zend-mvc is the MVC layer shipped with Zend Framework 2 and above, and focuses on performance and flexibility.

The MVC layer is built on top of the following components:

  • zend-servicemanager - zend-mvc provides a set of default service definitions, used to create and configure the application instance and workflow.
  • zend-eventmanager - The MVC is event driven, and uses events for the initial bootstrapping of the application, for returning response and request calls, for matching routes, and even for rendering views.
  • zend-http - specifically the request and response objects from the Zend\Http\PhpEnvironment namespace, which provide objects that ensure the request is injected with the current environment (including query parameters, POST parameters, HTTP headers, etc.), and that the response will interact correctly with the SAPI and output buffering.
  • zend-stdlib - specifically Zend\Stdlib\DispatchableInterface. All "controllers" are simply dispatchable objects.
  • zend-router - provides routing of a request. In other words, it matches the request to its respective controller (or dispatchable).

Within the MVC layer, several sub-components are exposed:

  • Zend\Mvc\Controller, a set of abstract "controller" classes with basic responsibilities such as event wiring, action dispatching, etc., as well as controller plugins.
  • Zend\Mvc\Service provides a set of zend-servicemanager factories and definitions for the default application workflow.
  • Zend\Mvc\View provides default wiring for renderer selection, view script resolution, helper registration, and more; additionally, it provides a number of listeners that tie into the MVC workflow, providing features such as automated template name resolution, automated view model creation and injection, etc.

The gateway to the MVC is the Zend\Mvc\Application object (referred to as Application henceforth). Its primary responsibilities are to bootstrap resources, to route the request, and to retrieve and dispatch the controller matched during routing. Once accomplished, it will render the view, and finish the request, returning and sending the response.

Basic Application Structure

The basic application structure follows:

            // etc.

The public/index.php script marshals all user requests to your website, retrieving an array of configuration from config/application.config.php. On return, it run()s the Application, processing the request and returning a response to the user.

The config directory as described above contains configuration used by zend-modulemanager to load modules and merge configuration (e.g., database configuration and credentials); we will detail this more later.

The vendor sub-directory should contain any third-party modules or libraries on which your application depends. This might include Zend Framework, custom libraries from your organization, or other third-party libraries from other projects. Libraries and modules placed in the vendor sub-directory should not be modified from their original, distributed state. Typically, this directory will be managed by Composer.

Finally, the module directory will contain one or more modules delivering your application's functionality.

Let's now turn to modules, as they are the basic units of a web application.

Basic Module Structure

A module may contain anything: PHP code, including MVC functionality; library code; view scripts; and/or or public assets such as images, CSS, and JavaScript. The only requirement — and even this is optional — is that a module acts as a PHP namespace and that it contains a Module class under that namespace. This class is eventually consumed by zend-modulemanager to perform a number of tasks.

The recommended module structure follows:

            <code files>
            <test code files>
                <.phtml files>

Since a module acts as a namespace, the module root directory should be that namespace. This namespace could also include a vendor prefix of sorts. As an example a module centered around "User" functionality delivered by Zend might be named "ZendUser", and this is also what the module root directory will be named.

Source and test code organization

The above details a PSR-0 structure for the source and test code directories. You can also use PSR-4 so long as you have setup autoloading correctly to do so.

The Module.php file directly under the module root directory will be in the module namespace shown below.

namespace ZendUser;

class Module

Module class location

If you have an autoloader defined, such as detailed later around the various autoload_*.php files or using Composer's autoloading features, then your Module.php file can be co-located with your source code.

Our current recommendation is to define autoloading for your application-specific modules via Composer.

When an init() method is defined, this method will be triggered by a zend-modulemanager listener when it loads the module class, and passed a ModuleManager instance by default. This allows you to perform tasks such as setting up module-specific event listeners. But be cautious, the init() method is called for every module on every page request and should only be used for performing lightweight tasks such as registering event listeners. Similarly, an onBootstrap() method (which accepts an MvcEvent instance) may be defined; it is also triggered for every page request, and should be used for lightweight tasks as well.

The three autoload_*.php files are not required, but recommended if you are not using Composer to provide autoloading for your module. They provide the following:

File Description
autoload_classmap.php Should return an array classmap of class name/filename pairs (with the filenames resolved via the __DIR__ magic constant).
autoload_function.php Should return a PHP callback that can be passed to spl_autoload_register(). Typically, this callback should utilize the map returned by autoload_classmap.php.
autoload_register.php should register a PHP callback (is typically returned by autoload_function.php with spl_autoload_register().

The point of these three files is to provide reasonable default mechanisms for autoloading the classes contained in the module, thus providing a trivial way to consume the module without requiring zend-modulemanager (e.g., for use outside a ZF2 application).

The config directory should contain any module-specific configuration. These files may be in any format zend-config supports. We recommend naming the main configuration module.config.<format> (e.g., for PHP-based configuration, module.config.php). Typically, you will create configuration for the router as well as for the service manager.

The src directory should be a PSR-0 or PSR-4 compliant directory structure with your module's source code.

The test directory should contain your unit tests. Typically, these are written using PHPUnit.

The public directory can be used for assets that you may want to expose in your application's document root. These might include images, CSS files, JavaScript files, etc. How these are exposed is left to the developer.

The view directory contains view scripts related to your controllers.

Bootstrapping an Application

The Application has seven basic dependencies.

  • configuration, usually an array or object implementing Traversable.
  • ServiceManager instance.
  • EventManager instance, which, by default, is pulled from the ServiceManager, by the service name "EventManager".
  • SharedEventManager instance, which, by default, is pulled from the ServiceManager, by the service name "SharedEventManager"; this is injected into the EventManager instance, and then pushed into every new EventManager instance created.
  • ModuleManager instance, which, by default, is pulled from the ServiceManager, by the service name "ModuleManager".
  • Request instance, which, by default, is pulled from the ServiceManager, by the service name "Request".
  • Response instance, which, by default, is pulled from the ServiceManager, by the service name "Response".

These may be satisfied at instantiation:

use Zend\EventManager\EventManager;
use Zend\EventManager\SharedEventManager;
use Zend\Http\PhpEnvironment;
use Zend\ModuleManager\ModuleManager;
use Zend\Mvc\Application;
use Zend\ServiceManager\ServiceManager;

$config = include 'config/application.config.php';

$serviceManager = new ServiceManager();
$serviceManager->setService('SharedEventManager', new SharedEventManager());
$serviceManager->setService('ModuleManager', new ModuleManager($config));
$serviceManager->setService('Request', new PhpEnvironment\Request());
$serviceManager->setService('Response', new PhpEnvironment\Response());
$serviceManager->setFactory('EventManager', function ($serviceManager) {
    return new EventManager($serviceManager->get('SharedEventManager'));
$serviceManager->setShared('EventManager', false);

$application = new Application($config, $serviceManager);

Once you've done this, there are two additional actions you can take. The first is to "bootstrap" the application. In the default implementation, this does the following:

  • Attaches the default route listener (Zend\Mvc\RouteListener).
  • Attaches the middleware dispatch listener (Zend\Mvc\MiddlewareListener) (v2.7.0 and up).
  • Attaches the default dispatch listener (Zend\Mvc\DispatchListener).
  • Attaches the ViewManager listener (Zend\Mvc\View\ViewManager).
  • Creates the MvcEvent, and injects it with the application, request, and response; it also retrieves the router (Zend\Router\Http\TreeRouteStack) at this time and attaches it to the event.
  • Triggers the "bootstrap" event.

If you do not want these actions, or want to provide alternatives, you can do so by extending the Application class and/or manually coding what actions you want to occur.

The second action you can take with the configured Application is to run() it. Calling this method performs the following:

  • it triggers the "route" event,
  • followed by the "dispatch" event, and, depending on execution,
  • the "render" event

When done, it triggers the "finish" event, and then returns the response instance. If an error occurs during either the "route" or "dispatch" event, a "dispatch.error" event is triggered as well.

This is a lot to remember in order to bootstrap the application; in fact, we haven't covered all the services available by default yet. You can greatly simplify things by using the default ServiceManager configuration shipped with the MVC.

use Zend\Loader\AutoloaderFactory;
use Zend\Mvc\Service\ServiceManagerConfig;
use Zend\ServiceManager\ServiceManager;

// setup autoloader

// get application stack configuration
$configuration = include 'config/application.config.php';

// setup service manager
$serviceManager = new ServiceManager(new ServiceManagerConfig());
$serviceManager->setService('ApplicationConfig', $configuration);

// load modules -- which will provide services, configuration, and more

// bootstrap and run application
$application = $serviceManager->get('Application');

You can make this even simpler by using the init() method of the Application. This is a static method for quick and easy initialization of the Application instance.

use Zend\Loader\AutoloaderFactory;
use Zend\Mvc\Application;
use Zend\Mvc\Service\ServiceManagerConfig;
use Zend\ServiceManager\ServiceManager;

// setup autoloader

// get application stack configuration
$configuration = include 'config/application.config.php';

// The init() method does something very similar with the previous example.

The init() does the following:

  • Grabs the application configuration and pulls from the service_manager key, creating a ServiceManager instance with it and with the default services shipped with zend-mvc;
  • Creates a service named ApplicationConfig with the application configuration array;
  • Grabs the ModuleManager service and loads the modules;
  • bootstrap()s the Application and returns its instance.

ApplicationConfig service

If you use the init() method, you cannot specify a service with the name of 'ApplicationConfig' in your service manager config. This name is reserved to hold the array from application.config.php. The following services can only be overridden from application.config.php:

  • ModuleManager
  • SharedEventManager
  • EventManager and Zend\EventManager\EventManagerInterface

All other services are configured after module loading, thus can be overridden by modules.

You'll note that you have a great amount of control over the workflow. Using the ServiceManager, you have fine-grained control over what services are available, how they are instantiated, and what dependencies are injected into them. Using the EventManager's priority system, you can intercept any of the application events ("bootstrap", "route", "dispatch", "dispatch.error", "render", and "finish") anywhere during execution, allowing you to craft your own application workflows as needed.

Bootstrapping a Modular Application

While the previous approach largely works, where does the configuration come from? When we create a modular application, the assumption will be that it's from the modules themselves. How do we get that information and aggregate it, then?

The answer is via zend-modulemanager. This component allows you to specify what modules the application will use; it then locates each module and initializes it. Module classes can tie into various listeners in order to provide configuration, services, listeners, and more to the application. Sounds complicated? It's not.

Configuring the Module Manager

The first step is configuring the module manager. Inform the module manager which modules to load, and potentially provide configuration for the module listeners.

Remember the application.config.php from earlier? We're going to provide some configuration.

// config/application.config.php
return array(
    'modules' => array(
        /* ... */
    'module_listener_options' => array(
        'module_paths' => array(

As we add modules to the system, we'll add items to the modules array.

Each Module class that has configuration it wants the Application to know about should define a getConfig() method. That method should return an array or Traversable object such as a Zend\Config\Config instance. As an example:

namespace ZendUser;

class Module
    public function getConfig()
        return include __DIR__ . '/config/module.config.php'

There are a number of other methods you can define for tasks ranging from providing autoloader configuration, to providing services to the ServiceManager, to listening to the bootstrap event. The ModuleManager documentation goes into more detail on these.


zend-mvc is incredibly flexible, offering an opt-in, easy to create modular infrastructure, as well as the ability to craft your own application workflows via the ServiceManager and EventManager. The ModuleManager is a lightweight and simple approach to enforcing a modular architecture that encourages clean separation of concerns and code re-use.

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