Routing and URL Creation

When a Yii application starts processing a requested URL, the first step it takes is to parse the URL into a route. The route is then used to instantiate the corresponding controller action to handle the request. This whole process is called routing.

The reverse process of routing is called URL creation, which creates a URL from a given route and the associated query parameters. When the created URL is later requested, the routing process can resolve it back into the original route and query parameters.

The central piece responsible for routing and URL creation is the URL manager, which is registered as the urlManager application component. The URL manager provides the parseRequest() method to parse an incoming request into a route and the associated query parameters and the createUrl() method to create a URL from a given route and its associated query parameters.

By configuring the urlManager component in the application configuration, you can let your application recognize arbitrary URL formats without modifying your existing application code. For example, you can use the following code to create a URL for the post/view action:

use yii\helpers\Url;

// Url::to() calls UrlManager::createUrl() to create a URL
$url = Url::to(['post/view', 'id' => 100]);

Depending on the urlManager configuration, the created URL may look like one of the following (or other format). And if the created URL is requested later, it will still be parsed back into the original route and query parameter value.

/index.php?r=post%2Fview&id=100
/index.php/post/100
/posts/100

URL Formats

The URL manager supports two URL formats:

  • the default URL format;
  • the pretty URL format.

The default URL format uses a query parameter named r to represent the route and normal query parameters to represent the query parameters associated with the route. For example, the URL /index.php?r=post/view&id=100 represents the route post/view and the id query parameter 100. The default URL format does not require any configuration of the URL manager and works in any Web server setup.

The pretty URL format uses the extra path following the entry script name to represent the route and the associated query parameters. For example, the extra path in the URL /index.php/post/100 is /post/100 which may represent the route post/view and the id query parameter 100 with a proper URL rule. To use the pretty URL format, you will need to design a set of URL rules according to the actual requirement about how the URLs should look like.

You may switch between the two URL formats by toggling the enablePrettyUrl property of the URL manager without changing any other application code.

Routing

Routing involves two steps:

  • the incoming request is parsed into a route and the associated query parameters;
  • a controller action corresponding to the parsed route is created to handle the request.

When using the default URL format, parsing a request into a route is as simple as getting the value of a GET query parameter named r.

When using the pretty URL format, the URL manager will examine the registered URL rules to find matching one that can resolve the request into a route. If such a rule cannot be found, a yii\web\NotFoundHttpException exception will be thrown.

Once the request is parsed into a route, it is time to create the controller action identified by the route. The route is broken down into multiple parts by the slashes in it. For example, site/index will be broken into site and index. Each part is an ID which may refer to a module, a controller or an action. Starting from the first part in the route, the application takes the following steps to create modules (if any), controller and action:

  1. Set the application as the current module.
  2. Check if the controller map of the current module contains the current ID. If so, a controller object will be created according to the controller configuration found in the map, and Step 5 will be taken to handle the rest part of the route.
  3. Check if the ID refers to a module listed in the modules property of the current module. If so, a module is created according to the configuration found in the module list, and Step 2 will be taken to handle the next part of the route under the context of the newly created module.
  4. Treat the ID as a controller ID and create a controller object. Do the next step with the rest part of the route.
  5. The controller looks for the current ID in its action map. If found, it creates an action according to the configuration found in the map. Otherwise, the controller will attempt to create an inline action which is defined by an action method corresponding to the current action ID.

Among the above steps, if any error occurs, a yii\web\NotFoundHttpException will be thrown, indicating the failure of the routing process.

Default Route

When a request is parsed into an empty route, the so-called default route will be used, instead. By default, the default route is site/index, which refers to the index action of the site controller. You may customize it by configuring the defaultRoute property of the application in the application configuration like the following:

[
    // ...
    'defaultRoute' => 'main/index',
];

Similar to the default route of the application, there is also a default route for modules, so for example if there is a user module and the request is parsed into the route user the module's defaultRoute is used to determine the controller. By default the controller name is default. If no action is specified in defaultRoute, the defaultAction property of the controller is used to determine the action. In this example, the full route would be user/default/index.

catchAll Route

Sometimes, you may want to put your Web application in maintenance mode temporarily and display the same informational page for all requests. There are many ways to accomplish this goal. But one of the simplest ways is to configure the yii\web\Application::$catchAll property like the following in the application configuration:

[
    // ...
    'catchAll' => ['site/offline'],
];

With the above configuration, the site/offline action will be used to handle all incoming requests.

The catchAll property should take an array whose first element specifies a route, and the rest of the elements (name-value pairs) specify the parameters to be bound to the action.

Info: The debug toolbar in development environment will not work when this property is enabled.

Creating URLs

Yii provides a helper method yii\helpers\Url::to() to create various kinds of URLs from given routes and their associated query parameters. For example,

use yii\helpers\Url;

// creates a URL to a route: /index.php?r=post%2Findex
echo Url::to(['post/index']);

// creates a URL to a route with parameters: /index.php?r=post%2Fview&id=100
echo Url::to(['post/view', 'id' => 100]);

// creates an anchored URL: /index.php?r=post%2Fview&id=100#content
echo Url::to(['post/view', 'id' => 100, '#' => 'content']);

// creates an absolute URL: http://www.example.com/index.php?r=post%2Findex
echo Url::to(['post/index'], true);

// creates an absolute URL using the https scheme: https://www.example.com/index.php?r=post%2Findex
echo Url::to(['post/index'], 'https');

Note that in the above example, we assume the default URL format is being used. If the pretty URL format is enabled, the created URLs will be different, according to the URL rules in use.

The route passed to the yii\helpers\Url::to() method is context sensitive. It can be either a relative route or an absolute route which will be normalized according to the following rules:

  • If the route is an empty string, the currently requested route will be used;
  • If the route contains no slashes at all, it is considered to be an action ID of the current controller and will be prepended with the uniqueId value of the current controller;
  • If the route has no leading slash, it is considered to be a route relative to the current module and will be prepended with the uniqueId value of the current module.

Starting from version 2.0.2, you may specify a route in terms of an alias. If this is the case, the alias will first be converted into the actual route which will then be turned into an absolute route according to the above rules.

For example, assume the current module is admin and the current controller is post,

use yii\helpers\Url;

// currently requested route: /index.php?r=admin%2Fpost%2Findex
echo Url::to(['']);

// a relative route with action ID only: /index.php?r=admin%2Fpost%2Findex
echo Url::to(['index']);

// a relative route: /index.php?r=admin%2Fpost%2Findex
echo Url::to(['post/index']);

// an absolute route: /index.php?r=post%2Findex
echo Url::to(['/post/index']);

// using an alias "@posts", which is defined as "/post/index": /index.php?r=post%2Findex
echo Url::to(['@posts']);

The yii\helpers\Url::to() method is implemented by calling the createUrl() and createAbsoluteUrl() methods of the URL manager. In the next few subsections, we will explain how to configure the URL manager to customize the format of the created URLs.

The yii\helpers\Url::to() method also supports creating URLs that are not related with particular routes. Instead of passing an array as its first parameter, you should pass a string in this case. For example,

use yii\helpers\Url;

// currently requested URL: /index.php?r=admin%2Fpost%2Findex
echo Url::to();

// an aliased URL: http://example.com
Yii::setAlias('@example', 'http://example.com/');
echo Url::to('@example');

// an absolute URL: http://example.com/images/logo.gif
echo Url::to('/images/logo.gif', true);

Besides the to() method, the yii\helpers\Url helper class also provides several other convenient URL creation methods. For example,

use yii\helpers\Url;

// home page URL: /index.php?r=site%2Findex
echo Url::home();

// the base URL, useful if the application is deployed in a sub-folder of the Web root
echo Url::base();

// the canonical URL of the currently requested URL
// see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canonical_link_element
echo Url::canonical();

// remember the currently requested URL and retrieve it back in later requests
Url::remember();
echo Url::previous();

Using Pretty URLs

To use pretty URLs, configure the urlManager component in the application configuration like the following:

[
    'components' => [
        'urlManager' => [
            'enablePrettyUrl' => true,
            'showScriptName' => false,
            'enableStrictParsing' => false,
            'rules' => [
                // ...
            ],
        ],
    ],
]

The enablePrettyUrl property is mandatory as it toggles the pretty URL format. The rest of the properties are optional. However, their configuration shown above is most commonly used.

  • showScriptName: this property determines whether the entry script should be included in the created URLs. For example, instead of creating a URL /index.php/post/100, by setting this property to be false, a URL /post/100 will be generated.
  • enableStrictParsing: this property determines whether to enable strict request parsing. If strict parsing is enabled, the incoming requested URL must match at least one of the rules in order to be treated as a valid request, otherwise a yii\web\NotFoundHttpException will be thrown. If strict parsing is disabled, when none of the rules matches the requested URL, the path info part of the URL will be treated as the requested route.
  • rules: this property contains a list of rules specifying how to parse and create URLs. It is the main property that you should work with in order to create URLs whose format satisfies your particular application requirement.

Note: In order to hide the entry script name in the created URLs, besides setting showScriptName to be false, you may also need to configure your Web server so that it can correctly identify which PHP script should be executed when a requested URL does not explicitly specify one. If you are using Apache or nginx Web server, you may refer to the recommended configuration as described in the Installation section.

URL Rules

A URL rule is a class implementing the yii\web\UrlRuleInterface, usually yii\web\UrlRule. Each URL rule consists of a pattern used for matching the path info part of URLs, a route, and a few query parameters. A URL rule can be used to parse a request if its pattern matches the requested URL. A URL rule can be used to create a URL if its route and query parameter names match those that are given.

When the pretty URL format is enabled, the URL manager uses the URL rules declared in its rules property to parse incoming requests and create URLs. In particular, to parse an incoming request, the URL manager examines the rules in the order they are declared and looks for the first rule that matches the requested URL. The matching rule is then used to parse the URL into a route and its associated parameters. Similarly, to create a URL, the URL manager looks for the first rule that matches the given route and parameters and uses that to create a URL.

You can configure yii\web\UrlManager::$rules as an array with keys being the patterns and values the corresponding routes. Each pattern-route pair constructs a URL rule. For example, the following rules configuration declares two URL rules. The first rule matches a URL posts and maps it into the route post/index. The second rule matches a URL matching the regular expression post/(\d+) and maps it into the route post/view and defines a query parameter named id.

'rules' => [
    'posts' => 'post/index',
    'post/<id:\d+>' => 'post/view',
]

Info: The pattern in a rule is used to match the path info part of a URL. For example, the path info of /index.php/post/100?source=ad is post/100 (the leading and ending slashes are ignored) which matches the pattern post/(\d+).

Besides declaring URL rules as pattern-route pairs, you may also declare them as configuration arrays. Each configuration array is used to configure a single URL rule object. This is often needed when you want to configure other properties of a URL rule. For example,

'rules' => [
    // ...other url rules...
    [
        'pattern' => 'posts',
        'route' => 'post/index',
        'suffix' => '.json',
    ],
]

By default if you do not specify the class option for a rule configuration, it will take the default class yii\web\UrlRule, which is the default value defined in yii\web\UrlManager::$ruleConfig.

Named Parameters

A URL rule can be associated with named query parameters which are specified in the pattern in the format of <ParamName:RegExp>, where ParamName specifies the parameter name and RegExp is an optional regular expression used to match parameter values. If RegExp is not specified, it means the parameter value should be a string without any slash.

Note: You can only use regular expressions inside of parameters. The rest of a pattern is considered plain text.

When a rule is used to parse a URL, it will fill the associated parameters with values matching the corresponding parts of the URL, and these parameters will be made available in $_GET later by the request application component. When the rule is used to create a URL, it will take the values of the provided parameters and insert them at the places where the parameters are declared.

Let's use some examples to illustrate how named parameters work. Assume we have declared the following three URL rules:

'rules' => [
    'posts/<year:\d{4}>/<category>' => 'post/index',
    'posts' => 'post/index',
    'post/<id:\d+>' => 'post/view',
]

When the rules are used to parse URLs:

  • /index.php/posts is parsed into the route post/index using the second rule;
  • /index.php/posts/2014/php is parsed into the route post/index, the year parameter whose value is 2014 and the category parameter whose value is php using the first rule;
  • /index.php/post/100 is parsed into the route post/view and the id parameter whose value is 100 using the third rule;
  • /index.php/posts/php will cause a yii\web\NotFoundHttpException when yii\web\UrlManager::$enableStrictParsing is true, because it matches none of the patterns. If yii\web\UrlManager::$enableStrictParsing is false (the default value), the path info part posts/php will be returned as the route. This will either execute the corresponding action if it exists or throw a yii\web\NotFoundHttpException otherwise.

And when the rules are used to create URLs:

  • Url::to(['post/index']) creates /index.php/posts using the second rule;
  • Url::to(['post/index', 'year' => 2014, 'category' => 'php']) creates /index.php/posts/2014/php using the first rule;
  • Url::to(['post/view', 'id' => 100]) creates /index.php/post/100 using the third rule;
  • Url::to(['post/view', 'id' => 100, 'source' => 'ad']) creates /index.php/post/100?source=ad using the third rule. Because the source parameter is not specified in the rule, it is appended as a query parameter in the created URL.
  • Url::to(['post/index', 'category' => 'php']) creates /index.php/post/index?category=php using none of the rules. Note that since none of the rules applies, the URL is created by simply appending the route as the path info and all parameters as the query string part.

Parameterizing Routes

You can embed parameter names in the route of a URL rule. This allows a URL rule to be used for matching multiple routes. For example, the following rules embed controller and action parameters in the routes.

'rules' => [
    '<controller:(post|comment)>/create' => '<controller>/create',
    '<controller:(post|comment)>/<id:\d+>/<action:(update|delete)>' => '<controller>/<action>',
    '<controller:(post|comment)>/<id:\d+>' => '<controller>/view',
    '<controller:(post|comment)>s' => '<controller>/index',
]

To parse a URL /index.php/comment/100/update, the second rule will apply, which sets the controller parameter to be comment and action parameter to be update. The route <controller>/<action> is thus resolved as comment/update.

Similarly, to create a URL for the route comment/index, the last rule will apply, which creates a URL /index.php/comments.

Info: By parameterizing routes, it is possible to greatly reduce the number of URL rules, which can significantly improve the performance of URL manager.

Default Parameter Values

By default, all parameters declared in a rule are required. If a requested URL does not contain a particular parameter, or if a URL is being created without a particular parameter, the rule will not apply. To make some of the parameters optional, you can configure the defaults property of a rule. Parameters listed in this property are optional and will take the specified values when they are not provided.

In the following rule declaration, the page and tag parameters are both optional and will take the value of 1 and empty string, respectively, when they are not provided.

'rules' => [
    // ...other rules...
    [
        'pattern' => 'posts/<page:\d+>/<tag>',
        'route' => 'post/index',
        'defaults' => ['page' => 1, 'tag' => ''],
    ],
]

The above rule can be used to parse or create any of the following URLs:

  • /index.php/posts: page is 1, tag is ''.
  • /index.php/posts/2: page is 2, tag is ''.
  • /index.php/posts/2/news: page is 2, tag is 'news'.
  • /index.php/posts/news: page is 1, tag is 'news'.

Without using optional parameters, you would have to create 4 rules to achieve the same result.

Rules with Server Names

It is possible to include Web server names in the patterns of URL rules. This is mainly useful when your application should behave differently for different Web server names. For example, the following rules will parse the URL http://admin.example.com/login into the route admin/user/login and http://www.example.com/login into site/login.

'rules' => [
    'http://admin.example.com/login' => 'admin/user/login',
    'http://www.example.com/login' => 'site/login',
]

You can also embed parameters in the server names to extract dynamic information from them. For example, the following rule will parse the URL http://en.example.com/posts into the route post/index and the parameter language=en.

'rules' => [
    'http://<language:\w+>.example.com/posts' => 'post/index',
]

Note: Rules with server names should not include the subfolder of the entry script in their patterns. For example, if the applications entry script is at http://www.example.com/sandbox/blog/index.php, then you should use the pattern http://www.example.com/posts instead of http://www.example.com/sandbox/blog/posts. This will allow your application to be deployed under any directory without the need to change your url rules. Yii will automatically detect the base url of the application.

URL Suffixes

You may want to add suffixes to the URLs for various purposes. For example, you may add .html to the URLs so that they look like URLs for static HTML pages; you may also add .json to the URLs to indicate the expected content type of the response. You can achieve this goal by configuring the yii\web\UrlManager::$suffix property like the following in the application configuration:

[
    // ...
    'components' => [
        'urlManager' => [
            'enablePrettyUrl' => true,
            // ...
            'suffix' => '.html',
            'rules' => [
                // ...
            ],
        ],
    ],
]

The above configuration will allow the URL manager to recognize requested URLs and also create URLs with .html as their suffix.

Tip: You may set / as the URL suffix so that the URLs all end with a slash.

Note: When you configure a URL suffix, if a requested URL does not have the suffix, it will be considered as an unrecognized URL. This is a recommended practice for SEO (search engine optimization) to avoid duplicate content on different URLs.

Sometimes you may want to use different suffixes for different URLs. This can be achieved by configuring the suffix property of individual URL rules. When a URL rule has this property set, it will override the suffix setting at the URL manager level. For example, the following configuration contains a customized URL rule which uses .json as its suffix instead of the global .html suffix.

[
    'components' => [
        'urlManager' => [
            'enablePrettyUrl' => true,
            // ...
            'suffix' => '.html',
            'rules' => [
                // ...
                [
                    'pattern' => 'posts',
                    'route' => 'post/index',
                    'suffix' => '.json',
                ],
            ],
        ],
    ],
]

HTTP Methods

When implementing RESTful APIs, it is commonly needed that the same URL be parsed into different routes according to the HTTP methods being used. This can be easily achieved by prefixing the supported HTTP methods to the patterns of the rules. If a rule supports multiple HTTP methods, separate the method names with commas. For example, the following rules have the same pattern post/<id:\d+> with different HTTP method support. A request for PUT post/100 will be parsed into post/update, while a request for GET post/100 will be parsed into post/view.

'rules' => [
    'PUT,POST post/<id:\d+>' => 'post/update',
    'DELETE post/<id:\d+>' => 'post/delete',
    'post/<id:\d+>' => 'post/view',
]

Note: If a URL rule contains HTTP method(s) in its pattern, the rule will only be used for parsing purpose unless GET is among the specified verbs. It will be skipped when the URL manager is called to create URLs.

Tip: To simplify the routing of RESTful APIs, Yii provides a special URL rule class yii\rest\UrlRule which is very efficient and supports some fancy features such as automatic pluralization of controller IDs. For more details, please refer to the Routing section in the RESTful APIs chapter.

Adding Rules Dynamically

URL rules can be dynamically added to the URL manager. This is often needed by redistributable modules which want to manage their own URL rules. In order for the dynamically added rules to take effect during the routing process, you should add them during the bootstrapping stage of the application. For modules, this means they should implement yii\base\BootstrapInterface and add the rules in the bootstrap() method like the following:

public function bootstrap($app)
{
    $app->getUrlManager()->addRules([
        // rule declarations here
    ], false);
}

Note that you should also list these modules in yii\web\Application::bootstrap() so that they can participate the bootstrapping process.

Creating Rule Classes

Despite the fact that the default yii\web\UrlRule class is flexible enough for the majority of projects, there are situations when you have to create your own rule classes. For example, in a car dealer Web site, you may want to support the URL format like /Manufacturer/Model, where both Manufacturer and Model must match some data stored in a database table. The default rule class will not work here because it relies on statically declared patterns.

We can create the following URL rule class to solve this problem.

<?php

namespace app\components;

use yii\web\UrlRuleInterface;
use yii\base\Object;

class CarUrlRule extends Object implements UrlRuleInterface
{
    public function createUrl($manager, $route, $params)
    {
        if ($route === 'car/index') {
            if (isset($params['manufacturer'], $params['model'])) {
                return $params['manufacturer'] . '/' . $params['model'];
            } elseif (isset($params['manufacturer'])) {
                return $params['manufacturer'];
            }
        }
        return false; // this rule does not apply
    }

    public function parseRequest($manager, $request)
    {
        $pathInfo = $request->getPathInfo();
        if (preg_match('%^(\w+)(/(\w+))?$%', $pathInfo, $matches)) {
            // check $matches[1] and $matches[3] to see
            // if they match a manufacturer and a model in the database.
            // If so, set $params['manufacturer'] and/or $params['model']
            // and return ['car/index', $params]
        }
        return false; // this rule does not apply
    }
}

And use the new rule class in the yii\web\UrlManager::$rules configuration:

'rules' => [
    // ...other rules...
    [
        'class' => 'app\components\CarUrlRule',
        // ...configure other properties...
    ],
]

URL normalization

Since version 2.0.10 UrlManager can be configured to use UrlNormalizer for dealing with variations of the same URL, for example with and without a trailing slash. Because technically http://example.com/path and http://example.com/path/ are different URLs, serving the same content for both of them can degrade SEO ranking. By default normalizer collapses consecutive slashes, adds or removes trailing slashes depending on whether the suffix has a trailing slash or not, and redirects to the normalized version of the URL using permanent redirection. The normalizer can be configured globally for the URL manager or individually for each rule - by default each rule will use the normalizer from URL manager. You can set UrlRule::$normalizer to false to disable normalization for particular URL rule.

The following shows an example configuration for the UrlNormalizer:

'urlManager' => [
    'enablePrettyUrl' => true,
    'showScriptName' => false,
    'enableStrictParsing' => true,
    'suffix' => '.html',
    'normalizer' => [
        'class' => 'yii\web\UrlNormalizer',
        // use temporary redirection instead of permanent for debugging
        'action' => UrlNormalizer::ACTION_REDIRECT_TEMPORARY,
    ],
    'rules' => [
        // ...other rules...
        [
            'pattern' => 'posts',
            'route' => 'post/index',
            'suffix' => '/',
            'normalizer' => false, // disable normalizer for this rule
        ],
        [
            'pattern' => 'tags',
            'route' => 'tag/index',
            'normalizer' => [
                // do not collapse consecutive slashes for this rule
                'collapseSlashes' => false,
            ],
        ],
    ],
]

Note: by default UrlManager::$normalizer is disabled. You need to explicitly configure it in order to enable URL normalization.

Performance Considerations

When developing a complex Web application, it is important to optimize URL rules so that it takes less time to parse requests and create URLs.

By using parameterized routes, you may reduce the number of URL rules, which can significantly improve performance.

When parsing or creating URLs, URL manager examines URL rules in the order they are declared. Therefore, you may consider adjusting the order of the URL rules so that more specific and/or more commonly used rules are placed before less used ones.

If some URL rules share the same prefix in their patterns or routes, you may consider using yii\web\GroupUrlRule so that they can be more efficiently examined by URL manager as a group. This is often the case when your application is composed by modules, each having its own set of URL rules with module ID as their common prefixes.