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Console Applications

Console applications are mainly used to perform offline work needed by an online Web application, such as code generation, search index compiling, email sending, etc. Yii provides a framework for writing console applications in an object-oriented way. It allows a console application to access the resources (e.g. DB connections) that are used by an online Web application.

1. Overview

Yii represents each console task in terms of a command. A console command is written as a class extending from CConsoleCommand.

When we use the yiic webapp tool to create an initial skeleton Yii application, we may find two files under the protected directory:

  • yiic: this is an executable script used on Linux/Unix;
  • yiic.bat: this is an executable batch file used on Windows.

In a console window, we can enter the following commands:

cd protected
yiic help

This will display a list of available console commands. By default, the available commands include those provided by Yii framework (called system commands) and those developed by users for individual applications (called user commands).

To see how to use a command, we can execute

yiic help <command-name>

And to execute a command, we can use the following command format:

yiic <command-name> [parameters...]

2. Creating Commands

Console commands are stored as class files under the directory specified by CConsoleApplication::commandPath. By default, this refers to the directory protected/commands.

A console command class must extend from CConsoleCommand. The class name must be of format XyzCommand, where Xyz refers to the command name with the first letter in upper case. For example, a sitemap command must use the class name SitemapCommand. Console command names are case-sensitive.

Tip: By configuring CConsoleApplication::commandMap, one can also have command classes in different naming conventions and located in different directories.

To create a new command, one often needs to override CConsoleCommand::run() or develop one or several command actions (to be explained in the next section).

When executing a console command, the CConsoleCommand::run() method will be invoked by the console application. Any console command parameters will be passed to the method as well, according to the following signature of the method:

public function run($args) { ... }

where $args refers to the extra parameters given in the command line.

Within a console command, we can use Yii::app() to access the console application instance, through which we can also access resources such as database connections (e.g. Yii::app()->db). As we can tell, the usage is very similar to what we can do in a Web application.

Info: Starting from version 1.1.1, we can also create global commands that are shared by all Yii applications on the same machine. To do so, define an environment variable named YII_CONSOLE_COMMANDS which should point to an existing directory. We can then put our global command class files under this directory.

3. Console Command Action

Note: The feature of console command action has been available since version 1.1.5.

A console command often needs to handle different command line parameters, some required, some optional. A console command may also need to provide several sub-commands to handle different sub-tasks. These work can be simplified using console command actions.

A console command action is a method in a console command class. The method name must be of the format actionXyz, where Xyz refers to the action name with the first letter in upper-case. For example, a method actionIndex defines an action named index.

To execute a specific action, we use the following console command format:

yiic <command-name> <action-name> --option1=value1 --option2=value2 ...

The additional option-value pairs will be passed as named parameters to the action method. The value of a xyz option will be passed as the $xyz parameter of the action method. For example, if we define the following command class:

class SitemapCommand extends CConsoleCommand
    public function actionIndex($type, $limit=5) { ... }
    public function actionInit() { ... }

Then, the following console commands will all result in calling actionIndex('News', 5):

yiic sitemap index --type=News --limit=5

// $limit takes default value
yiic sitemap index --type=News

// $limit takes default value
// because 'index' is a default action, we can omit the action name
yiic sitemap --type=News

// the order of options does not matter
yiic sitemap index --limit=5 --type=News

If an option is given without value (e.g. --type instead of --type=News), the corresponding action parameter value will be assumed to be boolean true.

Note: We do not support alternative option formats such as --type News, -t News.

A parameter can take an array value by declaring it with array type hinting:

public function actionIndex(array $types) { ... }

To supply the array value, we simply repeat the same option in the command line as needed:

yiic sitemap index --types=News --types=Article

The above command will call actionIndex(array('News', 'Article')) ultimately.

Starting from version 1.1.6, Yii also supports using anonymous action parameters and global options.

Anonymous parameters refer to those command line parameters not in the format of options. For example, in a command yiic sitemap index --limit=5 News, we have an anonymous parameter whose value is News while the named parameter limit is taking the value 5.

To use anonymous parameters, a command action must declare a parameter named as $args. For example,

public function actionIndex($limit=10, $args=array()) {...}

The $args array will hold all available anonymous parameter values.

Global options refer to those command line options that are shared by all actions in a command. For example, in a command that provides several actions, we may want every action to recognize an option named as verbose. While we can declare $verbose parameter in every action method, a better way is to declare it as a public member variable of the command class, which turns verbose into a global option:

class SitemapCommand extends CConsoleCommand
    public $verbose=false;
    public function actionIndex($type) {...}

The above code will allow us to execute a command with a verbose option:

yiic sitemap index --verbose=1 --type=News

4. Exit Codes

Note: The possibility to return exit codes in console commands has been available since version 1.1.11.

When running console commands automatically, via cronjob or using a continuous integration server, it is always interesting if the command ran successfully or if there were errors. This can be done by checking the exit code a process returns on exit.

These codes are integer values between 0 and 254 (this is the range in php world), where 0 should be returned on success and all other values greater than 0 will indicate an error.

In an action method or in the run() method of your console command you can return an integer value to exit your application with an exit code. Example:

if (/* error */) {
    return 1; // exit with error code 1
// ... do something ...
return 0; // exit successfully

When there is no return value, application will exit with code 0.

5. Customizing Console Applications

By default, if an application is created using the yiic webapp tool, the configuration for the console application will be protected/config/console.php. Like a Web application configuration file, this file is a PHP script which returns an array representing the property initial values for a console application instance. As a result, any public property of CConsoleApplication can be configured in this file.

Because console commands are often created to serve for the Web application, they need to access the resources (such as DB connections) that are used by the latter. We can do so in the console application configuration file like the following:

return array(

As we can see, the format of the configuration is very similar to what we do in a Web application configuration. This is because both CConsoleApplication and CWebApplication share the same base class.

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