Modular applications

Zend Framework 2+ applications have a concept of modules, independent units that can provide configuration, services, and hooks into its MVC lifecycle. This functionality is provided by zend-modulemanager.

Expressive provides similar functionality by incorporating two packages within the default skeleton application:

  • zendframework/zend-config-aggregator, which provides features for aggregating configuration from a variety of sources, including:
    • PHP files globbed from the filesystem that return an array of configuration.
    • zend-config-compatible configuration files globbed from the filesystem.
    • Configuration provider classes; these are invokable classes which return an array of configuration.
  • zendframework/zend-component-installer, a Composer plugin that looks for an extra.zf.config-provider entry in a package to install, and, if found, adds an entry for that provider to the config/config.php file (if it uses zend-config-aggregator).

These features allow you to install packages via composer and expose their configuration — which may include dependency information — to your application.

Making your application modular

When using the Expressive installer via the skeleton application, the first question asked is the installation type, which includes the options:

  • Minimal (no default middleware, templates, or assets; configuration only)
  • Flat (flat source code structure; default selection)
  • Modular (modular source code structure; recommended)

We recommend choosing the "Modular" option from the outset.

If you do not, you can still create and use modules in your application; however, the initial "App" module will not be modular.

Module structure

Expressive does not force you to use any particular structure for your module; its only requirement is to expose default configuration using a "config provider", which is simply an invokable class that returns a configuration array.

We generally recommend that a module have a PSR-4 structure, and that the module contain a src/ directory at the minimum, along with directories for other module-specific content, such as templates, tests, and assets:


If you use the above structure, you would then add an entry in your composer.json file to provide autoloading:

"autoload": {
    "psr-4": {
        "Acme\\": "src/Acme/src/"

Don't forget to execute composer dump-autoload after making the change!

Creating and enabling a module

The only requirement for creating a module is that you define a "config provider", which is simply an invokable class that returns a configuration array.

Generally, a config provider will return dependency information, and module-specific configuration:

namespace Acme;

class ConfigProvider
    public function __invoke()
        return [
            'dependencies' => $this->getDependencies(),
            'acme' => [
                'some-setting' => 'default value',
            'templates' => [
                'paths' => [
                    'acme' => [__DIR__ . '/../templates'],

    public function getDependencies()
        return [
            'invokables' => [
                Helper\AuthorizationHelper::class => Helper\AuthorizationHelper::class,
            'factories' => [
                Middleware\VerifyUser::class => Container\VerifyUserFactory::class,

You would then add the config provider to the top (or towards the top) of your config/config.php:

$aggregator = new ConfigAggregator([
    /* ... */

This approach allows your config/autoload/* files to take precedence over the module configuration, allowing you to override the values.

Caching configuration

In order to provide configuration caching, two things must occur:

  • First, you must define a config_cache_enabled key in your configuration somewhere.
  • Second, you must pass a second argument to the ConfigManager, the location of the cache file to use.

The config_cache_enabled key can be defined in any of your configuration providers, including the autoloaded configuration files. We recommend defining them in two locations:

  • config/autoload/global.php should define the value to true, as the production setting.
  • config/autoload/local.php should also define the setting, and use a value appropriate to the current environment. In development, for instance, this would be false.
// config/autoload/global.php

return [
    'config_cache_enabled' => true,
    /* ... */

// config/autoload/local.php

return [
    'config_cache_enabled' => false, // <- development!
    /* ... */

You would then alter your config/config.php file to add the second argument. The following example builds on the previous, and demonstrates having the AppConfig entry enabled. The configuration will be cached to data/config-cache.php in the application root:

$configManager = new ConfigManager([
    new PhpFileProvider('config/autoload/{{,*.}global,{,*.}local}.php'),
], 'data/config-cache.php');

When the configuration cache path is present, if the config_cache_enabled flag is enabled, then configuration will be read from the cached configuration, instead of parsing and merging the various configuration sources.

Tooling support

The skeleton ships with zend-expressive-tooling by default, which allows you to execute the following command in order to create a module skeleton, add and enable autoloading rules for it, and register it with your application:

$ composer expressive module:create {ModuleName}

We recommend using this tool when creating new modules.

Final notes

This approach may look simple, but it is flexible and powerful:

  • You pass a list of config providers to the ConfigAggregator constructor.
  • Configuration is merged in the same order as it is passed, with later entries having precedence.
  • You can override module configuration using *.global.php and *.local.php files.
  • If cached config is found, ConfigAggregator does not iterate over provider list.

For more details, please refer to the zend-config-aggregator documentation.

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