Automatically restart PHP application once the source code changes

v1.0.1 2022-01-24 11:56 UTC


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PHP-watcher helps develop long-running PHP applications by automatically restarting them when file changes in the directory are detected.

Here's how it looks like:

watcher screenshot

PHP-watcher does not require any additional changes to your code or method of development. php-watcher is a replacement wrapper for php, to use PHP -watcher replace the word php in the command line when executing your script.

Table of contents


You can install this package globally like this:

composer global require funct-gmbh/php-watcher

After that phpunit-watcher watch can be run in any directory on your system.

Alternatively, you can install the package locally as a dev dependency in your project:

composer require funct-gmbh/php-watcher --dev

Locally installed you can run it with vendor/bin/php-watcher.


All the examples assume you've installed the package globally. If you opted for the local installation prepend vendor/bin/ everywhere where php-watcher is mentioned.

PHP-watcher wraps your application, so you can pass all the arguments you would normally pass to your app:

php-watcher [your php app]

Using PHP-Watcher is simple. If your application accepts a host and port as the arguments, I can start it using option --arguments:

php-watcher server.php --arguments localhost --arguments 8080

Any output from this script is prefixed with [php-watcher], otherwise all output from your application, errors included, will be echoed out as expected.

Config files

PHP-Watcher supports customization of its behavior with config files. The file for options may be named .php-watcher.yml, php-watcher.yml or php-watcher.yml.dist. The tool will look for a file in the current working directory in that order. An alternative local configuration file can be specified with the --config <file> option.

The specificity is as follows, so that a command line argument will always override the config file settings:

  • command line arguments
  • local config

A config file can take any of the command line arguments, for example:

  - src
  - config
  - php
  - yml
  - tests

Monitoring multiple directories

By default, PHP-Watcher monitors the current working directory. If you want to take control of that option, use the --watch option to add specific paths:

php-watcher --watch src --watch config server.php

Now PHP-Watcher will only restart if there are changes in the ./src or ./config directories. By default traverses sub-directories, so there's no need to explicitly include them.

Specifying extension watch list

By default, PHP-Watcher looks for files with the .php extension. If you use the --ext option and monitor app,yml PHP-Watcher will monitor files with the extension of .php and .yml:

php-watcher server.php --ext=php,yml

Now PHP-Watcher will restart on any changes to files in the directory (or subdirectories) with the extensions .php, .yml.

Ignoring files

By default, PHP-Watcher will only restart when a .php file changes. In some cases you may want to ignore some specific files, directories or file patterns, to prevent PHP-Watcher from prematurely restarting your application.

This can be done via the command line:

php-watcher server.php --ignore public/ --ignore tests/

Or specific files can be ignored:

php-watcher server.php --ignore src/config.php

Patterns can also be ignored (but be sure to quote the arguments):

php-watcher server.php --ignore 'src/config/*.php'

Note that by default, PHP-Watcher ignores all dot and VCS files.

Delaying restarting

In some situations, you may want to wait until a number of files have changed . The timeout before checking for new file changes is 1 second. If you're uploading a number of files and it's taking some number of seconds, this could cause your app to restart multiple times unnecessarily.

To add an extra throttle, or delay restarting, use the --delay option:

php-watcher server.php --delay 10 

For more precision, use a float:

php-watcher server.php --delay 2.5 

Default executable

By default, PHP-Watcher uses php bin executable to run your scripts. If you want to provide your own executable use --exec option or executable param in config file. This is particularly useful if you're working with several PHP versions.

executable: php

or using CLI:

php-watcher server.php --exec php7

Running non-php scripts

PHP-Watcher can also be used to execute and monitor other non-php programs. For example, you can use PHP-Watcher to listen to *.js files and use node executable to run them:

php-watcher server.js --exec node --watch app --ext=js

The command above uses NodeJS to start server.js and then listens to changes in app directory.

Gracefully reloading down your script

It is possible to have PHP-watcher send any signal that you specify to your application.

php-watcher --signal SIGTERM server.php

Your application can handle the signal as follows:

declare(ticks = 1);

pcntl_signal(SIGTERM, 'terminationHandler');

function terminationHandler()
    // ...        

By default PHP-watcher sends SIGINT signal.

Automatic restart

PHP-watcher was originally written to restart long-running processes such as web servers, but it also supports apps that cleanly exit. If your script exits cleanly, the watcher will continue to monitor the directory (or directories) and restart the script if there are any changes. If the script crashes PHP-watcher will notify you about that.

app exit


By default the watcher outputs a nice spinner which indicates that the process is running and watching your files. But if your system doesn't support ansi coded the watcher will try to detect it and disable the spinner. Or you can always disable the spinner manually with option '--no-spinner':

php-watcher server.php --no-spinner


Based on the work of seregazhuk/php-watcher