From Zero to Slim Framework: Getting Your First Project Off the Ground

When I was a brand new web developer, I was overwhelmed by the amount of general knowledge required to get a project off the ground: Web server (as in configuring a server OS), web server (as in nginx or Apache), PHP installation, PHP configuration, application configuration, and so forth. I was willing and able to learn, but even the best blog posts and documentation frequently assumed a certain level of existing knowledge, much of which I didn’t have. My goal with this post is to help you get your first Slim Framework project started without assuming any knowledge on your part. We’ll literally go from absolutely nothing to a functioning Slim-Skeleton application.


While I’m not going to make any general knowledge assumptions (call me out in the comments if I miss the mark), I am going to set a few requirements. In short, we’ll be using virtualization technology (Vagrant and VirtualBox), the Ubuntu 14.04 LTS operating system, and Composer, a dependency management tool for PHP.

Why Do This All “By Hand”?

While there’s an “easier, softer way” (think Phansible or PuPHPet), I think it’s important to know what’s going on behind the scenes. What if you need to fix something on your server once it’s in production? What if you have to tweak a setting here or there, or create a new vhost or nginx site? It’s a good idea to have done it at least once by hand before moving on to automated solutions. You’ll have a better feel for what’s happening, why it’s happening, and how to fix any problems that might arise in the future.

Preparing the Host Environment

By “host”, I mean your computer. These are the first steps we’ll take to prepare your computer to host the virtual machine we’ll use to run the tutorial code.

  • Install Vagrant: Grab an installer for your OS here.
  • Install VirtualBox: Grab an installer for your OS here.

Create Your VM

  • Create a directory for your project, and then change into your project directory
  • Make a sub-directory for your Slim project within your new project directory: mkdir
  • Now run vagrant init ubuntu/trusty64 from your project directory

vagrant init will create a Vagrantfile, the file that tells Vagrant how to build your VM. We’ll need to edit that file and add a few settings.

Edit /path/to/project/Vagrantfile and add the following lines after

  config.vm.hostname = "" :private_network, ip: ""
  config.vm.synced_folder "./", "/var/www/", id: "web-root",
      owner: "vagrant",
      group: "www-data",
      mount_options: ["dmode=775,fmode=664"]

Save and close your Vagrantfile, and then run vagrant up. You’ll be treated to some output as your VM is built. Once that’s done, the VM is ready to configure.

Connect and Configure VM

Run vagrant ssh from your project directory. The following steps will be completed on the VM, not your host machine.

If you’re on Windows, the ssh command won’t be available to you. You’ll need to use a program like PuTTY instead. Here are some step-by-step instructions for configuring your Windows box to connect to your new VM.

  • sudo apt-get update
  • sudo apt-get install curl vim wget python-software-properties -y
  • sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ondrej/php5 -y
  • sudo apt-get update

Choose a Web Server and a PHP Version

You must choose one or the other, not both. nginx is extremely popular, but if you’re more comfortable with Apache I’ve included instructions below.

nginx and PHP-FPM

  • sudo apt-get install php5-fpm php5-cli php5-xdebug nginx -y

Apache2 and PHP

  • sudo apt-get install php5 php5-cli php5-xdebug apache2 -y

Install Composer Globally

See Composer’s Getting Started section for the most up-to-date installation instructions (There’s an installer available for those of you on Windows). Below is how I install Composer on both Mac and Linux.

  • curl -sS | php
  • sudo mv composer.phar /usr/local/bin/composer

Use Composer to Install Slim Skeleton

Heads up, this is going to take a while. Composer is an amazing technology, but in this case it’s pretty slow (this has more to do with the VM than with Composer). Run the command, grab a cup of coffee, and come on back to finish up.

  • composer create-project slim/slim-skeleton /var/www/

If you suspect there’s a problem with the composer create-project command due to how long it takes to get feedback, you can add the verbose option (-vvv) to the command, like so: composer create-project slim/slim-skeleton /var/www/ -vvv

Configure Your Web Server

Since the following files aren’t in a synced folder, which would allow you to edit them from your host machine, and since you need to be root to edit them, the best way to do so is directly on the server using a text editor. I’ve chosen Vim in this case. Once again, here’s an opportunity to learn about a tool that you may find yourself needing at some point in the future, even if you only ever use it to edit a file or two on your server(s).

Editing a Config File with Vim

  • Type sudo vim <server_config_file> (either /etc/nginx/sites-available/default or /etc/apache2/sites-available/000-default.conf, depending)
  • Type gg on the keyboard to ensure you’re at the top of the file
  • Delete everything in the file with dG
  • Type i to enter insert mode
  • Copy the appropriate config from below and paste it into the config document
  • Hit ESC to exit insert mode
  • Type :wq to write your changes and quit the file.

Congrats! You’ve just edited your server config using Vim, an accomplishment in itself.

nginx and PHP-FPM

Replace the contents of /etc/nginx/sites-available/default with the following:

server {
    listen      80;
    root        /var/www/;

    try_files $uri /index.php;

    # this will only pass index.php to the fastcgi process which is generally safer but
    # assumes the whole site is run via Slim.
    location /index.php {
        fastcgi_connect_timeout 3s;     # default of 60s is just too long
        fastcgi_read_timeout 10s;       # default of 60s is just too long
        fastcgi_pass unix:/var/run/php5-fpm.sock;
        include fastcgi_params;

Save and close the default config, and then restart nginx: sudo service nginx restart


Replace the contents of /etc/apache2/sites-available/000-default.conf with the following:

<VirtualHost *:80>
    DocumentRoot "/var/www/"

    <Directory "/var/www/">
        AllowOverride All
        Order allow,deny
        Allow from all
  • Save and close the default config
  • Enable mod_rewrite for URL rewriting: sudo a2enmod rewrite
  • Restart Apache: sudo service apache2 restart

Configure PHP for Dev Environment

Since editing php.ini with Vim would require quite a few detailed instructions, I’ve opted to show you how to override php.ini settings by adding an additional config file.

On your host machine, create a file in your project directory name 00-php.ini. Paste the following contents into the file:

error_reporting = -1
display_errors = On
display_startup_errors = On
html_errors = On

These settings ensure that PHP will report any and all errors it encounters, and that PHP will display those errors on screen. The html_errors setting will provide a nice looking error formatted by xdebug.

Since your project directory is synced to /vagrant on your VM, the file you just created will be available on your VM. Copy the new config file into the directory scanned by PHP for additional config files and restart your web server. The following commands should be executed on your VM, not your host machine.

nginx and PHP-FPM

  • sudo cp /vagrant/00-php.ini /etc/php5/fpm/conf.d/
  • sudo service php5-fpm restart

Apache2 and PHP

  • sudo cp /vagrant/00-php.ini /etc/php5/apache2/conf.d/
  • sudo service apache2 restart

Final Configuration

You should see the Slim welcome page. If you don’t, there should be an error displayed telling you exactly what went wrong. Double check the steps above to make sure you didn’t miss anything. If you still have problems, drop me a line in the comments and I’ll help you get them sorted out.

Wrapping Up

So there you have it. You started with nothing at all and now have a working Slim Framework application. Congrats!

FYI, I highly recommend basing your Slim apps on the Slim Skeleton. Install it, modify it for your specific application needs, and you’ll have a much easier time getting up and running, I promise. That’s what I did when I first started with Slim.

Next time we’ll talk about how to automate this process. Now that you know what’s involved, there’s no point in wasting precious dev time manually configuring new machines for each new project.