Today no one would build an application from the ground up without using a development framework. And why would someone even think of that? There is no need to reinvent the wheel. And while most programming languages have a relatively small amount of frameworks to work with, with a single option more popular than the others (like Django for Python or Ruby on Rails for Ruby), PHP has plenty of them: Zend, CodeIgniter, Yii, CakePHP, Laravel and Symfony and so on. And here the question can’t be just “Which PHP framework is better?” because it is not that simple. Instead, you should ask “Which one is better for this specific case?” With this in mind, let’s compare two most popular PHP frameworks: Laravel vs. Symfony.
Laravel and Symfony Comparison: Common Features
The first thing to be mentioned (which some of you might already be well aware of) is that Laravel is actually based on Symfony. That is, Symfony originally had a vast variety of libraries, Laravel took them, added some of its own components and created Composer – a tool that allows integrating several components to work on a single application.
Some more common features include:
- text search;
- MVC (model-view-operator) architectural pattern for GUI;
- ORM (object-relational mapping);
- built-in unit testing (PHPUnit);
Core Differences Between Laravel and Symfony
Now that we know what the two frameworks have in common, let’s move on to discuss how they are different from each other.
Learning curve and tutorials
Laravel is currently the most popular framework among PHP developers, with over 35K stars on GitHub (compare with Symfony’s 15K+). It would be absolutely fair to say that Laravel’s popularity is partly attributed to the fact that it is easier to master in comparison with its rival. For the latter the learning curve is pretty great. Surely, Symfony has its own documentation, but Laravel tutorials and manuals are truly plentiful. Besides, Laravel has a large community whose members generously share their knowledge on working with the framework.
Development environment and debugging tools
Essentially, these are two things that help developers detect problematic areas and issues in the code fast and fix them. Here, Symfony takes the lead, as its IDE (integrated development environment) has greater support than Laravel. Some might say that Laravel has an IDE-support library which makes up for the shortcoming of its support, but using it is an extra task on the programmer’s agenda. As for debugging and profiling, Symfony is again the winner, as its panel is much more advanced than that of its contender.
Time to market
In order to integrate some important features, functionalities and utilities into PHP software, programmers make use of libraries developed earlier by other teams. Great examples of such libraries for Symfony solutions are Sonata Project, LiipImagine, FriendsOfSymfony open source bundles. These packages are large and provide developers with a wide array of opportunities. The obvious benefit of using Symfony bundles is faster development and integration of some functionalities. Besides, most of these packages are featured in official Symfony documentation, which means they are standardized. However, just as always with someone else’s code, developers using Symfony bundles have to spend time figuring out the initial code, sifting through documentation for different versions and, most surely, fixing lots of bugs. Moreover, some developers report bug-fixing of the bundles may take around a half of the work time.
Laravel also has third-party packages. But here, the community is really vast, and consequently so is the amount of packages. They are all listed on Packalyst – a directory of Laravel packages. You have a wide selection to choose from, sometimes too wide, even for a single small functionality that you’re looking to add. However, the quality of the libraries is in some cases far from perfect, unlike in the case of Symfony bundles, which are standardized. So the obvious question is, why spend time on fixing these issues when you can write your own code?
On the other hand, however, such a great number of bundles significantly speed up the development process. Whatever piece of code you need, it basically has been written by someone else. So what you do is just search for the necessary library, add it to Composer and customize to your solution.
So Which PHP Framework to Pick: Laravel or Symfony?
You already know the answer to that question. Thanks to a magnitude of ready-to-use bundles for Laravel, it can be rightfully said that it is perfectly suitable for start-up projects that need to be deployed rapidly and have short development timelines.
In its turn, Symfony has a number of such reusable packages, some of which are general and provide common functionalities, while others tackle more specific tasks. When combined in a single application, they present a well-structured system with logically connected parts that work smoothly with each other (standardization, remember?). This makes Symfony a perfect fit for complex, enterprise-grade software or just for a solution that is expected to be scaled up in the future.
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