a model within your plugin when building associations or defining entity classes, you need to include the plugin name with the class name, separated with a dot. For example:

// plugins/ContactManager/src/Model/Table/ContactsTable.php:
namespace ContactManager\Model\Table;

use Cake\ORM\Table;

class ContactsTable extends Table
{
    public function initialize(array $config)
    {
        $this->hasMany('ContactManager.AltName');
    }
}

If you would prefer that the array keys for the association not have the plugin prefix on them, use the alternative syntax:

// plugins/ContactManager/src/Model/Table/ContactsTable.php:
namespace ContactManager\Model\Table;

use Cake\ORM\Table;

class ContactsTable extends Table
{
    public function initialize(array $config)
    {
        $this->hasMany('AltName', [
            'className' => 'ContactManager.AltName',
        ]);
    }
}

You can use TableRegistry to load your plugin tables using the familiar plugin syntax:

use Cake\ORM\TableRegistry;

$contacts = TableRegistry::get('ContactManager.Contacts');

Alternatively, from a controller context, you can use:

$this->loadModel('ContactsMangager.Contacts');

Plugin Views

Views behave exactly as they do in normal applications. Just place them in the right folder inside of the plugins/[PluginName]/src/Template/ folder. For our ContactManager plugin, we’ll need a view for our ContactsController::index() action, so let’s include that as well:

// plugins/ContactManager/src/Template/Contacts/index.ctp:
<h1>Contacts</h1>
<p>Following is a sortable list of your contacts</p>
<!-- A sortable list of contacts would go here....-->

Plugins can provide their own layouts. To add plugin layouts, place your template files inside plugins/[PluginName]/src/Template/Layout. To use a plugin layout in your controller you can do the following:

public $layout = 'ContactManager.admin';

If the plugin prefix is omitted, the layout/view file will be located normally.

Note

For information on how to use elements from a plugin, look up Elements

Overriding Plugin Templates from Inside Your Application

You can override any plugin views from inside your app using special paths. If you have a plugin called ‘ContactManager’ you can override the template files of the plugin with application specific view logic by creating files using the following template src/Template/Plugin/[Plugin]/[Controller]/[view].ctp. For the Contacts controller you could make the following file:

src/Template/Plugin/ContactManager/Contacts/index.ctp

Creating this file would allow you to override plugins/ContactManager/src/Template/Contacts/index.ctp.

If your plugin is in a composer dependency (i.e. ‘TheVendor/ThePlugin’), the path to the ‘index’ view of the Custom controller will be:

src/Template/Plugin/TheVendor/ThePlugin/Custom/index.ctp

Creating this file would allow you to override vendor/thevendor/theplugin/src/Template/Custom/index.ctp.

Plugin Assets

A plugin’s web assets (but not PHP files) can be served through the plugin’s webroot directory, just like the main application’s assets:

/plugins/ContactManager/webroot/
                               css/
                               js/
                               img/
                               flash/
                               pdf/

You may put any type of file in any directory, just like a regular webroot.

Warning

Handling static assets (such as images, JavaScript and CSS files) through the Dispatcher is very inefficient. See Improve Your Application’s Performance for more information.

Linking to Assets in Plugins

You can use the plugin syntax when linking to plugin assets using the View\Helper\HtmlHelper‘s script, image, or css methods:

// Generates a URL of /contact_manager/css/styles.css
echo $this->Html->css('ContactManager.styles');

// Generates a URL of /contact_manager/js/widget.js
echo $this->Html->script('ContactManager.widget');

// Generates a URL of /contact_manager/img/logo.jpg
echo $this->Html->image('ContactManager.logo');

Plugin assets are served using the AssetFilter dispatcher filter by default. This is only recommended for development. In production you should symlink plugin assets to improve performance.

If you are not using the helpers, you can prepend /plugin_name/ to the beginning of the URL for an asset within that plugin to serve it. Linking to ‘/contact_manager/js/some_file.js’ would serve the asset plugins/ContactManager/webroot/js/some_file.js.

Components, Helpers and Behaviors

A plugin can have Components, Helpers and Behaviors just like a regular CakePHP application. You can even create plugins that consist only of Components, Helpers or Behaviors which can be a great way to build reusable components that can be dropped into any project.

Building these components is exactly the same as building it within a regular application, with no special naming convention.

Referring to your component from inside or outside of your plugin requires only that you prefix the plugin name before the name of the component. For example:

// Component defined in 'ContactManager' plugin
namespace ContactManager\Controller\Component;

use Cake\Controller\Component;

class ExampleComponent extends Component
{
}

// Within your controllers
public function initialize()
{
    parent::initialize();
    $this->loadComponent('ContactManager.Example');
}

The same technique applies to Helpers and Behaviors.

Expand Your Plugin

This example created a good start for a plugin, but there is a lot more that you can do. As a general rule, anything you can do with your application you can do inside of a plugin as well.

Go ahead - include some third-party libraries in ‘vendor’, add some new shells to the cake console, and don’t forget to create test cases so your plugin users can automatically test your plugin’s functionality!

In our ContactManager example we might create add/remove/edit/delete actions in the ContactsController, implement validation in the Contact model, and implement the functionality one might expect when managing their contacts. It’s up to you to decide what to implement in your plugins. Just don’t forget to share your code with the community so that everyone can benefit from your awesome, reusable components!

Publish Your Plugin

Make sure you add your plugin to plugins.cakephp.org. This way other people can use it as composer dependency. You can also propose your plugin to the awesome-cakephp list.

Choose a semantically meaningful name for the package name. This should ideally be prefixed with the dependency, in this case “cakephp” as the framework. The vendor name will usually be your GitHub username. Do not use the CakePHP namespace (cakephp) as this is reserved to CakePHP owned plugins. The convention is to use lowercase letters and dashes as separator.

So if you created a plugin “Logging” with your GitHub account “FooBar”, a good name would be foo-bar/cakephp-logging. And the CakePHP owned “Localized” plugin can be found under cakephp/localized respectively.