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Twig: The Basics

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Welcome to the world of Twig! Twig is a templating language for PHP, which is a boring way of saying that it's a tool used to output variables inside HTML. If a project you're working on uses Twig, then you're in luck: it's easy to learn, powerful and a joy to work with.

To make this interesting, let's build something useful with Twig like a penguin clothing store! Actually, I've already got us started. I have a small website setup under my web server's document root and a test page called test.php.


Want to run this code locally? Download the code from this page, then following the directions in the README.md file inside.

Right now, this file prepares some pageTitle and products variables and then includes another file:

// test.php

// setup some variables
$pageTitle = 'Suit Up!';
$products = array(
    new Product('Serious Businessman', 'formal.png'),
    new Product('Penguin Dress', 'dress.png'),
    new Product('Sportstar Penguin', 'sports.png'),
    new Product('Angel Costume', 'angel-costume.png'),
    new Product('Penguin Accessories', 'swatter.png'),
    new Product('Super Cool Penguin', 'super-cool.png'),

// render out PHP template
include __DIR__.'/templates/homepage.php';

The homepage.php file is the actual template. It has all the HTML and we use foreach to loop through them and then echo to print out some variables:

<!-- templates/homepage.php -->

<!-- ... the rest of the HTML page ... -->
<?php foreach ($products as $product) : ?>
    <div class="span4">
        <h2><?php echo $product->getName() ?></h2>
        <!-- ... -->
<?php endforeach; ?>

Instead of using PHP, let's write our template using Twig! The goal of the template is still the same: to print out variables. The only thing that will change is the syntax.

Setting up Twig

In a separate file, I've setup all the behind-the-scenes work to use Twig. Let's start by rendering a homepage.twig file and once again passing it pageTitle and products variables:

// index.php
// ... code that sets up Twig, and says to look for templates in template/

echo $twig->render('homepage.twig', array(
    'pageTitle' => 'Welcome to Penguins R Us!',
    'products' => array(
        'Bow tie',
        'Black Boxers',

If you're curious how you actually setup Twig, check out the code download and see the Twig Installation documentation.

If you're a frontend developer, then you don't need to worry about this step: all you need to know is where a Twig template is located and what variables you have access to.

Your first Twig Template

In our project, Twig is looking for the template files in a templates/ directory, so let's create our homepage.twig there!

Just like in PHP, you can write anything and it'll just be displayed as HTML on the page:

<!-- templates/homepage.twig -->
Hello Twig Viewers!

To see this amazing message, go to the index.php file in your browser. This works because we made the index.php file render the homepage.twig template. Whenever you're creating or editing a page, you'll need to figure out which Twig template is being used for that page. There's no exact science to this and it depends on how your application is built.

Rendering a Variable

Remember that we're passing a pageTitle variable to our template. To render it, write two opening curly braces, the name of the variable without a dollar sign, then two closing curly braces:

<!-- templates/homepage.twig -->
<h1>{{ pageTitle }}</h1>

When we refresh the page, it works! We've just written our first line of Twig! Whenever you want to print something, just open Twig with two curly braces, write the variable name, then close Twig. We'll get fancier in a little while with some things called functions and filters, but this is the most fundamental syntax in Twig.

Looping over Variables

Next, the products variable is an array that we need to loop through. Twig comes with a for tag that is able to loop through items just like PHP's foreach.

Remember that anything we type here will be printed out raw on the page until we "open up" Twig. This time, open Twig by typing {%. Now that we're in Twig, use the for tag to loop over products. product will be the variable name we use for each item as we loop. Close Twig by adding an identical %}. Unlike when we echo'ed the pageTitle variable, the for tag needs an endfor:

<!-- templates/homepage.twig -->
<h1>{{ pageTitle }}</h1>

<div class="row">
    {% for product in products %}

    {% endfor %}

Twig will loop over each item in products and execute each line between for and endfor. Each item in products is just a string, so let's print it out:

<!-- templates/homepage.twig -->
<h1>{{ pageTitle }}</h1>

<div class="row">
    {% for product in products %}
        <div class="span4">
            <h2>{{ product }}</h2>
    {% endfor %}

This works exactly like before. We have a product variable, so we can print it by placing it inside two opening curly braces and two closing curly braces.

And when we refresh, another Twig success! Before long, we'll have these penguins looking fly.

The 2 Syntaxes of Twig: {{ and {%

So we've seen how to print a variable and how to loop over a variable that's an array or collection. This may not seem like much, but you've already seen pretty much all of Twig's syntaxes! To start writing Twig code in your HTML, there are only two different syntaxes:

The "Say Something" Syntax: {{ ... }}

The double-curly-brace ({{) is always used to print something. If whatever you need to do will result in something being printed to the screen, then you'll use this syntax. I call this the "say something" tag, ya know, because it's how you "speak" in Twig.

The "Do Something" Syntax: {% ... %}

The curly-percent ({%) is the other syntax, which I call the "do something" syntax. It's used for things like if and for tags as well as other things that "do" something. The {% is really easy because there are only a handful of things that can be used inside of it. If you go to Twig's website click Documentation, and scroll down, you can see a full list of everything in Twig. The "tags" header shows you everything that can be used inside of a "do something" tag, with more details about how each of these works. The only ones you need to worry about now are if and for. We'll talk about a bunch more of these later.

And that's it! Use the {{ "say something" syntax to print and the {% "do something" when you want to do one of the things on this list. These are the only two Twig syntaxes and we'll learn more tools that can be used inside of each of these.

The Comment Syntax: {# ... #}

Actually, we've lied a little. There is a third syntax, used for comments: {#. Just like with the "say something" and "do something" syntaxes, write the opening {# and also the closing #} at the end of your comments:

{# This template is really starting to get interesting ... #}
{# ... #}


We'll use the {# ... #} syntax in the rest of this tutorial whenever we're hiding some parts of a Twig template.

Whitespace inside Twig

Inside Twig, whitespace doesn't matter. this means that we can add or remove spaces whenever we want:

{%for product    in      products%}
    <div class="span4">
{% endfor %}

Of course, this looks a bit uglier, so we usually keep just one space between everything. Outside of Twig (in the final HTML), all the whitespace is kept just like it appears. There are ways to make Twig control the whitespace of your file, which we'll talk about later.