Container configuration

This chapter is primarily written for container providers, so that they know what configuration features must be compatible, and what compatibility ultimately means within the project.

PSR-11 defines an interface for dependency injection containers, and that interface is geared towards consumption of the container — not population of it.

Expressive consumes a PSR-11 container, but also provides configuration for a container: it defines what services it needs, and how to create them.

As such, any container consumed by Expressive must also understand its configuration format, and deliver consistent understanding of that format when providing services based on it.

This document describes the configuration format, and details expectations for implementations.

The format

Container configuration is provided within the dependencies key of configuration. That key is structured as follows:

return [
    'dependencies' => [
        'services' => [
            // name => instance pairs
            'config' => $config,
        'aliases' => [
            // alias => target pairs
            'page-handler' => SomePageHandler::class,
        'factories' => [
            // service => factory pairs
            SomePageHandler::class => SomePageHandlerFactory::class,
        'invokables' => [
            // service => instantiable class pairs
            SomeInstantiableClass::class => SomeInstantiableClass::class,
            'an-alias-for' => SomeInstantiableClass::class,
        'delegators' => [
            // service => array of delegator factory pairs
            SomeInstantiableClass::class => [


Services are actual instances you want to retrieve later from the container. These are generally provided at initial creation; the config service is populated in this way.

When retrieving a service mapped in this way, you will always receive the initial instance.


Aliases map a service alias to another service, and are provided as key/value pairs. As an example:

'aliases' => [
    'Zend\Expressive\Delegate\DefaultDelegate' => \Zend\Expressive\Handler\NotFoundHandler::class,

In this case, if the service named "Zend\Expressive\Delegate\DefaultDelegate" is requested, the container should resolve that to the service Zend\Expressive\Handler\NotFoundHandler and return that instead.

Aliases may reference any other service defined in the container. These include services defined under the keys:

  • services
  • factories
  • invokables
  • or even other aliases

When returning an aliased service, the container MUST return the same instance as if the target service were retrieved. When aliases may reference other aliases, the rule applies to the final resolved service, and not any intermediary aliases.


Factories map a service name to the factory capable of producing the instance.

A factory is any PHP callable capable of producing the instance:

  • Function names
  • Closures
  • Class instances that define the method __invoke()
  • Callable references to static methods
  • Array callables referencing static or instance methods

They may also be the class name of a directly instantiable class (no constructor arguments) that defines __invoke(). Generally, this latter convention is used, as class names are serializable, while closures, objects, and array callables often are not.

Factories are guaranteed to receive the PSR-11 container as an argument, allowing you to pull other services from the container as necessary to fulfill dependencies of the class being created and returned. Additionally, containers SHOULD pass the service name requested as the second argument; factories can determine whether that argument is necessary.

A typical factory will generally ignore the second argument:

use Psr\Container\ContainerInterface;
use Zend\Expressive\Template\TemplateRendererInterface;

class SomePageHandlerFactory
    public function __invoke(ContainerInterface $container)
        return new SomePageHandler(

You can, however, re-use a factory for multiple services by accepting the second argument and varying creation based on it:

use Psr\Container\ContainerInterface;
use Zend\Expressive\Template\TemplateRendererInterface;

class PageFactory
    public function __invoke(ContainerInterface $container, string $serviceName)
        $name = strtolower($serviceName);
        return new PageHandler(

The above could be mapped for several services:

return [
    'dependencies' => [
        'factories' => [
            'hello-world' => PageFactory::class,
            'about'       => PageFactory::class,

In general, services should be cached by the container after initial creation; factories should only be called once for any given service name.


Invokables refer to any class that may be instantiated without any constructor arguments. In other words, one should be able to create an instance solely be calling new $className().

Configuration for invokables looks verbose; it's a map of the service name to the class name to instantiate, and, generally, these are the same values.

However, you can also provide a different service name. In those situations, containers MUST treat the service name as an alias to the final class name, and allow retrieving the service by EITHER the alias OR the class name.

As an example, given the following configuration:

'dependencies' => [
    'invokables' => [
        'HelloWorld' => PageAction::class,

the container should allow retrieval of both the services "HelloWorld" as well as the "PageAction" class.

Delegator Factories

Delegator factories are factories that may be used to decorate or manipulate a service before returning it from the container. They are covered in detail in another chapter, and delegator factories have the following signature:

use Psr\Container\ContainerInterface;

function (
    ContainerInterface $container,
    string $serviceName,
    callable $callback

Configuration for delegator factories is using the "delegators" sub-key of the "dependencies" configuration. Each entry is a service name pointing to an array of delegator factories.

Delegator factories are called in the order they appear in configuration. For the first delegator factory, the $callback argument will be essentially the return value of $container->get() for the given service if there were no delegator factories attached to it; in other words, it would be the invokable or service returned by a factory, after alias resolution.

Delegators DO NOT operate on items in the services configuration! All items in the services configuration are considered complete, and will always be served as-is.

Each delegator then returns a value, and that value will be what $callback returns for the next delegator. If the delegator is the last in the list, then what it returns becomes the final value for the service in the container; subsequent calls to $container->get() for that service will return that value. Delegators MUST return a value!

For container implementors, delegators MUST only be called when initially creating the service, and not each time a service is retrieved.

Common use cases for delegators include:

  • Decorating an instance so that it may be used in another context (e.g., decorating a PHP callable to be used as PSR-15 middleware).
  • Injecting collaborators (e.g., adding listeners to the ErrorHandler).
  • Conditionally replacing an instance based on configuration (e.g., swapping debug-enabled middleware for production middleware).

Other capabilities

Selection of a dependency injection container should be based on capabilities that implementation provides. This may be performance, or it may be additional features beyond those specified here. We encourage application developers to make full use of the container they select. The only caveat is that the above features MUST be supported by implementations for compatibility purposes, and the above are the only features package providers may count on when providing container configuration.

Examples of how the above capabilities may be implemented include:

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