Testing your project with PHP 7.2

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docker_logoWant to check to see if your code will work on PHP 7.2? This article shows you hot to build a Docker container nd test it.

Make sure you test your code before moving to PHP 7.2 in production. Sometimes that is difficult though you need a server properly configured, you need someone to manage it, most importantly, you need unit tests. While I can’t help you with that last one – other than point you to @grmpyprogrammer who will publicly abuse you until you write them – I can help you with the “where to test” problem.

Containers to the rescue

This solution relies on Docker. If you don’t have Docker installed, you will want to do that first. Docker is available for almost anything and will run on older hardware as well as brand new servers. The code for this article was developed on a 2012 MacBook Air with 8GB of RAM. That’s not what you would call a powerhouse. :) It has been tested on Windows 10 so eveyrthing should work just fine no matter what you are working with.

So step 1 is to install Docker.

Building a platform

Once you have Docker, you need to build a container that contains everything you need to test. Mainly, this is PHP. If your Unit Tests require a database and you aren’t mocking it, then this won’t help you. This platform contains PHP and that is all.

Docker builds an entire environment inside the container, this means that it needs an operating system. I chose Alpine Linux because it was the smallest footprint. By the time we install everything we are still at 800MB, but that’s a far cry from some of the more popular Linux distros that weigh in at 800mb to 1.5GB as the base. It was pointed out that Alpine, because of the C compiler it uses is not the best choice of distros for testing PHP. This may be. However, PHP compiles nicely on Alpine and we really aren’t testing PHP, we are building a platform for testing our applications. So far in my very limited testing, it has worked flawlessly.

In a blank directory somewhere on you drive, create a Docker file and paste this into it.

Once you have that saved, lets’ build. Drop to your command line and navigate to the directory where you saved the Dockerfile. When you are there, enter this command.

This will take a while to run. On my little laptop with a very fast ‘Net connection, it takes about 30 minutes. Your mileage may vary depending on your laptop speed and connection speed.

Let’s test

When it’s done, we are ready to test…almost. First, you need to move your application into the container.

This will drop you into the container at a # prompt. You are now root. The problem is that if you use composer, composer won’t run as root. So I recommend immediately dropping into the user we added cpkelly. Once you’ve switched users, change to that user’s home directory.

There, now you are ready. For this example, I am going to be testing the open source blogging project Sculpin. This is just to show you what needs to be done. You will need to substitute your repo for Sculpin’s and adjust the commands accordingly.

I’ve cut out all the messages that each command spews because they aren’t important to the process.

Note that I specifically reference the PHPUnit that is in Sculpin’s vendor/bin directory. Most major projects add PHPUnit to their require-dev. This way they get the version that their tests were written with and not the most recent version. This is important. If you are testing using the most recent versino of PHP then you can use composer to install it before testing if your project doesn’t include it in the composer.json.

If all goes correctly, you should see something like this.

This is PHPUnit telling you that all is well with the world and that specifically, your application should run on PHP 7.2. :)

This isn’t CI

Hey! You are paying attention! :) No, this isn’t CI or CD, this is a sandbox for you to play in. Yes, you could do all of this by just adding PHP 72 to your travis.yaml file or whatever controls your CI. That would tell you if your app works, but if it didn’t, you would still have to try and play wack-a-mole by updating, committing, waiting for CI to run, find the next bug. This way, you have a PHP 7.2 sandbox to play in. You can find and fix the issues right here.

This Docker file could be better

Yup, you are right. I am not Chris (Docker Man Tank) Tankersly. This is my first shot at writing my own Docker file. All I can say is that “it works”. I had a couple of people test it on other laptops and it seems to work fine on a variety of platforms. This is not a guarantee that it will work for you.

If you have a better way to do it, blog it, Let me know, I’ll link to it from here.


Regardless of how you do it, you need to be testing your application against current and future version fo PHP. You may not be planning to use a future version, but it is good to know that you can if you need to. This solution does not replace a good CI plan. It will, however, give you a sandbox to play in without messing up your existing laptop.


Here is your chance for a freebie. In the docker file, I create a user, cpkelly. If you can tell me cpkelly’s full name and why I chose this name, I’ll give you a free ticket to any upcoming Nomad PHP meeting or a coupon for a past video. Your choice. (You have to tell me both the full name and why it’s relevant.)