v2 Documentation

Dependency Definitions

Version 2

This is documentation for the legacy version (2.x) of zend-di.

Definitions are what zend-di uses to understand the structure of the code it is attempting to wire. This means that if you've written non-ambiguous, clear, and concise code, zend-di has a very good chance of understanding how to wire things up without much added complexity.


Definitions are introduced to the Zend\Di\Di object through a definition list implemented as Zend\Di\DefinitionList (which extends SplDoublyLinkedList). Order is important. Definitions in the front of the list will be consulted on a class before definitions at the end of the list.


Regardless of what kind of DefinitionList strategy you decide to use, it is important that your autoloaders are already setup and ready to use.


The default DefinitionList instantiated by Zend\Di\Di when no other DefinitionList is provided is Zend\Di\Definition\RuntimeDefinition. The RuntimeDefinition will respond to queries about classes by using PHP's Reflection API. The RuntimeDefinition uses any available information inside methods — including their signature, the names of parameters, the type-hints of the parameters, and the default values — to determine if something is optional or required when making a call to that method. The more explicit you can be in your method naming and method signatures, the more likely Zend\Di\Definition\RuntimeDefinition will accurately understand the structure of your code.

The constructor of RuntimeDefinition looks like the following:

public function __construct(
    IntrospectionStrategy $introspectionStrategy = null,
    array $explicitClasses = null
) {
    $this->introspectionStrategy = $introspectionStrategy ?: new IntrospectionStrategy();
    if ($explicitClasses) {

The IntrospectionStrategy object is an object that defines the rules by which the RuntimeDefinition will introspect information about your classes. Here are the things it knows how to do:

  • Whether or not to use annotations (scanning and parsing annotations is expensive, and thus disabled by default).

  • Which method names to include in the introspection; this is a list of patterns. By default, it registers the pattern /^set\[A-Z\]{1}\\w\*/.

  • Which interface names represent the interface injection pattern; this is a list of patterns. By default, the pattern /\\w\*Aware\\w\*/ is registered.

The constructor for the IntrospectionStrategy looks like this:

public function __construct(AnnotationManager $annotationManager = null)
    $this->annotationManager = $annotationManager ?: $this->createDefaultAnnotationManager();

The AnnotationManager is not required. If you wish to create a special AnnotationManager with your own annotations, and also wish to extend the RuntimeDefinition to look for those annotations, this is the place to do it.

The RuntimeDefinition also can be used to look up either all classes (implicitly, which is default), or explicitly look up for particular pre-defined classes. This is useful when your strategy for inspecting one set of classes might differ from those of another strategy for another set of classes. This can be achieved by using the setExplicitClasses() method or by passing a list of classes as the second constructor argument of the RuntimeDefinition.


The CompilerDefinition is similar in nature to the RuntimeDefinition with the exception that it can be seeded with more information for the purposes of "compiling" a definition. Compiled definitions eliminate reflection calls and annotation scannning, which can be a performance bottleneck in your production applications.

For example, let's assume we want to create a script that will create definitions for some of our library code:

// in "package name" format
$components = [

foreach ($components as $component) {
    $diCompiler = new Zend\Di\Definition\CompilerDefinition;
    $diCompiler->addDirectory('/path/to/classes/' . str_replace('_', '/', $component));

        __DIR__ . '/../data/di/' . $component . '-definition.php',
        '<?php return ' . var_export($diCompiler->toArrayDefinition()->toArray(), true) . ';'

The above creates a file for each "package", containing the full definition for the classes defined for each. To utilize this in an application, use the following:

protected function setupDi(Application $app)
    $definitionList = new DefinitionList([
        new Definition\ArrayDefinition(include __DIR__ .  '/path/to/data/di/My_MovieApp-definition.php'),
        new Definition\ArrayDefinition(include __DIR__ .  '/path/to/data/di/My_OtherClasses-definition.php'),
        $runtime = new Definition\RuntimeDefinition(),
    $di = new Di($definitionList, null, new Config($this->config->di));
    $di->instanceManager()->addTypePreference('Zend\Di\LocatorInterface', $di);

The above code would more than likely go inside your application's bootstrap or within a Module class. This represents the simplest and most performant way of configuring your DiC for usage.


The idea behind using a ClassDefinition is two-fold. First, you may want to override some information inside of a RuntimeDefinition. Secondly, you might want to simply define your complete class's definition with an xml, ini, or php file describing the structure. This class definition can be fed in via Configuration or by directly instantiating and registering the Definition with the DefinitionList.

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