How can I autowire routes and pipelines?

Sometimes you may find you'd like to keep route definitions close to the handlers and middleware they will invoke. This is particularly important if you want to re-use a module or library in another project.

In this recipe, we'll demonstrate two mechanisms for doing so. One is a built-in delegator factory, and the other is a custom delegator factory.


Expressive ships with the class Zend\Expressive\Container\ApplicationConfigInjectionDelegator, which can be used as a delegator factory for the Zend\Expressive\Application class in order to automate piping of pipeline middleware and routing to request handlers and middleware.

The delegator factory looks for configuration that looks like the following:

return [
    'pipeline_middleware' => [
            // required:
            'middleware' => 'Middleware service or pipeline',
            // optional:
            'path'  => '/path/to/match', // for path-segregated middleware
            'priority' => 1,             // integer; to ensure specific order
    'routes' => [
            'path' => '/path/to/match',
            'middleware' => 'Middleware service or pipeline',
            'allowed_methods' => ['GET', 'POST', 'PATCH'],
            'name' => '',
            'options' => [
                'stuff' => 'to',
                'pass'  => 'to',
                'the'   => 'underlying router',
        '' => [
            'path' => '/another/path/to/match',
            'middleware' => 'Middleware service or pipeline',
            'allowed_methods' => ['GET', 'POST'],
            'options' => [
                'more'    => 'router',
                'options' => 'here',

This configuration may be placed at the application level, in a file under config/autoload/, or within a module's ConfigProvider class. For details on what values are accepted, see below.

In order to enable the delegator factory, you will need to define the following service configuration somewhere, either at the application level in a config/autoload/ file, or within a module-specific ConfigProvider class:

return [
    'dependencies' => [
        'delegators' => [
            \Zend\Expressive\Application::class => [

Pipeline middleware

Pipeline middleware are each described as an associative array, with the following keys:

  • middleware (required, string or array): the value should be a middleware service name, or an array of service names (in which case a MiddlewarePipe will be created and piped).
  • path (optional, string): if you wish to path-segregate the middleware, provide a literal path prefix that must be matched in order to dispatch the given middleware.
  • priority (optional, integer): The elements in the pipeline_middleware section are piped to the application in the order in which they are discovered — which could have ramifications if multiple components and/or modules provide pipeline middleware. If you wish to force a certain order, you may use the priority to do so. Higher value integers are piped first, lower value (including negative values), last. If two middleware use the same priority, they will be piped in the order discovered.

Routed middleware

Routed middleware are also each described as an associative array, using the following keys:

  • path (required, string): the path specification to match; this will be dependent on the router implementation you use.
  • middleware (required, string or array): the value should be a middleware service name, or an array of service names (in which case a MiddlewarePipe will be created and piped).
  • allowed_methods (optional, array or value of `Zend\Expressive\Route\HTTP_METHOD_ANY): the HTTP methods allowed for the route. If this is omitted, the assumption is any method is allowed.
  • name (optional, string): the name of the route, if any; this can be used later to generate a URI based on the route, and must be unique. The name may also be set using a string key in the routes configuration array. If both are set the name assigned in the spec will be used.
  • options (optional, array): any options to provide to the generated route. These might be default values or constraints, depending on the router implementation.

Custom delegator factories

As outlined in the introduction to this recipe, we can also create our own custom delegator factories in order to inject pipeline or routed middleware. Unlike the above solution, the solution we will outline here will exercise the Zend\Expressive\Application API in order to populate it.

First, we'll create the class App\Factory\PipelineAndRoutesDelegator, with the following contents:


namespace App\Factory;

use App\Handler;
use Psr\Container\ContainerInterface;
use Zend\Expressive\Application;
use Zend\Expressive\Handler\NotFoundHandler;
use Zend\Expressive\Helper\ServerUrlMiddleware;
use Zend\Expressive\Helper\UrlHelperMiddleware;
use Zend\Expressive\Router\Middleware\DispatchMiddleware;
use Zend\Expressive\Router\Middleware\ImplicitHeadMiddleware;
use Zend\Expressive\Router\Middleware\ImplicitOptionsMiddleware;
use Zend\Expressive\Router\Middleware\MethodNotAllowedMiddleware;
use Zend\Expressive\Router\Middleware\RouteMiddleware;
use Zend\Stratigility\Middleware\ErrorHandler;

class PipelineAndRoutesDelegator
    public function __invoke(
        ContainerInterface $container,
        string $serviceName,
        callable $callback
    ) : Application {
        /** @var $app Application */
        $app = $callback();

        // Setup pipeline:

        // Setup routes:
        $app->get('/', Handler\HomePageHandler::class, 'home');
        $app->get('/api/ping', Handler\PingHandler::class, '');

        return $app;

Where to put the factory

You will place the factory class in one of the following locations:

  • src/App/Factory/PipelineAndRoutesDelegator.php if using the default, flat, application structure.
  • src/App/src/Factory/PipelineAndRoutesDelegator.php if using the recommended, modular, application structure.

Once you've created this, edit the class App\ConfigProvider; in it, we'll update the getDependencies() method to add the delegator factory:

public function getDependencies()
    return [
        /* . . . */
        'delegators' => [
            \Zend\Expressive\Application::class => [

Where is the ConfigProvider class?

The ConfigProvider class is in one of the following locations:

  • src/App/ConfigProvider.php if using the default, flat, application structure.
  • src/App/src/ConfigProvider.php using the recommended, modular, application structure.

Why is an array assigned?

As noted above in the description of delegator factories, since each delegator factory returns an instance, you can nest multiple delegator factories in order to shape initialization of a service. As such, they are assigned as an array to the service.

If you're paying careful attention to this example, it essentially replaces both config/pipeline.php and config/routes.php! If you were to update those files to remove the default pipeline and routes, you should find that reloading your application returns the exact same results!

Caution: pipelines

Using delegator factories is a nice way to keep your routing and pipeline configuration close to the modules in which they are defined. However, there is a caveat: you likely should not register pipeline middleware in a delegator factory other than within your root application module.

The reason for this is simple: pipelines are linear, and specific to your application. If one module pipes in middleware, there's no guarantee it will be piped before or after your main pipeline, and no way to pipe the middleware at a position in the middle of the pipeline!

As such:

  • Use a config/pipeline.php file for your pipeline, OR
  • Ensure you only define the pipeline in a single delegator factory on your Application instance.

Caution: third-party, distributed modules

If you are developing a module to distribute as a package via Composer, you should not autowire any delegator factories that inject pipeline middleware or routes in the Application.


As noted in the above section, pipelines should be created exactly once, at the application level. Registering pipeline middleware within a distributable package will very likely not have the intended consequences.

If you ship with pipeline middleware, we suggest that you:

  • Document the middleware, and where you anticipate it being used in the middleware pipeline.
  • Document how to add the middleware service to dependency configuration, or provide the dependency configuration via your module's ConfigProvider.

With regards to routes, there are other considerations:

  • Routes defined by the package might conflict with the application, or with other packages used by the application.

  • Routing definitions are typically highly specific to the router implementation in use. As an example, each of the currently supported router implementations has a different syntax for placeholders:

    • /user/:id + "constraints" configuration to define constraints (zend-router)
    • /user/{id} + "tokens" configuration to define constraints (Aura.Router)
    • /user/{id:\d+} (FastRoute)
  • Your application may have specific routing considerations or design.

You could, of course, detect what router is in use, and provide routing for each known, supported router implementation within your delegator factory. We even recommend doing exactly that. However, we note that such an approach does not solve the other two points above.

However, we still recommend shipping a delegator factory that would register your routes, since routes are often a part of module design; just do not autowire that delegator factory. This way, end-users who can use the defaults do not need to cut-and-paste routing definitions from your documentation into their own applications; they will instead opt-in to your delegator factory by wiring it into their own configuration.


  • We recommend using delegator factories for the purpose of autowiring routes, and, with caveats, pipeline middleware:
    • The pipeline should be created exactly once, so calls to pipe() should occur in exactly one delegator factory.
  • Distributable packages should create a delegator factory for routes only, but should not register the delegator factory by default.

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