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Command Pattern


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Ready for a new design patterns episode? Grab a cup of coffee and settle in, because we're taking a deep dive into the command pattern! We'll start with the basics - the definition and theory. Later, we'll have some fun by applying what we've learned to our game application.

Let's begin with the most obvious question: What is the command pattern? The command pattern is a behavioral pattern. If you forgot what that means, here's a refresher. Behavioral patterns help us design classes with specific responsibilities that can work together, instead of putting all of that code into one giant class.

The official definition of command pattern says that they "encapsulate a request as a stand-alone object, allowing parameterization of clients with different requests, queueing or logging requests, and support undoable operations."

Um... what? Okay, let's try that again with a less confusing definition. "The command pattern encapsulates a task into an object, decoupling what it does, how it does it, and when it gets done. It also makes undoing actions easy because it can keep a history of changes."

Still confusing? Don't worry! This will make a lot more sense when we see it in action.

Pattern Anatomy

The command pattern is composed of three main parts:

First is the "Command Interface", which has a single public method that's typically called execute().

Second is the concrete commands, which implement the Command Interface and hold the task's logic.

Finally, it has an invoker object which holds a command reference and, at some point, calls execute().

If you've read about this online, you may have noticed that I didn't mention two other parts - the receiver and the client. The receiver is the object that contains the business logic, and the client is in charge of creating command objects.

In my opinion, those elements increase the complexity of the design and aren't super necessary. They may be useful in heavy, object-oriented applications so responsibilities are better organized, but in our case, using these would over-engineer our application. So, for simplicity's sake, we're just going to ignore them.

Imaginary Example

Okay, now that we've covered the theory side of things, let's see an example. Suppose that we want to implement a remote control for a TV. Our remote has several buttons that allow us to interact with our TV, like turning the volume up or down, powering it on or off, and so on.

An easy way to do this is with a switch-case statement, where each caserepresents a button's action with all of the logic it needs to perform that action.

public function pressButton(string $button)
    switch ($button) {
        case 'turnOn':
        case 'turnOff':
        case 'mute':

That's pretty simple, but as we add more and more buttons, this is going to get complicated. It's messy, hard to maintain, and we won't really be able to reuse this code anywhere else.

There has to be a better way to do this... and there is - with the command pattern. We can group the logic of each button into its own command object. Then, in our pressButton() method, we would just call execute() on the command we want to perform.

It looks something like this:

 * @param array<string, ButtonCommandInterface> $commands
public function __construct(private array $commands)

public function pressButton(string $button)
    if (!isset($this->commands[$button])) {
        throw new NotSupportedButtonException($button);

The commands property is an array of button command objects, keyed by a string representation of the button. When calling pressButton(), we look for the passed button name in this array and call execute(). Pretty handy!

Instantiating this TV remote object (and the button commands), then using it, would look something like this:

$remote = new Remote([
    'turnOn' => new TurnOnCommand(),
    'turnOff' => new TurnOffCommand(),
    'mute' => new MuteCommand(),

$remote->pressButton('mute'); // executes MuteCommand logic

The command pattern is great, and we can already see how helpful it can be. We can add or remove buttons without touching the code in our pressButton() method, and all of the logic is encapsulated into separate classes, making our code easier to maintain and reuse. And, as a bonus, we've successfully applied the Open/Close principle. This method is now open for extension, but closed for modification.

Next: Let's see the command pattern in action and implement it in our application!