REPL: A read–eval–print loop. It allows developers to test, write and run code interactively from the command-line.

One constant annoyance I have with PHP is it’s lack of a decent, built-in REPL. PHP does have a REPL, but it:

  • doesn’t automatically print the output of each command
  • auto-exits on fatal errors, causing you to lose work
  • doesn’t have pretty output by default :(

All I want to do is the following:

cakephp> App::uses('ClassRegistry', 'Utility');
cakephp> App::uses('Post', 'Model');
cakephp> $posts = ClassRegistry::init('Post');
cakephp> $posts->find('first');
 → array(
  0 => array(
    'Post' => array(
      'id' => '1',
      'title' => 'The title',
      'body' => 'This is the post body.',
      'created' => '2013-12-03 04:47:58',
      'modified' => NULL

Luckily, there are a few options for CakePHP:

Console Shell

There is a Console Shell in CakePHP. It allows you do the following:

Thats cool. A few issues though:

  • Very limited. Basically only useful for Model finds and routes. Doesn’t do much else. For example, echo "hi"; returns Invalid command
  • Not native PHP output. Try copy-pasting the output into an editor. Then spend the rest of your life reformating it.
  • Deprecated as of 2.4, and will be removed in 3.x


Boris is a relative newcomer to PHP repl land. It’s a pure-php REPL with some interesting code behind the implementation. We’ll first need to install it:

cd path/to/app/Vendor
git clone

Next we’ll need something to bootstrap the CakePHP codebase. We will create a file called app/Console/boris. You’ll need to set proper permissions on it:

chmod +x app/Console/boris

Next, we need to bootstrap some constants. The CakePHP ShellDispatcher class does this, though we’ll need to make a few exceptions to it. Lets ensure we can include it (the code snippets here will all be in the same file!):

#!/usr/bin/php -q
$dispatcher = 'Cake' . $ds . 'Console' . $ds . 'ShellDispatcher.php';
if (function_exists('ini_set')) {
  $root = dirname(dirname(dirname(__FILE__)));
  // the following line differs from its sibling
  // /lib/Cake/Console/Templates/skel/Console/cake.php
  ini_set('include_path', $root . $ds . 'lib' . PATH_SEPARATOR . ini_get('include_path'));
if (!include $dispatcher) {
  trigger_error('Could not locate CakePHP core files.', E_USER_ERROR);
unset($paths, $path, $dispatcher, $root, $ds);

Next, we’ll create a wrapper BorisShellDispatcher which will contain our customizations:

class BorisShellDispatcher extends ShellDispatcher {
  public function __construct($args = array(), $bootstrap = true) {
    if ($bootstrap) {
  public static function run($argv) {
    $dispatcher = new BorisShellDispatcher($argv);

The customizations are enforced because we don’t want to run a CakePHP shell, we simply want to borrow the initialization code for constants etc.

Finally, lets run our custom dispatcher and start the boris runner:

if (!include (ROOT . DS . 'app' . DS . 'vendor' . DS . 'boris' . DS . 'lib' . DS . 'autoload.php')) {
  trigger_error("Unable to load boris autoload.", E_USER_ERROR);
$boris = new \Boris\Boris('cakephp> ');
$config = new \Boris\Config();
$options = new \Boris\CLIOptionsHandler();

Lets run it!

Pretty slick, but a few (minor) quirks:

  • Doesn’t seem like you can call App::uses() before $boris->start() and have the loaded files persist.
  • Output is sometimes verbose. If you just do $posts = ClassRegistry::init('Post'), it outputs the $posts object
  • Doesn’t work on Windows. Using Vagrant would solve this!

Interactive shell for CakePHP

This is something from @nodesagency. It is a CakePHP shell, similar to the Console shell, but in plugin format. We’ll need to install it first:

git clone git:// app/Plugin/Interactive

We’ll also need to enable it:

// in app/Config/bootstrap.php

And now install it:

Console/cake Interactive.Install

Lets try our commands:

Well that didn’t work. Guess there are a few bugs, or we need to make our own database connection?

One other (small) issue. This shell appears to require phpsh from Facebook. That project has been unmaintained for 3 years, and requires readline, ncurses, and emacs to build properly. I know because I had to go down a thirty-minute rabbit hole to figure that out. Annoying, but if you ever get it working, the above information is important if you ever want to actually install phpsh.

The plugin didn’t load any required files without phpsh, so it appears to be unmaintained. Boo.

The straight skinny

I think your current best bet is to use Boris. It’s quite easy to install, and other than not having an official CakePHP integration, is the best of the group atm.

Going forward, I expect to see CakePHP get a more officially-sanctioned integration with REPLs such as Boris - and I expect there will be more like them - so we’ll see where 3.0 brings us!