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Installing phpspec

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Yo friends! Oh, SO glad you've made it for our phpspec tutorial! You will not regret it. Thing number one to know about phpspec is: it's... just... fun!

Ok, but what is phpspec? It's a unit testing tool... exactly like phpunit. Wait... that's not totally right. If you watched our PHPUnit tutorial, then you know that PHPUnit is a perfectly fine tool for unit testing your code. So... why are we even talking about phpspec?

Here's the truth: yes, phpspec is a tool for unit testing your code. But, that's not its main job. Nope, it's a tool for helping you design your code in a well-organized, meaningful and maintainable way. You probably already think about the design and user experience of your front-end. But, have you ever thought about the design and experience of your PHP classes?

That's phpspec's job. And yes, as a nice by-product, you will get unit tests. And as a nicer by-product, you will also enjoy the process - coding with phpspec is fun. Oh, and later - we'll talk about how phpspec & PHPUnit fit together - like should we use both in the same app? Short answer: yes!

Starting Point: Empty Project!

Ok, let's go! Just like in our PHPUnit tutorial, we're going to design & build a dinosaur park - complete with T-Rex, stegosaurus, enclosures for our dinosaurs and, with any lucky, some security systems that - thanks to our tests - won't fail as soon as a storm rolls in or a developer leaves early for lunch.

To make sure our dinosaurs don't once again rule the Earth, you should totally code along with me. Download the course code from this page. When you unzip it, you'll find a start/ directory with the same code that you see here. But... well... what we have here is... nothing! Just an empty project with a composer.json file that also... has nothing important inside. This tutorial directory does have a few files that we'll use later - so make sure you have it.

We're starting with an empty project because phpspec is truly a framework-agnostic library. But don't worry - if you're a Symfony user, we'll build a structure that will be very familiar to you - with the same directories and namespaces as a Symfony app.

Installing phpspec

To get phpspec installed, open a terminal, move into the project, close Facebook, and run:

composer require phpspec/phpspec --dev

And.... ding! Just like with PHPUnit, installing phpspec means that you get a new, shiny executable! Run:


The phpspec executable really only has two commands: describe and run. And we'll talk about both of them very soon.

Configuration autoload in composer.json

But first, we need just a little bit of configuration to get things working. The first piece of configuration... has nothing to do with phpspec at all! Our app has no PHP classes yet. But when we add some, I want to put them in the src/ directory and prefix each namespace with App. That will be exactly like a Symfony project.

Open composer.json. To make sure Composer's autoloader knows where our classes live, we need to add some config here. This is code that you normally get automatically when you start, for example, a new Symfony project. But I want to show how it's done by hand so that we can truly understand what's going on behind the scenes.

Add autoload, then psr-4, then say that classes starting with App\\ will live in the src/ directory.

13 lines | composer.json
// ... lines 2 - 6
"autoload": {
"psr-4": {
"App\\": "src/"

To make Composer notice this change, find your terminal and run:

composer dump-autoload

Autoloading... done!

Configuring phpspec

Next, one of my favorite things about phpspec is that it generates code for you! But to do that, it also needs to know that our classes will live in the src/ directory and that each namespace will start with App. Unfortunately, phpspec can't automatically get all this info from composer.json, but it's no problem.

Create a phpspec.yml file at the root of the project - phpspec automatically knows to look for this. Inside add suites then default. Like most testing tools, you can organize your tests into multiple groups, or "suites" if you want. In this tutorial, we'll stick to using the one, "default" suite.

5 lines | phpspec.yml
// ... lines 3 - 5

Under this, add namespace: App - because all of our classes will start with the App namespace - and psr4_prefix: App. Those two lines are enough to help phpspec know where to generate our files.

5 lines | phpspec.yml
// ... lines 1 - 2
namespace: App
psr4_prefix: App

And... team, we're ready to go! Next, let's create our first specification... ooOOOOooo. That's the file where we will describe how a single class should behave by writing examples. Woh.