Using a Layout: Template Inheritance

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If we view the HTML source of our project so far, we'll see just the HTML tags and printed variables from our homepage.twig file. So far, there's no HTML layout, head or body tags. but since our project has been ugly long enough, let's add these.

To add the layout, there's nothing technically wrong with including it right in homepage.twig. This is perfectly straightforward and has nothing to do with Twig. But let's setup a second page: /contact. I'll tweak our setup script to make this work:

// index.php
// ...

case '/contact':
    echo $twig->render('contact.twig', array(
        'pageData' => array(
            'title' => 'Find us in the south pole!',
        )
    ));
    break;

Create the new contact.twig file in the templates/ directory and add /contact to the end of your URL:

{# templates/contact.twig #}

<h1>{{ pageData.title }}</h1>

<p>Make some penguin noises, we're listening...</p>
http://localhost/twig/index.php/contact

Ok, so now that we have two pages, if we put the layout code in homepage.twig, it wouldn't be available on the contact page. Since that would be a bummer, let's learn how to use a layout across multiple templates.

Template Inheritance

The key is template inheritance, which is a lot less scary than it sounds. Before we get into the details, let's create a new Twig template that will hold the base layout. I'll paste in some starting HTML, which you can get from the code download. I'm including some CSS and JS files, but this is pretty boring overall.

Actually, there's only one small piece of Twig code: a block tag. This defines a block called "body" and its purpose will make more sense in a moment:

{# templates/layout.twig #}
<!DOCTYPE html>
<html lang="en">
{# ... more stuff ... #}

{% block body %}{% endblock %}

{# ... the rest ... #}

Start by adding another Twig tag via the "do something" syntax called extends. After extends, type layout.twig.

{# templates/homepage.twig #}
{% extends 'layout.twig' %}

{# ... the rest of the template #}

This tells Twig that we want to be "dressed" in layout.twig, or said differently, that we want to use layout.twig as the layout for the homepage. We also need to surround all of our content with a {% block body %} tag and a closing {% endblock %}.

This looks just like what we have in the layout file, except with our content inside.

{# templates/homepage.twig #}
{% extends 'layout.twig' %}

{% block body %}
    <div class="hero-unit">
        {# ... #}
    </div>

    <div class="row">
        {# ... #}
    </div>
{% endblock %}

When we refresh the page, it works! By viewing the source, we can see the HTML layout with the content of the homepage.twig file right in the middle where we expect it.

Teamwork: extends and block

This works because of a great team effort between the extends and block tags. When we use extends, it says that this template should be placed inside of layout.twig. But Twig is a bit dumb: it doesn't really know where to put the content from the homepage. The block tag fixes that. By putting a block body in the layout and a block body around our homepage content, Twig knows exactly where the content should live in the layout.

Using Multiple Blocks

We can even use multiple blocks. Let's add a title block to the layout:

{# templates/layout.twig #}

<title>{% block title %}{% endblock %}</title>

{# ... #}

If we refresh, the title is blank. But now, we can add a title block to our homepage:

{# templates/homepage.twig #}
{% extends 'layout.twig' %}

{% block title %}50% off of Bow Ties{% endblock %}

{% block body %}
    {# ... #}
{% endblock %}

The order of the blocks doesn't matter, whatever lives in the title block will be placed in the title block of the layout. The same is true of any block. Even the names title and body aren't special. If we rename body to content, we just need to also rename the block in any other templates.

Tip

If you want to add to the content of the parent block instead of completely replacing it, use the parent() function:

{% block title %}
    Contact us | {{ parent() }}
{% endblock %}

Common Mistake: Content outside of a Block

Let's try to write something outside of a block in homepage.twig:

{# templates/homepage.twig #}
{% extends 'layout.twig' %}

Where should this text be placed in the layout?

{% block title %}50% off of Bow Ties{% endblock %}

{% block body %}
    {# ... #}
{% endblock %}

When we refresh, we see a nasty error:

Uncaught exception Twig_Error_Syntax with message "A template that extends another one cannot have a body in homepage.twig at line 4."

Twig knows that we want it to take the content from the body tag of homepage and put it where the body tag is in the layout. But when it sees this new text, it doesn't know what to do with that or where to put it! The error is saying that if we extend another template, everything must live in a block so that Twig knows where to put that content in the layout.

Adding the Layout to the Contact Page

Our homepage looks great, but the contact page still needs a layout. To give it one, just add the extends tag, then surround the content with a block called body, since that's the name of the block in our layout:

{# templates/contact.twig #}
{% extends 'layout.twig' %}

{% block body %}
    <h1>{{ pageData.title }}</h1>

    {# ... #}
{% endblock %}

And just like that, we have a real page!

Default Content in a block

Of course the contact page doesn't have a title. We could add a title block just like we did on the homepage. Instead, in the layout, we can put some content inside of the title block:

{# templates/layout.twig #}
{# ... #}

<title>{% block title %}Penguin Swag{% endblock %}</title>

This becomes the default page title, which is used on the contact page since we don't have a title block in contact.twig. But when we go to the homepage, we still see the title from the title block in homepage.twig.

Template Inheritance, a Summary!

Phew! Let's review everything we just learned:

  • Initially, a Twig template doesn't render anything other than what's actually in that template file.

  • To use a layout, we use the extends tag at the top of the template and then surround all of our content in a block. Because the template and the layout have blocks with the same names, Twig takes the content from each block and puts it into the layout to build the whole page.

  • In the layout, a block can also have some default content. Because contact.twig doesn't have a title block, the default text is used.

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This tutorial uses Twig 1. There are newer versions of Twig, but they don't contain significant differences. So, Twig on!

What PHP libraries does this tutorial use?

// composer.json
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    "require": []
}