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The updates that CakePHP 3 brings to the table – why we love it and so should you!


With a year under its belt and 34 releases, we are still in love with CakePHP 3; and some of you are already on board and loving it. With an average of nearly 3 releases a month, you can easily tell that the team is working against a rapid release cycle where they are tirelessly working at adding and improving features. - but do you know the philosophy behind it?

Looking at all of the improvements and benefits that this updated framework brings, you can clearly see that the biggest turning point for the core team was the increased functionality with clear foresight and thinking brought to the table. A plan was had right from the start, to be a framework well documented, one that was simple (as the Core Team live by – less lines the better!). Another big input from the team, was the ability to integrate and make newer versions of PHP compatible with the framework, never before has the movement in the code base been so fast paced. And as the team comments, this is brought to the fore by the rotating code between open source teams – truly, we live in a space where without each other’s contributions to the code base there would be no movement and action.

That is why we are in love with CakePHP 3, because the team have put forward a framework that integrates, pulls in outside assistance, accepts community help and specifically puts itself out there for the community’s input.

Some quick backgrounds to the updated framework. The first commit to CakePHP 3 was done on May 24 2012, by Juan Basso. A long time coming, but as the common phrase goes, good things come with time. – that and the fact that the core team and lead developers were working in their spare time, after work, late nights, to bring this forward.

We thought that we would reflect, and bring to you the top changes/improvements/benefits/total awesomeness of this framework!

  • All of the core feature development was done as pull requests. This was done intentionally, to encourage people to get involved and the main core team is distributed across the world. The community is vital to the framework, and without them, we wouldn’t be here!

  • To give you an idea of what this has meant. It ended up with over 6000 commits before launch! – from over 20 contributors.

  • CakePHP 3 documentation had over 1500 commits – from 51 contributors! – the document writing was so important to the team, every time there was a feature or a break in backwards compatibility, it was documented.

  • More big news for CakePHP 3 is that it targets PHP 5.5 and newer. It is designed with composer support (Although you don’t need to use composer). It has also required a couple of additional extensions (the mb_string and the intl extension) – this was for 2 reasons, we were handling multi-byte internally, if you didn’t have the mb_string extension, we would fall back to pure PHP code; and for internationalization - there are really powerful tools built into the language that CakePHP 2 wasn’t capitalizing on and the team wanted to leverage those tools – to give the CakePHP community better tools.

  • Now the entire CakePHP code is Unicode aware, and additionally through the intl extension, everything is localized. All of the core classes localize depending on your locale (so if you switch your locale to Germany..) – everything will work, your numbering, date formatting, language formatting (provided you have the translation file) etc.

Over above these changes (and associated benefits), a few other things came out of the cracks..

Such as, through the use of composer, you have to have separate repos for separate things - so the team created a new app skeleton, basically this is the app directory of the old framework but in a separate repo. – What this allows you to do is mold or easily customize and fork it when you want to pull in changes. You don’t have to worry about merge conflicts with the app directory or similar types of issues.

It also gives us the ability to release them independently in the future, so for instance, the app can be upgraded and add or remove dependencies while having no need to modify the framework.

Many of us have had that experience and confusion of configuring classes; you don’t know if it’s a property or method, or even what the method name is.

Well getting more into the detailed features, we all know that there were a lot of different method names for configuring things, some classes used properties, others used methods of various names.

For CakePHP 3 however, it was decided that this is a little silly, so all of the static/instance/runtime classes use one method called config (YAY!). More can be found at

The ORM has also been replaced, we have moved on with the model layer, and CakePHP has advanced quite a bit over the past years. Now you have Tables and Entity objects (no more arrays!), and a powerful Query class to build your queries using a fluent interface. You'll be amazed how easy is to create deep filters, custom finders (and stacking!), subqueries. Validation was also refactored, improving flexibility and customization.

The router was also noted as being a performance bottleneck for a lot of applications in the past, and it was also, somewhat, verbose when you were connecting a lot of routes.

So with CakePHP 3, the old way of connecting routes is still there, but a new scope system has been added. This allows you to declare routes in a much clearer way – so if you have a common prefix, you can put this in the scope, and don’t have to re-declare this in each route. Less typing necessary, but more importantly it allows you to partition your routes so that you can create a much faster parse tree.

A lot of work has also been done on fixing reverse routing, previously it was based on a linear search but now, the key parts of the route are taken (the action or controller name) and generate a list of what that route may be and then search a much smaller subset of routes.

Another change is the helper layer. Previously HTML formatted through arrays, and that had both good and bad points.

The team got rid of the sprintf and replaced it with a very simple templating system, that has no conditions. This lets you define templates file, and you consistently use those templates throughout. This also yields a bit of a performance gain and it doesn’t use number replacements, it uses named replacements.

The way the event subsystems were handled is another change that CakePHP 3 brings to the table, allowing a much more consistent approach to handling events. The new changes have also led to another performance enhancement!

The framework has also gotten some outside help - in the past CakePHP has been criticized for being insular and not making use of the existing ecosystem. This has since changed and one of the reasons was the team wanted to make the install really easy. Because composer is now being use, you can include dependencies and when you create your application or install your applications dependencies, CakePHP 3’s can be installed at the same time.

CakePHP 3 has used:

Chronos (A fork of Carbon) has been used for date time improvements, (but now its part of CakePHP itself and maintained by the core)

Aura/Intl – improved i18n and L10n features

A great wrap up to these things is the fact that the team has hugely increased functionality and features, while keeping performance constant (in most cases, actually increasing it!!). There are so many reasons that you should start and continue using CakePHP 3 but more importantly, there are so many reasons for being a part of this insanely great, collaborative community.

Latest articles

Upgrading to CakePHP 4

As you know, CakePHP announced the version 4.x last December.I recommend that you consider upgrading your applications to the next version, to keep up to date and get all the benefits. Now, let's see how to bake!  

Step 1: Upgrade PHP

First things first, if you are not running on PHP 7.2 or higher, you will need to upgrade PHP before updating CakePHP. CakePHP 4.0 requires a minimum of PHP 7.2.  

Step 2: Upgrade Templates and Resources

There is an upgrade CLI tool for rename and moving the templates and resources:   Templates and Resources must have been moved and renamed, check the result below: * This project doesn't have Resources files   Now, let's create a new constant for Resources on /config/paths.php: Finally, update the paths on config/app.php:  

Step 3: Upgrade CakePHP

The next step is optional (and the Migration Guide included this) - run the rector command to automatically fix many deprecated method calls: The rector applied on codebase some return type declarations: Pay attention: It is important to apply rector before you upgrade your dependencies.   Upgrade CakePHP and PHPUnit: PHPUnit can be upgraded easily. Most of the time, the --update-with-dependencies doesn’t work with me for CakePHP: The root of the issue is the packages using Caret Version Range, so let’s update debug_kit, migrations and bake using editor:   Here we go:   Now, let see how the project looks: Here, we have few deprecations and warnings. Do you remember I mentioned the rector is optional? So, the question is the rector and it's not always able to handle these issues.   I will use the PHPStan to fix this - we will install with composer: Now, we can run the phpstan analyse and fix the issues:   It's up to you how much effort you will put in with PHPStan issues. I recommend fixing everything. For this post, I did fix only what was needed to run the project after the update, you can check the fixes on this commit.   After the last fixes, the project is running well:  That’s all? No. But we upgraded CakePHP? Yes. Real applications probably use many plugins, and if these plugins don't have a version for CakePHP 4, you will need to update. Depending on the size and level of complexity of the project, the upgrade could be hard, but never impossible.    If you do not feel confident or your company would like to outsource support for this, don't hesitate to contact us at Cake Development Corporation. Our team is offering a full upgrade from CakePHP 2/3 to CakePHP 4. This will be a migration of your current application code to make it compatible with CakePHP 4 features, plugins, security settings, etc. We will be doing these migration services for a special rate - something we have never done before! Learn more about our Upgrade Services You can check the codebase of the examples on this repository. The branch upgrade has all steps by commit.  With every release CakePHP gets better, and version 4.x is no exception. There are many benefits that come with upgrading, and it makes baking a lot easier.

Using Postgres as default database- hints, tricks and tips

SQL language for different databases has some differences, which could cause problems after migrations between these databases. Here, we collected some hints, problems could appear during migration from MySQL to PostgreSQL. We focus on the CakePHP model layer and query generation layer.  

Tables join in where expression

Often we want to join two tables using a condition like $query->where([‘ = Article.author_id’]) which works fine till we dont need field alias quotes. In the case of migration to postgres, we might want to enable autoQuotes. In this case, we can use $query->newExpr()->equalFields(‘Author.idArticle.author_id’).   

Case sensitivity in like expressions

By default mysql does case insensitive search. Switching to postgres, you can note that some functionality works differently. Hopefully you have tests, which covers your code, and this will be detected during migration. Postgres uses custom syntax for such queries named ILIKE.The case of old style conditions where method arrays straight forward,  you’d just go with ILIKE instead of LIKE. But what if we want to use ILIKE in builder methods... Here is that example:     return $query->where(         function (QueryExpression $exp) use ($field, $value): QueryExpression {             return $exp->add(new \Cake\Database\Expression\Comparison($field, $value, 'string', 'ILIKE'));         });   

Type casing

As postgres is much more strict with types, type casing is not a rare operation and may be needed. Here is an example of how to perform it using FunctionExpression$expr = (new FunctionExpression('CAST'))->setConjunction(' AS ')->add([$id, 'varchar' => 'literal']); which generates expression like :id AS varchar there :id is the placeholder for variable $id. This trick, used with literal, allows you to cast to any postgres type.  

 Quotes of tables and fields

Sometimes it is critical to inform CakePHP that the field should be quoted. One recommendation is to avoid using plain strings in case of table joins, or using IS NULL as string. So if array syntax is used, all CakePHP conventions must be followed. However,  sometimes we should help the ORM and obviously wrap a field name with IdentifiedExpression. Let's take a look back to the previous example, but now we want to type cast not value, but a field. The only solution to quote field name correctly is using this code:     $id = new IdentifierExpression($this->aliasField($field));     $expr = (new FunctionExpression('CAST'))->setConjunction(' AS ')->add([$id, 'varchar' => 'literal']);   

Building complex arithmetic expressions

In case we want to generate expressions in query fields, and we don’t want to overcomplicate logic, we could use these next tricks. Here, I have created ListExpression, which could be used as a collection of expressions. Each of these are corrected, and generates a query with correct handling of each element. See: So, say we want to generate expressions like this: “Events”.”time_to” - “Events”.”time_from”... With ListExpression, it can be done quite easy:  $diff = new ListExpression([new IdentifierExpression('Events.time_to'), '-', new IdentifierExpression('Events.time_from')]);   Hopefully these tricks will be as useful for your baking as they have been for mine! 

CakePHP Common Errors: Saving HasMany relations

The Cake Development Corporation team performs many code reviews. In fact, that is our starting point with every new client, as we offer free quick reviews. This is a good way to see where code stands, and how much work will need to be done to get it functioning properly.  One of the common errors we have found while doing Code Reviews of existing applications or just working with inherited code, it’s the way HasMany relations data is saved.  We have noticed that to save HasMany relations, some developers save the target relation, and then when the ID is retrieved after saving, they save one per one each item of the ‘many’ relation. There is no need to do this, as CakePHP can do all this in one single ‘save’! You won’t have any issue related to inconsistent data, because everything will be stored in one single transaction and your code will look much more clean. Let’s see a quick and easy to follow example - We will have the following relations: ‘Users’ and one User could have many ‘Addresses’.  We wish to save one user and this user will have two addresses.  First, you need to build the form in the proper way, the request data should follow the structure of your entities. The key in the form is the fieldName for the hasMany inputs. They must follow this format: {entityname}.{position}.{property}, for example: adddress.0.street_1, adddress.0.street_2, etc for the first item so store, for the second one: : adddress.1.street_1, adddress.1.street_2, and so on. More examples can be found here:
<?= $this->Form->create($user) ?> <fieldset>    <legend><?= __('Add User') ?></legend>    <?php        echo $this->Form->control('first_name');        echo $this->Form->control('last_name');        echo $this->Form->control('phone');    ?>    <legend><?= __('Address 1') ?></legend>    <?php    echo $this->Form->control('addresses.0.street_1');    echo $this->Form->control('addresses.0.street_2');    echo $this->Form->control('');    echo $this->Form->control('');    echo $this->Form->control('addresses.0.state');    ?>    <legend><?= __('Address 2') ?></legend>    <?php    echo $this->Form->control('addresses.1.street_1');    echo $this->Form->control('addresses.1.street_2');    echo $this->Form->control('');    echo $this->Form->control('');    echo $this->Form->control('addresses.1.state');    ?> </fieldset> <?= $this->Form->button(__('Submit')) ?> <?= $this->Form->end() ?>
Now that we have the form, we need to convert the request data. The Table class provides an easy and efficient way to convert one or many entities from request data. It’s needed to define which associations should be marshalled, using associated
public function add() {    $user = $this->Users->newEmptyEntity();    if ($this->request->is('post')) {        $user = $this->Users->patchEntity($user, $this->request->getData(), ['associated' => ['Addresses']]);        if ($this->Users->save($user)) {            $this->Flash->success(__('The user has been saved.'));              return $this->redirect(['action' => 'index']);        }        $this->Flash->error(__('The user could not be saved. Please, try again.'));    }    $this->set(compact('user')); } In this example we are saving one user and two addresses for the given user.  Associated data is validated by default, If you wish to bypass data validation, pass the validate => false option, for example: $this->Users->patchEntity($user, $this->request->getData(), ['associated' => ['Addresses' => [‘validate’ => false]]]).    We are all about working smarter and in less time, so I hope this information will be useful! Take a look here for more information:  We will be posting more Common Errors while using CakePHP.  Keep checking back!

We Bake with CakePHP