Blog Tutorial with Fat-Free Framework

View the blog tutorial updated for version 3 here

I recently read an excellent tutorial on ‘Rapid Application Prototyping in PHP Using a Micro Framework‘, this used the Slim micro framework but one thing that bothered me was it required 5 packages before development could start.
These were: Slim (the micro framework), Slim Extras (additional resources for Slim), Twig (template engine), Idiorm (object-relational mapper) and Paris (Active Record implementation).
It struck me that if you need an extra 4 packages alongside Slim for a basic blog then maybe it is a little too skinny and I set out to find a micro framework that could do the same thing without these dependencies.

I found the Fat-Free Framework. It is condensed into a single 55KB file and has a host of features, you can find out about these on their web site so I won’t repeat it here. Instead I’ve reproduced the Slim tutorial to create a simple blog site, but using Fat-Free Framework instead.
You will need PHP 5.3 on your server, I used Ubuntu 11.04 for the tutorial as that version of PHP is easily installed. If you’re on RHEL or Centos then I’d suggest taking a look at the IUS Community Project for getting a recent PHP version.

Step 1: Setup

Download Fat-Free Framework (F3) from the website.
F3 works just as happily in the site root as from a subdirectory – I’ll assume you’re using a subdirectory here as it means you won’t have to set up a seperate site to do this tutorial.
Create a folder called blog and unzip the contents of the F3 download into that. It should look like this:
Move up one level in the directory heirarchy and set the permissions:

sudo chgrp -R www-data blog
sudo chmod -R 775 blog

The folder contents should look like this:
Folder Contents

Notice how much simpler the starting site is compared with Slim + extra packages.

If using Apache, mod_rewrite will need to be running. Edit .htaccess and adjust RewriteBase to add the blog subfolder that you are using, so it looks like RewriteBase /blog.

You can browse this site right away and get the F3 start page.
start page
(Once the site has been visited, F3 will create additional folders cache and temp – you don’t need to worry about these).

Step 2: Bootstrapping

As everything we need is already part of F3 you don’t need to do anything here!

You can however tidy up the site to remove the current home page and add a database connection.
Edit index.php
comment out the CACHE option and increase the DEBUG level to help while developing, then remove the only route command. It should look like this:

To setup a database connection add the following between the set and run commands:

	new DB(

All the User Interface files will go in the ui directory, you can delete welcome.htm and style.css from here as they were just used by the default home page.

Step 3: Routing

Similar to Slim you need to tell F3 the route request method (GET, POST, PUT etc), the URI to respond to and how to respond.
Home page route:

F3::route('GET /',
	function () {
	//do something

The anonymous function will contain the logic to populate the page.
To view a blog article:

F3::route('GET /view/@id',
	function () {
		$id = F3::get('PARAMS["id"]');

This tells F3 to expect a URI parameter and assigns it to a PHP variable in the anonymous function.

Now the administration routes:

// Admin Home
F3::route('GET /admin',
	function () {	

//Admin Add
F3::route('GET /admin/add',
	function() {

//Admin Edit 
F3::route('GET /admin/edit/@id',
	function() {
		$id = F3::get('PARAMS["id"]');

//Admin Add & Edit, Deal with Form Posts
F3::route('POST /admin/edit/@id','edit');
F3::route('POST /admin/add','edit');
	function edit() {


//Admin Delete
F3::route('GET /admin/delete/@id',
	function() {
		$id = F3::get('PARAMS["id"]');

Notice that we’re using the same function to process Add and Edit form posts so it isn’t anonymous but the function name is passed as a parameter to the route command.

Step 4: Models

The ORMs in Fat-Free Framework do all the hard work for you – no directories, files or code required here.
Are you beginning to see how much simpler this is compared with Slim?

Here’s the SQL that will set you up with the 2 tables necessary for this tutorial:

USE `blog`;
  `id` int(10) unsigned NOT NULL AUTO_INCREMENT,
  `timestamp` datetime NOT NULL,
  `title` varchar(128) NOT NULL,
  `summary` varchar(128) NOT NULL,
  `content` text NOT NULL,
  `author` varchar(128) NOT NULL,
  PRIMARY KEY (`id`)
INSERT INTO `article` (`id`, `timestamp`, `title`, `summary`, `content`, `author`) VALUES
(1, '2011-07-28 02:03:14', 'Hello World!', 'Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut ', 'Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.', 'Mr White'),
(2, '2011-07-28 02:03:14', 'More Hello World!', 'Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut ', 'Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.', 'Mr Green');

  `name` varchar(255) NOT NULL,
  `password` varchar(255) NOT NULL,
  PRIMARY KEY (`id`)

INSERT INTO `user` (`id`, `name`, `password`) VALUES
  ('1', 'admin', 'password');

Step 5: Application Front End

Like this Slim tutorial we’re going to keep this simple.
Instantiate an Axon object that interacts with the users table, call the afind method to return a simple array of results, finally the set command is used which will pass the variable between MVC components. F3 calls this a framework variable.

	$article=new Axon('article');

You could condense the final two lines together like F3::set('articles',$article->afind()); but I’m keeping this verbose to aid readability and help you figure out how it is all working.

To use templating you need a base layout file in the ui folder called layout.html


The F3 template engine uses {{@name}} to write out the value of a framework variable.
The F3:include directive will embed the contents of a file at the position where the directive is stated – in the example above we’re using a framework variable as the URL so that the content is dynamic.

Now lets create the first of those content files with the view for the homepage, called blog_home.html

Blog Titles

{{trim(@item['title'])}} by {{@item['author']}}


The F3:repeat directive will loop through an array, setting item to the current array element. Within the loop item contains the array of data retrived from the database table and this is accessed using the column name as the array key.

Now that the view is in place we can complete the code in index.php to display it. Set the framework variable to tell the template which view to include, then tell F3 to serve the template.

	echo Template::serve('layout.html');

Serving the template also converts it to PHP code the first time it’s used and this optimised version is used thereafter which is great for performance.
The full code for this is:

F3::route('GET /',
	function () {
		F3::set('html_title','Home Page');
		$article=new Axon('article');
		echo Template::serve('layout.html');	

Now for the detail view, in index.php we need to get an Axon object, search for the id then send the data to the view/template. In this case we could have assigned each value individually e.g. F3::set('title',$article->title); but it is quicker to put all the values in the POST framework variable with the copyTo command.

F3::route('GET /view/@id',
	function () {
		$id = F3::get('PARAMS["id"]');
		//create Axon object and search for id
		$article=new Axon('article');
		//set framework variables
		//serve up the view
		echo Template::serve('layout.html');

And the view file itself called blog_detail.html accesses the individual data items from the POST framework variable:


Published: {{@POST.timestamp}} by {{}}


Back to Homepage

Step 6: Application Back End

The admin home page just needs to list the blog articles and provide links, the code is similar to that for the homepage.

F3::route('GET /admin',
	function () {
		F3::set('html_title','My Blog Administration');
		$article=new Axon('article');
		echo Template::serve('layout.html');	

The view called admin_home.html and contains a table of the results. It looks like this:

My Blog Administration

Add Article

Title Date Author Actions
{{@item['title']}} {{@item['timestamp']}} {{@item['author']}} Edit Delete

The output of this look like:
Admin Home Page
Now a form to add and edit articles, called admin_edit.html


{{ @message }}

I’ve kept this basic, apologies for the lack of styling but that’s not what this tutorial is about.
Note that there’s an area to display validation messages.

Now for the logic with the routes, add & edit both use the same view remember.

F3::route('GET /admin/add',
	function() {
		F3::set('html_title','My Blog Create');
		echo Template::serve('layout.html');

F3::route('GET /admin/edit/@id',
	function() {
		F3::set('html_title','My Blog Edit');
		$id = F3::get('PARAMS["id"]');
		$article=new Axon('article');
		echo Template::serve('layout.html');

Now we assigned a function for the POST routes and here’s the content:

	function edit() {
		// Reset previous error message, if any
		$id = F3::get('PARAMS["id"]');
		$article=new Axon('article');
		//load in the article, set new values then save
		//if we don't load it first Axon will do an insert instead of update when we use save command
		if ($id) $article->load("id='$id'");
		//overwrite with values just submitted
		//create a timestamp in MySQL format
		$article->timestamp=date("Y-m-d H:i:s");
		// Return to admin home page, new blog entry should now be there

There’s a lot less coding required here than with Slim + extras.

Step 7: Using Middleware

This isn’t relevant to using the Fat-Free Framework.
Authentication using a database is built in so I’ll step through how to use it.
The following lines are added to the admin homepage route

//tell F3 the database table and fields for user id and password
//carry out authentication
$auth = Auth::basic('sql');
//if successful, set a framework variable
if ($auth) {
  //set the session so user stays logged in
  //display the admin view
} else {
  //login unsuccessful so display message

security.html looks like this:

You must supply valid login details.

In the add & edit routes, add this line before Template::serve

if (!F3::get('SESSION.user')) F3::set('content','security.html');

That’s it (if you didn’t spot it in the SQL, my example uses admin & password for the login credentials).
I did get a bug with version 2.0.5, auth.php line 230 if you get this then that line should read self::HTTP_WebAuth instead of HTTP_WebAuth on its own.

You could instead choose to redirect back to the homepage with:

if (!F3::get('SESSION.user')) F3::reroute('/');

This would also work in the start of delete and POST routes and may make the application more secure, security.html wouldn’t be required.

Step 8: Summary

So here is another example of how to quickly get a prototype running using a PHP micro framework.
Is it any faster than with Slim? I’d like to think that it is, there’s less code, less complexity and you aren’t dependent on other packages which may end up changing in some way or not being maintained.
I’ve used F3 to create a times tables application for my son and found it was fun to build and made me more productive – I’ve now put it online at for anyone to use.

I should add that Licensing of Fat-Free Framework means for academic and personal use it uses the GNU General Public License and is free, however for business or commercial gain you need to contact the developers.
Slim is released under the MIT Public License and you are free to use, modify and even sell it.

You can download the files used from here

I’ve done another tutorial on creating a near identical blog application to this but using CakePHP: Blog Tutorial with CakePHP Framework which may be interesting to compare with differences with using a micro-framework.

PHP Frameworks

Here’s my very basic research into current PHP Frameworks – the target was to get this done in an hour.

Firstly if they have a professional design I’m assuming there’s at least a bit of funding behind the project.
Secondly I do a simple search for AJAX in their documentation. If they don’t mention how to use the framework with AJAX then I’m not interested.

Name PHP Version Professional Design Search AJAX in Help Worth further investigation
(CodeIgniter clone)
5 Yes No No – more CodeIgniter jobs about
Yii 5 Yes Yes Yes
(CakePHP clone)
5.3 Yes No No – more CakePHP jobs about
Akelos 4 Yes No  
PHP on Trax
(based on Ruby on Rails)
? Not really No  
Fuel 5.3 Yes No  
Agile Toolkit 5.3 Yes Yes  
CodeIgniter 5.1.6 Yes No Yes
CakePHP (V2) 5.2.9 Yes No Yes
Solar 5.2 Yes No  
Rain 5 Yes A little  
Recess 5.2.4 Yes No  

PHP Micro frameworks:

  • DooPHP
  • Fat-Free Framework
  • Limondae
  • Slim

I looked in detail at Agile toolkit but ultimately found their documentation too limited.
Recess looked good because of its focus on RESTful API which is built in – however I’m also keen on built in validation which this doesn’t have yet.

In summary for me it boils down to 2 factors, is it popular framework where jobs are advertised as requiring that knowledge and/or is it going to give a big advantage in developing applications rapidly. I’m going to focus my efforts on CakePHP (I’ve already built an app using 1.2.6 and version 2 will be launched very soon), CodeIgniter, Yii and also Fat-Free Framework.

CakePHP paging and sorting on a Custom DataSource

CakePHP recommends that to use a web service API you should use a custom DataSource (here).
In their example on creating a Twitter DataSource, it doesn’t mention how to achieve paging and sorting.

Neil Crookes has a good example on his website, accessing Google Analytics data via REST and paging through it – however this involves modifying the cake core and overriding the pagination methods in the model.
The cake team do not look keen on this approach and rejected it when someone raised as a bug

The DataSource example by LoadSys includes paging, but sorting only works by specifying it in the controller, so it won’t work using the pagination helper in the view.

I’ve combined their approaches to work out how to allow paging and sorting in your DataSource without having to modify the other parts of you application, so it can work in just the same way as if you were using a database table.

  1. Your DataSource needs a calculate method – this is where the SQL to calculate the number of rows would normally be generated, instead you can add a flag to your code to generate a count later on
  2. Add caching to the DataSource read method, because cake will fire it twice, the first to get a count of the total available rows, the second time to request a page of the data. If you cache the data on the first request, the second request can just read from the cache
  3. Add code to the DataSource read method to pick up the calculate request and return a count of how many rows in total are available
  4. Make sure that the describe method exists and returns a meaningful schema – this is necessary for the sorting to work
  5. Add methods to carry out the pagination or sorting

Expanding on the twitter example from the cake documentation. here is what you need to do in detail to enable paging and sorting.

  1. In the datasources folder, create twitter_source.php and paste the example code in
  2. In the models folder, create tweet.php and paste the example code in
  3. In config/database.php paste the datasource definition in, substituting your login and password
  4. In the controllers folder create twitter_controller.php and paste the following code, note that you aren’t doing anything differently in here than you would to access a database table:
    class TwitterController extends AppController {
    	var $name = 'Twitter';
    	var $uses = array('Tweet');
    	function index() {
    		$this->paginate = array(
    		'limit' => 2,);
  5. The view requires a little more code to add the pagination and sorting controls, this is the same sort of code that would be generated by the scaffolding:

    counter(array( 'format' => __('Page %page% of %pages%, showing %current% records out of %count% total, starting on record %start%, ending on %end%', true) )); ?>

    sort('id');?> sort('text');?>
    link(__('View', true), array('action' => 'view', $item['Tweet']['id'])); ?>
    prev('<< '.__('previous', true), array(), null, array('class'=>'disabled'));?> | numbers();?> next(__('next', true).' >>', array(), null, array('class'=>'disabled'));?>

Up until now, we have just been putting the example files into the correct locations and setting up the view. Now come the modifications to the DataSource.

Edit twitter_source.php and make the following changes:

  1. Add a calculate method:
    function calculate(&$model, $func, $params = array()) {
    	return '__'.$func;
  2. Replace line 61 of the read method:
    $response = json_decode($this->connection->get($url), true);

    With the following to enable caching of the response

    $cachePath = 'tweet_'.md5($url);
    $response = cache($cachePath, null, '+1 minute');
    if ( !$response ) {
    	$response = $this->connection->get($url);
    	cache($cachePath, $response);
    $response = json_decode($response, true);
  3. Add a method to get a single page from the returned data:
    function __getPage($items = null, $queryData = array()) {
    		if ( empty($queryData['limit']) ) {
    			return $items;
    		$limit = $queryData['limit'];
    		$page = $queryData['page'];
    		$offset = $limit * ($page-1);
    		return array_slice($items, $offset, $limit);
  4. Add a method to carry out sorting returned data:
    function __sortItems(&$model, $items, $order) {
    		if ( empty($order) || empty($order[0]) ) {
    			return $items;
    		$sorting = array();
    		foreach( $order as $orderItem ) {
    			if ( is_string($orderItem) ) {
    				$field = $orderItem;
    				$direction = 'asc';
    			else {
    				foreach( $orderItem as $field => $direction ) {
    			$field = str_replace($model->alias.'.', '', $field);
    			$values =  Set::extract($items, '{n}.'.$field);
    			if ( in_array($field, array('lastBuildDate', 'pubDate')) ) {
    				foreach($values as $i => $value) {
    					$values[$i] = strtotime($value);
    			$sorting[] = $values;
    			switch(low($direction)) {
    				case 'asc':
    					$direction = SORT_ASC;
    				case 'desc':
    					$direction = SORT_DESC;
    					trigger_error('Invalid sorting direction '. low($direction));
    			$sorting[] = $direction;
    		$sorting[] = &$items;
    		$sorting[] = $direction;
    		call_user_func_array('array_multisort', $sorting);
    		return $items;
  5. Add the following to the read method, above the final line (No. 70, return $results) to call the paging method, call the sorting method and return the item count:
    $results = $this->__getPage($results, $queryData);
    //return item count
    if ( Set::extract($queryData, 'fields') == '__count' ) {
    	return array(array($model->alias => array('count' => count($results))));

That’s it. You can download the twitter_source and the view index to save a lot of cutting and pasting.

I’m sure there are many improvements to this that people can suggest – I’m new to CakePHP myself, but I hope you find it useful.

Eclipse PDT – code assist or PHP Manual not working

If you are new to Eclipse PDT and find that code assist or the PHP Manual (Shift+F2 or Open PHP Manual) are not working for a particular project, check that you have a file named .buildpath in the root of your project.

If there is nothing there, try creating a new project (File / New / PHP Project) grab the file from there and copy it into your existing project.

Alternatively just paste in the following:
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<buildpathentry kind="src" path=""/>
<buildpathentry kind="con" path="org.eclipse.php.core.LANGUAGE"/>