Less parser plugin for CakePHP

v1.7.1 2016-05-06 12:00 UTC


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This plugin has a helper to help you parsing .less files in CakePHP 3.0 applications.

By default, the helper will parse all less files to CSS files using less.php but if, for any reason, it fails, will fallback to the less.js parser both included by this plugin (this way you'll see any errors on screen).


You can install this plugin into your CakePHP application using composer.

The recommended way to install composer packages is:

composer require elboletaire/less-cake-plugin

After installing it you'll need to load it on your bootstrap.php file:


And load it into your (App)Controller:

public $helpers = ['Less.Less'];


By default it will compress files using the php parser with cache enabled. This will fill your css folder with a bunch of files starting with lessphp_ used for the cache. I recommend you adding these files to your .gitignore file in order to prevent commiting them:


Basically, you give the helper a less file to be loaded (usually from /less directory) and it returns the html link tag to the compiled CSS:

echo $this->Less->less('less/styles.less');
// will result in something like...
<link rel="stylesheet" href="/css/lessphp_8e07b9484a24787e27f9d71522ba53443d18bbd2.css" />

You can compile multiple files if you pass an array:

echo $this->Less->less(['less/myreset.less', 'less/styles.less']);
// They will be compiled in the same file, so the result will be the same as the previous one
<link rel="stylesheet" href="/css/lessphp_e0ce907005730c33ca6ae810d15f57a4df76d330.css"/>

Or you can load your less files with the HtmlHelper sending the files to the CSS block:

$this->Html->css('/less/styles.less?', ['block' => true, 'rel' => 'stylesheet/less']);

Note the ? at the end of the filename. It's used to force the .less extension. Otherwise it would be overwriten to styles.less.css by the UrlHelper.

And then parse all your files using the fetch method:

echo $this->Less->fetch();
echo $this->fetch('css');

By default, any less file found will be removed from the css block and thus, not printed.

You can also pass any option to both less.js and less.php parsers:

echo $this->Less->less('less/styles.less', [
    'js' => [
        // options for lessjs (will be converted to a json object)
    'parser' => [
        // options for less.php parser
    // The helper also has its own options
// Same if using the fetch method, but the options are as first param:
echo $this->Less->fetch(['js' => []]);

If you want to use the less.js parser directly, instead of just as a fallback, or you want to use the #!watch method, you can do it so by setting the js parser to development:

echo $this->Less->less('less/styles.less', ['js' => ['env' => 'development']]);

This will output all the links to the less files and the needed js files to parse the content only using the less.js parser.

Note: if there is an error in the php parser the helper will fallback to the js parser so you can see the errors in screen. If, for any reason, you can't see those errors, check the error.log file in the logs folder; it will contain any error generated by the less.php parser.

To load less files inside plugins you can use plugin notation:

echo $this->Less->less('Bootstrap.less/styles.less');
// or...
echo $this->Less->less('/Bootstrap/less/styles.less');
// both will load plugins/Bootstrap/webroot/less/styles.less file


Beside the options for less.js and less.php parsers you can set three options to the helper:

  • cache: default's to true. If disabled, the output will be raw CSS wrapped with <style> tags.
  • tag: default's to true. Whether or not return the code with its proper tag (with cache enabled will be a link tag, whilst without cache will be a style tag).
  • less: default's to /bootstrap/js/less.min. You can use this var to set a custom less.js file.
// Get the link to the resulting file after compressing
$css_link = $this->Less->less('less/styles.less', [
    'tag'   => false

// Get the compiled CSS (raw)
$compiled_css = $this->Less->less('less/styles.less', [
    'cache' => false,
    'tag'   => false

As a default setting of the LessHelper, all the CSS generated by the less.php parser is compresed. To override this set compress to false in the less.php parser options:

echo $this->Less->less('less/styles.less', [
  'parser' => ['compress' => false]

Modify Vars

Last but not least, if you want to overwrite any variable set on your less files you can use the $modify_vars param:

echo $this->Less->less(['less/styles.less'], [], ['bgcolor' => 'magenta']);
echo $this->Less->fetch([], ['bgcolor' => 'magenta']);
// Will overwrite any @bgcolor found in styles.less to #f0f


Copyright 2015 Òscar Casajuana (a.k.a. elboletaire)

Licensed under the Apache License, Version 2.0 (the "License");
you may not use this file except in compliance with the License.
You may obtain a copy of the License at


Unless required by applicable law or agreed to in writing, software
distributed under the License is distributed on an "AS IS" BASIS,
See the License for the specific language governing permissions and
imitations under the License.