How Symfony2 Differs from Symfony1

The Symfony2 framework embodies a significant evolution when compared with the first version of the framework. Fortunately, with the MVC architecture at its core, the skills used to master a symfony1 project continue to be very relevant when developing in Symfony2. Sure, app.yml is gone, but routing, controllers and templates all remain.

This chapter walks through the differences between symfony1 and Symfony2. As you’ll see, many tasks are tackled in a slightly different way. You’ll come to appreciate these minor differences as they promote stable, predictable, testable and decoupled code in your Symfony2 applications.

So, sit back and relax as you travel from “then” to “now”.

Directory Structure

When looking at a Symfony2 project - for example, the Symfony2 Standard Edition - you’ll notice a very different directory structure than in symfony1. The differences, however, are somewhat superficial.

The app/ Directory

In symfony1, your project has one or more applications, and each lives inside the apps/ directory (e.g. apps/frontend). By default in Symfony2, you have just one application represented by the app/ directory. Like in symfony1, the app/ directory contains configuration specific to that application. It also contains application-specific cache, log and template directories as well as a Kernel class (AppKernel), which is the base object that represents the application.

Unlike symfony1, almost no PHP code lives in the app/ directory. This directory is not meant to house modules or library files as it did in symfony1. Instead, it’s simply the home of configuration and other resources (templates, translation files).

The src/ Directory

Put simply, your actual code goes here. In Symfony2, all actual application-code lives inside a bundle (roughly equivalent to a symfony1 plugin) and, by default, each bundle lives inside the src directory. In that way, the src directory is a bit like the plugins directory in symfony1, but much more flexible. Additionally, while your bundles will live in the src/ directory, third-party bundles will live somewhere in the vendor/ directory.

To get a better picture of the src/ directory, first think of the structure of a symfony1 application. First, part of your code likely lives inside one or more applications. Most commonly these include modules, but could also include any other PHP classes you put in your application. You may have also created a schema.yml file in the config directory of your project and built several model files. Finally, to help with some common functionality, you’re using several third-party plugins that live in the plugins/ directory. In other words, the code that drives your application lives in many different places.

In Symfony2, life is much simpler because all Symfony2 code must live in a bundle. In the pretend symfony1 project, all the code could be moved into one or more plugins (which is a very good practice, in fact). Assuming that all modules, PHP classes, schema, routing configuration, etc. were moved into a plugin, the symfony1 plugins/ directory would be very similar to the Symfony2 src/ directory.

Put simply again, the src/ directory is where your code, assets, templates and most anything else specific to your project will live.

The vendor/ Directory

The vendor/ directory is basically equivalent to the lib/vendor/ directory in symfony1, which was the conventional directory for all vendor libraries and bundles. By default, you’ll find the Symfony2 library files in this directory, along with several other dependent libraries such as Doctrine2, Twig and Swift Mailer. 3rd party Symfony2 bundles live somewhere in the vendor/.

The web/ Directory

Not much has changed in the web/ directory. The most noticeable difference is the absence of the css/, js/ and images/ directories. This is intentional. Like with your PHP code, all assets should also live inside a bundle. With the help of a console command, the Resources/public/ directory of each bundle is copied or symbolically-linked to the web/bundles/ directory. This allows you to keep assets organized inside your bundle, but still make them available to the public. To make sure that all bundles are available, run the following command:

$ php app/console assets:install web


This command is the Symfony2 equivalent to the symfony1 plugin:publish-assets command.


One of the advantages of modern frameworks is never needing to worry about requiring files. By making use of an autoloader, you can refer to any class in your project and trust that it’s available. Autoloading has changed in Symfony2 to be more universal, faster, and independent of needing to clear your cache.

In symfony1, autoloading was done by searching the entire project for the presence of PHP class files and caching this information in a giant array. That array told symfony1 exactly which file contained each class. In the production environment, this caused you to need to clear the cache when classes were added or moved.

In Symfony2, a tool named Composer handles this process. The idea behind the autoloader is simple: the name of your class (including the namespace) must match up with the path to the file containing that class. Take the FrameworkExtraBundle from the Symfony2 Standard Edition as an example:

namespace Sensio\Bundle\FrameworkExtraBundle;

use Symfony\Component\HttpKernel\Bundle\Bundle;
// ...

class SensioFrameworkExtraBundle extends Bundle
    // ...

The file itself lives at vendor/sensio/framework-extra-bundle/Sensio/Bundle/FrameworkExtraBundle/SensioFrameworkExtraBundle.php. As you can see, the second part of the path follows the namespace of the class. The first part is equal to the package name of the SensioFrameworkExtraBundle.

The namespace, Sensio\Bundle\FrameworkExtraBundle, and package name, sensio/framework-extra-bundle, spells out the directory that the file should live in (vendor/sensio/framework-extra-bundle/Sensio/Bundle/FrameworkExtraBundle/). Composer can then look for the file at this specific place and load it very fast.

If the file did not live at this exact location, you’d receive a Class "Sensio\Bundle\FrameworkExtraBundle\SensioFrameworkExtraBundle" does not exist. error. In Symfony2, a “class does not exist” error means that the namespace of the class and physical location do not match. Basically, Symfony2 is looking in one exact location for that class, but that location doesn’t exist (or contains a different class). In order for a class to be autoloaded, you never need to clear your cache in Symfony2.

As mentioned before, for the autoloader to work, it needs to know that the Sensio namespace lives in the vendor/sensio/framework-extra-bundle directory and that, for example, the Doctrine namespace lives in the vendor/doctrine/orm/lib/ directory. This mapping is entirely controlled by Composer. Each third-party library you load through Composer has its settings defined and Composer takes care of everything for you.

For this to work, all third-party libraries used by your project must be defined in the composer.json file.

If you look at the HelloController from the Symfony2 Standard Edition you can see that it lives in the Acme\DemoBundle\Controller namespace. Yet, the AcmeDemoBundle is not defined in your composer.json file. Nonetheless are the files autoloaded. This is because you can tell Composer to autoload files from specific directories without defining a dependency:

"autoload": {
    "psr-0": { "": "src/" }

This means that if a class is not found in the vendor directory, Composer will search in the src directory before throwing a “class does not exist” exception. Read more about configuring the Composer autoloader in the Composer documentation.

Using the Console

In symfony1, the console is in the root directory of your project and is called symfony:

$ php symfony

In Symfony2, the console is now in the app sub-directory and is called console:

$ php app/console


In a symfony1 project, it is common to have several applications: one for the frontend and one for the backend for instance.

In a Symfony2 project, you only need to create one application (a blog application, an intranet application, ...). Most of the time, if you want to create a second application, you might instead create another project and share some bundles between them.

And if you need to separate the frontend and the backend features of some bundles, you can create sub-namespaces for controllers, sub-directories for templates, different semantic configurations, separate routing configurations, and so on.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with having multiple applications in your project, that’s entirely up to you. A second application would mean a new directory, e.g. my_app/, with the same basic setup as the app/ directory.


Read the definition of a Project, an Application, and a Bundle in the glossary.

Bundles and Plugins

In a symfony1 project, a plugin could contain configuration, modules, PHP libraries, assets and anything else related to your project. In Symfony2, the idea of a plugin is replaced by the “bundle”. A bundle is even more powerful than a plugin because the core Symfony2 framework is brought in via a series of bundles. In Symfony2, bundles are first-class citizens that are so flexible that even core code itself is a bundle.

In symfony1, a plugin must be enabled inside the ProjectConfiguration class:

// config/ProjectConfiguration.class.php
public function setup()
    // some plugins here

In Symfony2, the bundles are activated inside the application kernel:

// app/AppKernel.php
public function registerBundles()
    $bundles = array(
        new Symfony\Bundle\FrameworkBundle\FrameworkBundle(),
        new Symfony\Bundle\TwigBundle\TwigBundle(),
        new Acme\DemoBundle\AcmeDemoBundle(),

    return $bundles;

Routing (routing.yml) and Configuration (config.yml)

In symfony1, the routing.yml and app.yml configuration files were automatically loaded inside any plugin. In Symfony2, routing and application configuration inside a bundle must be included manually. For example, to include a routing resource from a bundle called AcmeDemoBundle, you can do the following:

  • YAML
    # app/config/routing.yml
        resource: "@AcmeDemoBundle/Resources/config/routing.yml"
  • XML
    <!-- app/config/routing.yml -->
    <?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" ?>
    <routes xmlns=""
        <import resource="@AcmeDemoBundle/Resources/config/routing.xml" />
  • PHP
    // app/config/routing.php
    use Symfony\Component\Routing\RouteCollection;
    $collection = new RouteCollection();
    return $collection;

This will load the routes found in the Resources/config/routing.yml file of the AcmeDemoBundle. The special @AcmeDemoBundle is a shortcut syntax that, internally, resolves to the full path to that bundle.

You can use this same strategy to bring in configuration from a bundle:

  • YAML
    # app/config/config.yml
        - { resource: "@AcmeDemoBundle/Resources/config/config.yml" }
  • XML
    <!-- app/config/config.xml -->
        <import resource="@AcmeDemoBundle/Resources/config/config.xml" />
  • PHP
    // app/config/config.php

In Symfony2, configuration is a bit like app.yml in symfony1, except much more systematic. With app.yml, you could simply create any keys you wanted. By default, these entries were meaningless and depended entirely on how you used them in your application:

# some app.yml file from symfony1

In Symfony2, you can also create arbitrary entries under the parameters key of your configuration:

  • YAML
  • XML
        <parameter key="email.from_address"></parameter>
  • PHP
    $container->setParameter('email.from_address', '');

You can now access this from a controller, for example:

public function helloAction($name)
    $fromAddress = $this->container->getParameter('email.from_address');

In reality, the Symfony2 configuration is much more powerful and is used primarily to configure objects that you can use. For more information, see the chapter titled “Service Container”.