Dependency Injection Container

A dependency injection (DI) container is an object that knows how to instantiate and configure objects and all their dependent objects. Martin Fowler's article has well explained why DI container is useful. Here we will mainly explain the usage of the DI container provided by Yii.

Dependency Injection

Yii provides the DI container feature through the class yii\di\Container. It supports the following kinds of dependency injection:

  • Constructor injection;
  • Method injection;
  • Setter and property injection;
  • PHP callable injection;

Constructor Injection

The DI container supports constructor injection with the help of type hints for constructor parameters. The type hints tell the container which classes or interfaces are dependent when it is used to create a new object. The container will try to get the instances of the dependent classes or interfaces and then inject them into the new object through the constructor. For example,

class Foo
{
    public function __construct(Bar $bar)
    {
    }
}

$foo = $container->get('Foo');
// which is equivalent to the following:
$bar = new Bar;
$foo = new Foo($bar);

Method Injection

Usually the dependencies of a class are passed to the constructor and are available inside of the class during the whole lifecycle. With Method Injection it is possible to provide a dependency that is only needed by a single method of the class and passing it to the constructor may not be possible or may cause too much overhead in the majority of use cases.

A class method can be defined like the doSomething() method in the following example:

class MyClass extends \yii\base\Component
{
    public function __construct(/*Some lightweight dependencies here*/, $config = [])
    {
        // ...
    }

    public function doSomething($param1, \my\heavy\Dependency $something)
    {
        // do something with $something
    }
}

You may call that method either by passing an instance of \my\heavy\Dependency yourself or using yii\di\Container::invoke() like the following:

$obj = new MyClass(/*...*/);
Yii::$container->invoke([$obj, 'doSomething'], ['param1' => 42]); // $something will be provided by the DI container

Setter and Property Injection

Setter and property injection is supported through configurations. When registering a dependency or when creating a new object, you can provide a configuration which will be used by the container to inject the dependencies through the corresponding setters or properties. For example,

use yii\base\Object;

class Foo extends Object
{
    public $bar;

    private $_qux;

    public function getQux()
    {
        return $this->_qux;
    }

    public function setQux(Qux $qux)
    {
        $this->_qux = $qux;
    }
}

$container->get('Foo', [], [
    'bar' => $container->get('Bar'),
    'qux' => $container->get('Qux'),
]);

Info: The yii\di\Container::get() method takes its third parameter as a configuration array that should be applied to the object being created. If the class implements the yii\base\Configurable interface (e.g. yii\base\Object), the configuration array will be passed as the last parameter to the class constructor; otherwise, the configuration will be applied after the object is created.

PHP Callable Injection

In this case, the container will use a registered PHP callable to build new instances of a class. Each time when yii\di\Container::get() is called, the corresponding callable will be invoked. The callable is responsible to resolve the dependencies and inject them appropriately to the newly created objects. For example,

$container->set('Foo', function () {
    $foo = new Foo(new Bar);
    // ... other initializations ...
    return $foo;
});

$foo = $container->get('Foo');

To hide the complex logic for building a new object, you may use a static class method as callable. For example,

class FooBuilder
{
    public static function build()
    {
        $foo = new Foo(new Bar);
        // ... other initializations ...
        return $foo;
    }
}

$container->set('Foo', ['app\helper\FooBuilder', 'build']);

$foo = $container->get('Foo');

By doing so, the person who wants to configure the Foo class no longer needs to be aware of how it is built.

Registering Dependencies

You can use yii\di\Container::set() to register dependencies. The registration requires a dependency name as well as a dependency definition. A dependency name can be a class name, an interface name, or an alias name; and a dependency definition can be a class name, a configuration array, or a PHP callable.

$container = new \yii\di\Container;

// register a class name as is. This can be skipped.
$container->set('yii\db\Connection');

// register an interface
// When a class depends on the interface, the corresponding class
// will be instantiated as the dependent object
$container->set('yii\mail\MailInterface', 'yii\swiftmailer\Mailer');

// register an alias name. You can use $container->get('foo')
// to create an instance of Connection
$container->set('foo', 'yii\db\Connection');

// register a class with configuration. The configuration
// will be applied when the class is instantiated by get()
$container->set('yii\db\Connection', [
    'dsn' => 'mysql:host=127.0.0.1;dbname=demo',
    'username' => 'root',
    'password' => '',
    'charset' => 'utf8',
]);

// register an alias name with class configuration
// In this case, a "class" element is required to specify the class
$container->set('db', [
    'class' => 'yii\db\Connection',
    'dsn' => 'mysql:host=127.0.0.1;dbname=demo',
    'username' => 'root',
    'password' => '',
    'charset' => 'utf8',
]);

// register a PHP callable
// The callable will be executed each time when $container->get('db') is called
$container->set('db', function ($container, $params, $config) {
    return new \yii\db\Connection($config);
});

// register a component instance
// $container->get('pageCache') will return the same instance each time it is called
$container->set('pageCache', new FileCache);

Tip: If a dependency name is the same as the corresponding dependency definition, you do not need to register it with the DI container.

A dependency registered via set() will generate an instance each time the dependency is needed. You can use yii\di\Container::setSingleton() to register a dependency that only generates a single instance:

$container->setSingleton('yii\db\Connection', [
    'dsn' => 'mysql:host=127.0.0.1;dbname=demo',
    'username' => 'root',
    'password' => '',
    'charset' => 'utf8',
]);

Resolving Dependencies

Once you have registered dependencies, you can use the DI container to create new objects, and the container will automatically resolve dependencies by instantiating them and injecting them into the newly created objects. The dependency resolution is recursive, meaning that if a dependency has other dependencies, those dependencies will also be resolved automatically.

You can use get() to either create or get object instance. The method takes a dependency name, which can be a class name, an interface name or an alias name. The dependency name may be registered via set() or setSingleton(). You may optionally provide a list of class constructor parameters and a configuration to configure the newly created object.

For example:

// "db" is a previously registered alias name
$db = $container->get('db');

// equivalent to: $engine = new \app\components\SearchEngine($apiKey, $apiSecret, ['type' => 1]);
$engine = $container->get('app\components\SearchEngine', [$apiKey, $apiSecret], ['type' => 1]);

Behind the scene, the DI container does much more work than just creating a new object. The container will first inspect the class constructor to find out dependent class or interface names and then automatically resolve those dependencies recursively.

The following code shows a more sophisticated example. The UserLister class depends on an object implementing the UserFinderInterface interface; the UserFinder class implements this interface and depends on a Connection object. All these dependencies are declared through type hinting of the class constructor parameters. With property dependency registration, the DI container is able to resolve these dependencies automatically and creates a new UserLister instance with a simple call of get('userLister').

namespace app\models;

use yii\base\Object;
use yii\db\Connection;
use yii\di\Container;

interface UserFinderInterface
{
    function findUser();
}

class UserFinder extends Object implements UserFinderInterface
{
    public $db;

    public function __construct(Connection $db, $config = [])
    {
        $this->db = $db;
        parent::__construct($config);
    }

    public function findUser()
    {
    }
}

class UserLister extends Object
{
    public $finder;

    public function __construct(UserFinderInterface $finder, $config = [])
    {
        $this->finder = $finder;
        parent::__construct($config);
    }
}

$container = new Container;
$container->set('yii\db\Connection', [
    'dsn' => '...',
]);
$container->set('app\models\UserFinderInterface', [
    'class' => 'app\models\UserFinder',
]);
$container->set('userLister', 'app\models\UserLister');

$lister = $container->get('userLister');

// which is equivalent to:

$db = new \yii\db\Connection(['dsn' => '...']);
$finder = new UserFinder($db);
$lister = new UserLister($finder);

Practical Usage

Yii creates a DI container when you include the Yii.php file in the entry script of your application. The DI container is accessible via Yii::$container. When you call Yii::createObject(), the method will actually call the container's get() method to create a new object. As aforementioned, the DI container will automatically resolve the dependencies (if any) and inject them into obtained object. Because Yii uses Yii::createObject() in most of its core code to create new objects, this means you can customize the objects globally by dealing with Yii::$container.

For example, let's customize globally the default number of pagination buttons of yii\widgets\LinkPager.

\Yii::$container->set('yii\widgets\LinkPager', ['maxButtonCount' => 5]);

Now if you use the widget in a view with the following code, the maxButtonCount property will be initialized as 5 instead of the default value 10 as defined in the class.

echo \yii\widgets\LinkPager::widget();

You can still override the value set via DI container, though:

echo \yii\widgets\LinkPager::widget(['maxButtonCount' => 20]);

Note: Properties given in the widget call will always override the definition in the DI container. Even if you specify an array, e.g. 'options' => ['id' => 'mypager'] these will not be merged with other options but replace them.

Another example is to take advantage of the automatic constructor injection of the DI container. Assume your controller class depends on some other objects, such as a hotel booking service. You can declare the dependency through a constructor parameter and let the DI container to resolve it for you.

namespace app\controllers;

use yii\web\Controller;
use app\components\BookingInterface;

class HotelController extends Controller
{
    protected $bookingService;

    public function __construct($id, $module, BookingInterface $bookingService, $config = [])
    {
        $this->bookingService = $bookingService;
        parent::__construct($id, $module, $config);
    }
}

If you access this controller from browser, you will see an error complaining the BookingInterface cannot be instantiated. This is because you need to tell the DI container how to deal with this dependency:

\Yii::$container->set('app\components\BookingInterface', 'app\components\BookingService');

Now if you access the controller again, an instance of app\components\BookingService will be created and injected as the 3rd parameter to the controller's constructor.

Advanced Practical Usage

Say we work on API application and have:

  • app\components\Request class that extends yii\web\Request and provides additional functionality
  • app\components\Response class that extends yii\web\Response and should have format property set to json on creation
  • app\storage\FileStorage and app\storage\DocumentsReader classes that implement some logic on working with documents that are located in some file storage:

    class FileStorage
    {
        public function __contruct($root) {
            // whatever
        }
    }
      
    class DocumentsReader
    {
        public function __contruct(FileStorage $fs) {
            // whatever
        }
    }
    

It is possible to configure multiple definitions at once, passing configuration array to setDefinitions() or setSingletons() method. Iterating over the configuration array, the methods will call set() or setSingleton() respectively for each item.

The configuration array format is:

  • key: class name, interface name or alias name. The key will be passed to the set() method as a first argument $class.
  • value: the definition associated with $class. Possible values are described in set() documentation for the $definition parameter. Will be passed to the set() method as the second argument $definition.

For example, let's configure our container to follow the aforementioned requirements:

$container->setDefinitions([
    'yii\web\Request' => 'app\components\Request',
    'yii\web\Response' => [
        'class' => 'app\components\Response',
        'format' => 'json'
    ],
    'app\storage\DocumentsReader' => function () {
        $fs = new app\storage\FileStorage('/var/tempfiles');
        return new app\storage\DocumentsReader($fs);
    }
]);

$reader = $container->get('app\storage\DocumentsReader); 
// Will create DocumentReader object with its dependencies as described in the config 

Tip: Container may be configured in declarative style using application configuration since version 2.0.11. Check out the Application Configurations subsection of the Configurations guide article.

Everything works, but in case we need to create DocumentWriter class, we shall copy-paste the line that creates FileStorage object, that is not the smartest way, obviously.

As described in the Resolving Dependencies subsection, set() and setSingleton() can optionally take dependency's constructor parameters as a third argument. To set the constructor parameters, you may use the following configuration array format:

  • key: class name, interface name or alias name. The key will be passed to the set() method as a first argument $class.
  • value: array of two elements. The first element will be passed to the set() method as the second argument $definition, the second one — as $params.

Let's modify our example:

$container->setDefinitions([
    'tempFileStorage' => [ // we've created an alias for convenience
        ['class' => 'app\storage\FileStorage'],
        ['/var/tempfiles'] // could be extracted from some config files
    ],
    'app\storage\DocumentsReader' => [
        ['class' => 'app\storage\DocumentsReader'],
        [Instance::of('tempFileStorage')]
    ],
    'app\storage\DocumentsWriter' => [
        ['class' => 'app\storage\DocumentsWriter'],
        [Instance::of('tempFileStorage')]
    ]
]);

$reader = $container->get('app\storage\DocumentsReader); 
// Will behave exactly the same as in the previous example.

You might notice Instance::of('tempFileStorage') notation. It means, that the Container will implicitly provide a dependency registered with the name of tempFileStorage and pass it as the first argument of app\storage\DocumentsWriter constructor.

Note: setDefinitions() and setSingletons() methods are available since version 2.0.11.

Another step on configuration optimization is to register some dependencies as singletons. A dependency registered via set() will be instantiated each time it is needed. Some classes do not change the state during runtime, therefore they may be registered as singletons in order to increase the application performance.

A good example could be app\storage\FileStorage class, that executes some operations on file system with a simple API (e.g. $fs->read(), $fs->write()). These operations do not change the internal class state, so we can create its instance once and use it multiple times.

$container->setSingletons([
    'tempFileStorage' => [
        ['class' => 'app\storage\FileStorage'],
        ['/var/tempfiles']
    ],
]);

$container->setDefinitions([
    'app\storage\DocumentsReader' => [
        ['class' => 'app\storage\DocumentsReader'],
        [Instance::of('tempFileStorage')]
    ],
    'app\storage\DocumentsWriter' => [
        ['class' => 'app\storage\DocumentsWriter'],
        [Instance::of('tempFileStorage')]
    ]
]);

$reader = $container->get('app\storage\DocumentsReader); 

When to Register Dependencies

Because dependencies are needed when new objects are being created, their registration should be done as early as possible. The following are the recommended practices:

  • If you are the developer of an application, you can register your dependencies using application configuration. Please, read the Application Configurations subsection of the Configurations guide article.
  • If you are the developer of a redistributable extension, you can register dependencies in the bootstrapping class of the extension.

Summary

Both dependency injection and service locator are popular design patterns that allow building software in a loosely-coupled and more testable fashion. We highly recommend you to read Martin's article to get a deeper understanding of dependency injection and service locator.

Yii implements its service locator on top of the dependency injection (DI) container. When a service locator is trying to create a new object instance, it will forward the call to the DI container. The latter will resolve the dependencies automatically as described above.