Phar Flung Phing

One of the cooler features of PHP 5.3 is the ability to package up a set of PHP class files and scripts into a single archive, known as a PHAR ("PHp ARchive"). PHAR files are pretty much equivalent to Java's JAR files: they allow you to distribute an entire library or application as a single file. I decided to see how easy it would be to wrap up Neo4jPHP in a PHAR for distribution.

Surprisingly, there isn't much information out there on creating PHAR files outside of the PHP manual and a few older posts. They deal mainly with creating a PHAR with a hand-written script specific to the project being packaged, using PHP's PHAR classes and methods.

Since I also started playing with Phing recently, I decided to see if I could incorporate packaging a project as a PHAR into my build system. It turns out, it's pretty easy, given that Phing has a built-in PharPackage task.

All steps below were performed on Ubuntu 10.10 Maverick

Step 1 - Get Phing

The Phing docs are pretty explicit and easy to follow. If you have PEAR installed, simply do:
> sudo pear channel-discover pear.phing.info
> sudo pear install phing/phing
If all goes well, you should the location of the phing command line utility when you run
> which phing

Step 2 - Allow PHP to create PHARs

This is one that most of the posts I found on creating PHARs fail to mention. In the default installation of PHP, PHARs are read-only (this prevents a nasty security hole, whereby any PHP script on your machine has the ability to modify other PHARs.) In order to prevent this, the php.ini setting "phar.readonly" must be turned off. I did this by creating a new file in my PHP conf.d directory:
> sudo sh -c "echo 'phar.readonly=0' > /etc/php5/conf.d/phar.ini"

Step 3 - Create a stub

In a PHAR, the stub file is run when the PHAR is `include`d or `require`d in a script (or when the PHAR is invoked from the command line.) The purpose of the stub is to do any setup necessary for the library contained in the PHAR. Since I'm packaging a library, the stub I created doesn't do anything more than set up autoloading of my library's classes.

Save the following file as "stub.php" in the root of your project:
spl_autoload_register(function ($className) {
	$libPath = 'phar://myproject.phar/lib/';
	$classFile = str_replace('\\',DIRECTORY_SEPARATOR,$className).'.php';
	$classPath = $libPath.$classFile;
	if (file_exists($classPath)) {
The "__HALT_COMPILER();" line must be the last thing in the file. The call to `Phar::mapPhar()` registers the PHAR with PHP and allows any of the files inside to be found via the "phar://" stream wrapper. Any files or directories contained in the PHAR can be referenced as "phar://myproject.phar/path/inside/phar/MyClass.php". Since all my project files are namespaced, autoloading is a matter of translating the class name into a path inside the PHAR.

Step 4 - Create a build file

Phing's documentation is pretty extensive, so I won't go into to much detail about what each piece of the build file means. The important part is the PharPackage task in the "package" target.

Save the following file as "build.xml" in the root of your project:
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<project name="MyProject" default="package">

  <!-- Target: build -->
  <target name="build">
    <delete dir="./build" />
    <mkdir dir="./build" />
    <copy todir="./build">
      <fileset dir=".">
        <include name="lib/" />

  <!-- Target: package -->
  <target name="package" depends="build">
    <delete file="./myproject.phar" />
      <fileset dir="./build">
        <include name="**/**" />
        <element name="version" value="1.2.3" />
        <element name="authors">
          <element name="Joe Developer">
            <element name="email" value="joe.developer@example.com" />
The important part is the "package" target, the default target of this build file. It depends on the "build" target, whose only purpose is to copy out all the files that will be packaged in the PHAR into a separate "build" directory. This strips out any testing, example or other non-library files. Any previously created package is deleted.

The main work of packaging is done via the "pharpackage" task. In this case, I'm specifying that the output package should be called "myproject.phar" and be put in the same directory as the build file, the PHAR should be compressed with "gzip", the stub to load when requiring the file is at "./stub.php" and the PHAR should be signed with a SHA1 hash.

Metadata appears to be optional, but Phing throws up a nasty looking warning if it's not there (it tries to convert an empty value to an array.) Nested metadata is turned into a PHP array and serialized.

Step 5 - Phling your PHAR

Run the following command in the directory with your build file:
> phing
# or, if the "package" task is not the default
> phing package
If all went well, there should be a file called "myproject.phar" in the root of your project. You can test it out by running this test script:

$thing = new Class\In\My\Project();
If PHP doesn't complain about a missing class, the PHAR set up correctly and autoloading is working.

The Neo4jPHP PHAR is available at http://github.com/downloads/jadell/Neo4jPHP/neo4jphp.phar.


  1. Hello.
    Have you ever tried running Drupal7 as a PHAR archive. If so, do you have any pointers or gotchas?
    The objective is to create Drupal website as a PHAR Archive and dropped into the web server's root directory and run from there as a regular site. This would help deployment of updates to the application as I would have to just replace the current application with another PHAR archive

  2. I have no experience with Drupal, but I imagine it would be possible, for the PHP files at least. How would you handle static content, like images, CSS and JS?

  3. you can mount external files and folders to the phar file http://www.php.net/manual/en/phar.mount.php
    But I haven't could bring the drupal site up.

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