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An Introduction to the Laravel PHP Framework — SitePoint

In this article, we’ll get acquainted with the Laravel PHP framework, exploring what Laravel is, its history, its purpose, and we’ll examine some of its key components and features.

Table of Contents

What is Laravel?

Laravel is considered by many to be the default framework for creating PHP-based websites and web applications at scale. It has become one of the most popular (if not the most popular) PHP web application frameworks due to its elegant and functional syntax, extensive features, and developer-friendly approach.

Laravel provides developers with a robust toolkit for building all sorts of web applications (from simple web pages to complex enterprise platforms) rapidly and efficiently. It aims to simplify the development process by offering an expressive syntax, modular architecture, and a wide range of built-in features.

Laravel’s powerful ecosystem makes it an ideal choice for developing both simple and complex web applications.

A Brief History of the Laravel PHP Framework

Taylor Otwell released Laravel in 2011 as a personal project. His goal was to improve on CodeIgniter — which, at the time, was a well known and widely used framework. He aimed to address some of the limitations he encountered in CodeIgniter and to incorporate modern PHP features and best practices.

After several iterations, Taylor open-sourced Laravel under the MIT License, making it freely available to the developer community. The Laravel framework quickly gained traction and garnered a dedicated following due to its syntax, features, and ease of use.

Laravel’s popularity continued to rise with each subsequent release. This open-source PHP framework adopted a regular release cycle, introducing new features, enhancements, and bug fixes to keep up with the evolving needs of the web development community as well as the several improvements the PHP language had during that period.

The Laravel community also played a significant role in the Laravel framework’s growth and success. A vibrant community of developers actively began to to contribute to Laravel’s development, documentation, and ecosystem. This collaborative effort has continued to solidify Laravel’s position as the leading open-source PHP framework to this day.

The Purpose of Laravel

Laravel’s primary purpose is to simplify the development process and make it more efficient and enjoyable for the developer. It achieves this by offering a very functional and well-designed syntax, along with a wide range of tools, and by encouraging PHP and web development best practices. Laravel’s philosophy revolves around the following key principles:

  • Expressive Syntax. Laravel aims to provide a simple, clean, and expressive syntax that allows developers to write code that’s both readable, maintainable, and efficient.

  • Modularity. The Laravel framework is designed with a modular architecture, allowing developers to use specific components independently or together to build applications of different complexities.

  • Developer Experience. Laravel prioritizes the developer’s experience by providing a friendly community, detailed documentation, and built-in tools that enhance productivity and ease of development.

  • Security. Laravel has a focus on security and includes features like CSRF protection, SQL injection prevention, and secure authentication and authorization mechanisms out of the box.

  • Extensibility. Developers can extend Laravel’s core functionality by creating custom packages and integrating third-party libraries.

Together with the common features we can find in most PHP frameworks — such as routing and templating — Laravel provides a deep array of other functionalities out of the box. Let’s have a look at some of the most important ones, and also see how they’re implemented in the Laravel framework.

Authentication

Authentication is crucial for web applications, allowing users to access secure areas and perform actions based on their roles through authorization (more on that later). Writing an authentication system from scratch can be like re-inventing the wheel, and that’s why Laravel provides a very convenient way to implement user authentication out of the box:


use App\Models\User;

public function register(Request $request)
{
    $validatedData = $request->validate([
        'name' => 'required|string|max:255',
        'email' => 'required|string|email|unique:users|max:255',
        'password' => 'required|string|min:8|confirmed',
    ]);

    $user = User::create([
        'name' => $validatedData['name'],
        'email' => $validatedData['email'],
        'password' => Hash::make($validatedData['password']),
    ]);

    

    return redirect('/home');
}

In this example, we’ve shown a simplified version of a user registration controller method. Laravel’s built-in validation and hashing mechanisms make it easy to handle user registration securely without the need to re-write all that code and expose a web app to possible security vulnerabilities.

Authorization

Authorization is the process of determining what actions a user is allowed to perform within the application. Laravel’s authorization features work hand in hand with authentication and provide a straightforward way to define and manage user permissions:


if ($request->user()->can('update', $post)) {
    
    $post->update($request->all());
}

In this example, we’re using Laravel’s authorization functionality to check if the authenticated user can update a specific post. Laravel’s policies and gates allow web developers to encapsulate authorization logic within dedicated classes, enhancing code organization and maintainability.

Eloquent ORM

An ORM is a vital component of modern PHP frameworks.

ORM stands for object-relational mapping. It’s a programming technique that allows developers to interact with a relational database using object-oriented programming (OOP) concepts and principles. ORM serves as a bridge between the application’s object-oriented code and the relational database, enabling web developers to work with data more naturally and intuitively without the need to worry about which database engine is running in the background.

Eloquent is Laravel’s implementation of the active record pattern (software design pattern used in object-oriented programming to represent data stored in a relational database as objects), which simplifies database interaction and management by using a more expressive syntax:


use App\Models\Post;

$latestPosts = Post::orderBy('created_at', 'desc')->take(5)->get();


$post = new Post;
$post->title = 'New Post';
$post->content = 'This is a new post created with Eloquent.';
$post->save();

Eloquent allows web developers to interact with the database using PHP classes and provides various methods for performing common database operations like querying, inserting, updating, and deleting records.

Database Migrations

Database migrations enable developers to version control the database schema and easily share changes with other team members:


php artisan make:migration create_posts_table


public function up()
{
    Schema::create('posts', function (Blueprint $table) {
        $table->id();
        $table->string('title');
        $table->text('content');
        $table->timestamps();
    });
}

Validations

Never trust data inserted by the user! Validations are essential for ensuring that data submitted by users meets specific criteria before it’s processed or stored:


use Illuminate\Http\Request;

public function store(Request $request)
{
    $validatedData = $request->validate([
        'name' => 'required|string|max:255',
        'email' => 'required|string|email|max:255|unique:users',
        'password' => 'required|string|min:8|confirmed',
    ]);

    
}

Laravel provides a convenient way to validate incoming data using form requests or direct validation methods, reducing the boilerplate code needed for data validation. Laravel has over 90 powerful, built-in validation rules!

Notifications and Email

Laravel’s notification system enables us to send notifications to users via various channels, including email:


use App\Notifications\InvoicePaid;
use Illuminate\Support\Facades\Notification;

$invoice = ...; 
$user = ...; 

Notification::send($user, new InvoicePaid($invoice));

With notifications, we can easily notify users about events such as password reset requests, order confirmations, or any other custom notifications our web app requires.

File Storage

Laravel provides a simple and consistent API for working with file systems, supporting local storage, Amazon S3, and other cloud storage services:


use Illuminate\Support\Facades\Storage;

$path = $request->file('avatar')->store('avatars');


$url = Storage::url('avatars/file.jpg');

This feature allows developers to straightforwardly manage file uploads, downloads, and storage, abstracting away the complexities of dealing with different storage options.

Job Queues

Job queues allow us to defer time-consuming tasks — such as sending emails or processing data — to be executed asynchronously:


use App\Jobs\SendWelcomeEmail;
use Illuminate\Support\Facades\Queue;

Queue::push(new SendWelcomeEmail($user));

By using job queues, we can improve the performance and responsiveness of our application, as time-consuming tasks are offloaded to a separate queue that can be processed later by a worker process.

Task Scheduling

Laravel’s task scheduling feature enables us to automate the execution of certain tasks at specific intervals:


use Illuminate\Console\Scheduling\Schedule;

protected function schedule(Schedule $schedule)
{
    $schedule->command('inspire')->hourly();
    $schedule->job(new SendDailyReport)->dailyAt('23:55');
}

In this example, we schedule the inspire Artisan command to run hourly and a custom job (SendDailyReport) to be executed every day at 23:55. This feature is particularly useful for performing periodic tasks, like sending daily emails or clearing temporary data. By using Laravel task scheduling, we effectively eliminate the need for relying on lower-level mechanisms like cron jobs.

Testing

Laravel comes with a comprehensive testing suite, allowing developers to write unit tests, feature tests, and integration tests effectively:


use Tests\TestCase;
use App\Models\User;

public function test_authenticated_user_can_access_dashboard()
{
    $user = User::factory()->create();

    $response = $this->actingAs($user)->get('/dashboard');

    $response->assertStatus(200);
}

Laravel’s testing tools facilitate writing tests that ensure our web application behaves as expected, catching bugs and regressions early in the development process.

Laravel Packages

Overt time, Laravel has become renowned for its packages. Laravel made it easy for the developer to implement things like authentication, billing, CRM features, and more. Some of the best packages ended up being official Laravel releases and are now an integral part of the Laravel ecosystem. The best known of them are Laravel Spark and Laravel Breeze.

Laravel Breeze

Laravel Breeze is a starter kit for building Laravel applications with basic authentication. It provides a simple and customizable way to set up user registration, login, password reset, and email verification features.

Breeze is a great tool for projects that require basic authentication without the need for complex features. It uses Laravel’s Blade templating engine for views and Tailwind CSS for styling, making it easy to customize the appearance of our apps.

Laravel Spark

Laravel Spark is a more comprehensive solution that extends beyond basic authentication. It’s designed for rapidly launching subscription-based SaaS applications.

Spark offers features like team management, subscription billing, user roles, and more. It comes with a Vue.js frontend and integrates with Stripe for payment processing.

Laravel Spark significantly speeds up the development of subscription-based web applications by providing pre-built functionality and UI components.

Both Laravel Breeze and Laravel Spark are designed to enhance developer productivity and simplify the process of building common web application features. They streamline the process of building and launching web applications with Laravel.

How Laravel Compares with Other PHP Web Frameworks

Finally, let’s have a look at how Laravel compares with other frameworks. PHP has a vibrant framework scene, with multiple quality products being developed and continuously improved.

Laravel Symfony CodeIgniter Phalcon Laminas
Release Year 2011 2005 2006 2012 2006
Community Size Large Large Moderate Moderate Moderate
Ecosystem Rich Extensive Limited Growing Limited
Learning Curve Moderate Moderate Low Moderate Moderate
ORM Eloquent Doctrine Active Record Proprietary Doctrine
Authentication Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Routing Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Testing Tools Comprehensive Comprehensive Limited Moderate Comprehensive
Documentation Extensive Comprehensive Moderate Moderate Comprehensive

Conclusion

Laravel is a powerful and versatile open-source PHP web application framework that has revolutionized web app development. In this article, we’ve introduced Laravel, explored its history and purpose, and dived into some of its essential features.

From authentication and authorization to eloquent ORM, database migrations, validations, notifications, file storage, job queues, task scheduling, and testing, Laravel offers a well-rounded toolkit for building modern web applications. The Laravel framework’s expressive syntax and developer-friendly approach make it a preferred choice for developers worldwide seeking a productive and enjoyable web development experience.

Whether you’re a seasoned Laravel developer or new to this framework, exploring its features and capabilities will undoubtedly enhance your web development projects and enable you to create robust and dynamic applications with ease. So dive in, experiment, and leverage the power of Laravel to build exceptional web applications!

Laravel FAQs

Let’s end by answering some frequently asked questions about Laravel.

What is Laravel?

Laravel is a free, open-source PHP web framework used for building web applications and APIs. It follows the Model-View-Controller (MVC) architectural pattern.

Why should I use Laravel?

Laravel simplifies common tasks like routing, authentication, and database operations, making web development faster and more efficient. It also has a large and active community, which means you can find a lot of resources and packages to extend its functionality.

How do I install Laravel?

You can install Laravel using tools like Docker or Composer. With Composer, run composer global require laravel/installer to install the Laravel installer globally. Then you can create a new Laravel project using laravel new project-name.

What is Artisan in Laravel?

Artisan is the command-line tool that comes with Laravel. It provides a wide range of commands for tasks like generating boilerplate code, running migrations, and managing the application.

What is Eloquent in Laravel?

Eloquent is Laravel’s built-in ORM (object-relational mapping) system. It allows you to interact with your database using an elegant, expressive syntax, making database operations easier and more readable.

How does Laravel handle authentication?

Laravel provides a built-in authentication system that includes registration, login, password reset, and more. You can scaffold these features with a single Artisan command.

What is middleware in Laravel?

Middleware is a way to filter HTTP requests that enter your application. It can be used for tasks like authentication, logging, and modifying incoming requests or outgoing responses.

What is Blade in Laravel?

Blade is Laravel’s templating engine. It provides a clean, readable syntax for writing views in Laravel applications, including features like template inheritance and control structures.

How does Laravel handle database migrations?

Laravel’s migration system allows you to version-control your database schema. You can create and modify tables using migration files and roll back changes if needed.

Can I use Laravel for building APIs?

Yes, Laravel is excellent for building APIs. It provides tools for building RESTful APIs and supports API authentication using tokens or OAuth.

Is Laravel suitable for large-scale applications?

Yes, Laravel is suitable for large-scale applications. It has features like caching, task scheduling, and support for multiple database systems, making it capable of handling complex and high-traffic projects.

What is Laravel Nova?

Laravel Nova is a premium administration panel for Laravel applications. It provides a simple way to manage your application’s data, users, and settings through a web interface.

How can I deploy a Laravel application?

You can deploy a Laravel application on various hosting platforms, including shared hosting, VPS, or cloud services like AWS, Azure, or Heroku. You typically need to configure your web server, set up environment variables, and run Composer and Artisan commands.

Is Laravel free to use?

Yes, Laravel is open-source and free to use. However, some components, like Laravel Nova, are paid.




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