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API Platform Installation!


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Yo friends! It's time to talk about... drum roll... how to bake a delicious cake that looks like an Oreo. Wait... ah! Wrong tutorial. It's time to talk about API Platform... so fun, it's almost as delicious as a cake shaped like an Oreo.

API Platform is crushing it these days. I feel like everywhere I turn, someone is raving about it! Its lead developer - Kévin Dunglas - is a core contributor of Symfony, super nice guy and is absolutely pushing the boundaries of what API's can do. We're going to see that first-hand. He was also nice enough to guide us on this tutorial!

Modern APIs are Hard. API Platform is not

If you only need to build a few API endpoints just to support some JavaScript, you might be thinking:

What's the big deal? Returning some JSON here and there is already pretty easy!

I've had this same opinion for awhile. But little-by-little, I think this is becoming less and less true. Just like how frameworks were born when web apps became more and more complex, tools like API Platform have been created because the same things is currently happening with APIs.

These days, API's are more than just returning JSON: it's about being able to serialize and deserialize your models consistently, maybe into multiple formats, like JSON or XML, but also JSON-LD or HAL JSON. Then there's hypermedia, linked data, status codes, error formats, documentation - including API spec documentation that can power Swagger. Then there's security, CORS, access control and other important features like pagination, filtering, validation, content-type negotiation, GraphQL... and... honestly, I could keep going.

This is why API Platform exists: to allow us to build killer APIs and love the process! Oh, and that big list of stuff I just mentioned that an API needs? API Platform comes with all of it. And it's not just for building a huge API. It really is the perfect tool, even if you only need a few endpoints to power your own JavaScript.

API Platform Distribution

So let's do this! API Platform is an independent PHP library that's built on top of the Symfony components. You don't need to use it from inside a Symfony app, but, as you can see here, that's how they recommend using it, which is great for us.

If you follow their docs, they have their own API Platform distribution: a custom directory structure with a bunch of stuff: one directory for your Symfony-powered API, another for your JavaScript frontend, another for an admin frontend all wired together with Docker! Woh! It can feel a bit "big" to start with, but you get all of the features out-of-the-box... even more than I just described. If that sounds awesome, you can totally use that.

But we're going to do something different: we're going to install API Platform as a bundle into a normal, traditional Symfony app. It makes learning API Platform a bit easier. Once you're confident, for your project, you can do it this same way or jump in and use the official distribution. Like I said, it's super powerful.

Project Setup

Anyways, to become the API hero that we all need, you should totally code along with me by downloading the course code from this page. After you unzip it, you'll find a start/ directory inside with the same code that you see here... which is actually just a new Symfony 4.2 skeleton project: there is nothing special installed or configured yet. Follow the file for the setup instructions.

The last step will be to open a terminal, move into the project and start the Symfony server with:

symfony serve -d

This uses the symfony executable - an awesome little dev tool that you can get at This starts a web server on port 8000 that runs in the background. Which means that we can find our browser, head to localhost:8000 and see... well, basically nothing! Just the nice welcome page you see in an empty Symfony app.

Installing API Platform

Now that we have our empty Symfony app, how can we install API Platform? Oh, it's so awesome. Find your terminal and run:

composer require api:1.2.0

That's it. You'll notice that this is installing something called api-platform/api-pack. If you remember from our Symfony series, a "pack" is sort of a "fake" library that helps install several thing at once.

Heck, you can see this at it's a single composer.json file that requires several libraries, like Doctrine, a CORS bundle that we'll talk about later, annotations, API Platform itself and a few parts of Symfony, like the validation system, security component and even twig, which is used to generate some really cool documentation that we'll see in a minute.

But, there's nothing that interesting yet: just API Platform and some standard Symfony packages.

Back in the terminal, it's done! And has some details on how to get started. A few recipes also ran that gave us some config files. Before we do anything else, go back to the browser and head to https://localhost:8000/api to see... woh! We have API documentation! Well, we don't even have any API yet... so there's nothing here. But this is going to be a huge, free feature you get with API Platform: as we build our API, this page will automatically update.

Let's see that next by creating and exposing our first API Resource.