Services: The Backbone of Everything


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Let's talk about services. These are the most important concept in Symfony. And once you understand them, honestly, you'll be able to do anything.

What is a Service?

First, a service is an object that does work. That's it. For example, if you instantiated a Logger object that has a log() method, that's a service! It does work: it logs things! Or if you created a database connection object that makes queries to the database then... yup! That's a service too.

So then... if a service is just an object that does work... what lazy objects aren't services? Our Starship class is a perfect example of a non service. It's main job is not to do work: it's to hold data. Sure, it has a few public methods... and you could even put some logic inside of these methods to do something. But ultimately, it's not a worker, it's a data holder.

What about controller classes? Yeah, they're services too. Their work is to create response objects.

Anyway, every bit of work that's done in Symfony is actually done by a service. Writing log messages to this file? Yeah, there's a service for that. Figuring out which route matches the current URL? That's the router service! What about rendering a twig template? Yep, it turns out that the render() method is a shortcut to find the correct service object and call a method on it.

The Container & debug:container

You may sometimes also hear that these services are organized into a big object called the "service container". You can think of the container like a giant associative array of service objects, each with a unique id. Want to see a list of every service in our app right now? Me too!

Find your terminal and run:

bin/console debug:container

That's a lot of services! Let me make this smaller so each fits on its own line... better.

On the left side, we see the ID of each service. And on the right, the class of the object that the ID corresponds to. Cool, right?

Go back to our controller and hold control or command to open up the json() method again. Now this makes more sense! It's checking to see if the container has a service whose ID is serializer. If it does, it grabs that service from the container and calls the serialize() method on it.

When we work with services, it won't look exactly like this. But the super important thing is that we now understand what's going on.

Bundles Provide Services

My next question is: where do these services come from? Like, who says there's a service whose ID is twig... and that when we ask the container for it, it should return a twig Environment object? The answer is: entirely from bundles. In fact, that's the main point of installing a new bundle. Bundles give us services.

Remember when we installed twig? It added a bundle to our app. And guess what that bundle did? Yup: it gave us new services, including the twig service. Bundles give us services... and services are tools.


And though there are many services in this list, the vast majority of these are low-level service objects that we won't ever use or care about. We also won't care about the ID of the services most of the time.

Instead, run a related command called:

php bin/console debug:autowiring

This shows us all the services that are autowireable, which is the technique that we'll use to fetch services. It's basically a curated list of the services that we're most likely to need.

Autowiring the Logger Service

So let's do a challenge: let's log something from our controller. Here's a sneak peek into how I approach this problem in my brain:

Ok, I need to log something! And... logging is work. And... services do work! Thus, there must be a logger service that I can use! Quod erat demonstrandum!

Forgive me latin nerds. The point is: if we want to log something, we just need to find the service that does that work. Okay! Rerun the command but search for log:

php bin/console debug:autowiring log

Boom! It found about 10 services, all starting with Psr\Log\LoggerInterface. We're going to talk about what these other services are in the next tutorial. For now, focus on the main one. This tells me is that there is a service in the container for a logger. And to get it, we can autowire it using this interface.

What does that mean? In the controller method where we want the logger, add an argument type-hinted with LoggerInterface - hit tab - then say $logger.

In this case, the name of the argument isn't important: it could be anything. What matters is that the LoggerInterface - that corresponds to this use statement - matches the Psr\Log\LoggerInterface from debug:autowiring.

It's that simple! Symfony will see this type-hint and say:

Oh! Since that type-hint matches the autowiring type for this service, they must want me to pass them that service object.

I don't know why Symfony sounds like a frog in my head. Anyway, let's see if this works. Add dd($logger): dd() stands for "dump and die" and comes from Symfony.

Refresh! Yes! It printed the object beautifully then stopped execution. It's working! Symfony passes us a Monolog\Logger object, which implements that LoggerInterface.

The trick we just did - called autowiring - works in exactly two places: our controller methods and the __construct() method of any service. We'll see that second situation in the next chapter.

Controlling how Services Behave

And if you're wondering where this Logger service came from in the first place... we already know the answer! From a bundle. In this case, MonologBundle. And... how could we configure that service... to, I don't know, log to a different file? The answer is: config/packages/monolog.yaml.

This config - including this line - configures MonologBundle... which really means that it configures how the services work that MonologBundle give us. We'll learn about this percent syntax in the next tutorial, but this tells the Logger service to log to this dev.log file.

Using the Logger

Ok, now that we have the Logger service, let's use it! How? Well, of course, you can read the docs. But thanks to the type-hint, our editor will help us! LoggerInterface has a bunch of methods. Let's use ->info() and say:

Starship collection retrieved.

Try it out: refresh. The page worked... but did it log anything? We could go check the dev.log file. Or, we can use the Log section of the profiler for this request.

Seeing the Profiler for an API Request

But... wait! This is an API request... so we don't have that cool web debug toolbar on the bottom! That's true... but Symfony did still collect all that info! To get to the profiler for this request, change the URL to /_profiler. This lists the most recent requests to our app, with the newest on top. See this one? That's our API request from a minute ago! If you click this token... boom! We're looking at the profiler for that API call in all its glory... including a Log section... with our message.

Ok, now that we've seen how to use a service, let's create our own service next! We're unstoppable!