Map nested JSON structures onto PHP classes

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Language: PHP

v0.10.0 2015-09-24 12:43 UTC


Takes data retrieved from a JSON web service and converts them into nested object and arrays - using your own model classes.

Starting from a base object, it maps JSON data on class properties, converting them into the correct simple types or objects.

It's a bit like the native SOAP parameter mapping PHP's SoapClient gives you, but for JSON. Note that it does not rely on any schema, only your class definitions.

Type detection works by parsing @var docblock annotations of class properties, as well as type hints in setter methods.

You do not have to modify your model classes by adding JSON specific code; it works automatically by parsing already-existing docblocks.

Keywords: deserialization, hydration


Pro & contra


  • Autocompletion in IDEs
  • It's easy to add comfort methods to data model classes
  • Your JSON API may change, but your models can stay the same - not breaking applications that use the model classes.


  • Model classes need to be written by hand

    Since JsonMapper does not rely on any schema information (e.g. from json-schema), model classes cannot be generated automatically.


Basic usage

  1. Register an autoloader that can load PSR-0 compatible classes.
  2. Create a JsonMapper object instance
  3. Call the map or mapArray method, depending on your data

Map a normal object:

require 'autoload.php';
$mapper = new JsonMapper();
$contactObject = $mapper->map($jsonContact, new Contact());

Map an array of objects:

require 'autoload.php';
$mapper = new JsonMapper();
$contactsArray = $mapper->mapArray(
    $jsonContacts, new ArrayObject(), 'Contact'


JSON from a address book web service:

    'name':'Sheldon Cooper',
    'address': {
        'street': '2311 N. Los Robles Avenue',
        'city': 'Pasadena'

Your local Contact class:

class Contact
     * Full name
     * @var string
    public $name;

     * @var Address
    public $address;

Your local Address class:

class Address
    public $street;
    public $city;

    public function getGeoCoords()
        //do something with the $street and $city

Your application code:

$json = json_decode(file_get_contents(''));
$mapper = new JsonMapper();
$contact = $mapper->map($json, new Contact());

echo "Geo coordinates for " . $contact->name . ": "
    . var_export($contact->address->getGeoCoords(), true);

Property type documentation

JsonMapper uses several sources to detect the correct type of a property:

  1. The setter method (set + ucwords($propertyname)) is inspected.

    Underscores make the next letter uppercase, which means that for a JSON property foo_bar_baz a setter method of setFooBarBaz is used.

    1. If it has a type hint in the method signature, this type used:

      public function setPerson(Contact $person) {...}
    2. The method's docblock is inspected for @param $type annotations:

       * @param Contact $person Main contact for this application
      public function setPerson($person) {...}
    3. If no type could be detected, the plain JSON value is passed to the setter method.

  2. @var $type docblock annotation of class properties:

     * @var \my\application\model\Contact
    public $person;

    Note that the property has to be public to be used directly.

    If no type could be detected, the property gets the plain JSON value.

    If a property can not be found, JsonMapper tries to find the property in a case-insensitive manner. A JSON property isempty would then be mapped to a PHP property isEmpty.

Supported type names:

  • Simple types:
    • string
    • bool, boolean
    • int, integer
    • float
    • array
    • object
  • Class names, with and without namespaces
  • Arrays of simple types and class names:
    • int[]
    • Contact[]
  • ArrayObjects of simple types and class names:
    • ContactList[Contact]
    • NumberList[int]
  • Nullable types:
    • int|null - will be null if the value in JSON is null, otherwise it will be an integer

ArrayObjects and extending classes are treated as arrays.

Variables without a type or with type mixed will get the JSON value set directly without any conversion.

See phpdoc's type documentation for more information.

Simple type mapping

When an object shall be created but the JSON contains a simple type only (e.g. string, float, boolean), this value is passed to the classes' constructor. Example:

PHP code:

 * @var DateTime
public $date;



This will result in new DateTime('2014-05-15') being called.


JsonMapper's setLogger() method supports all PSR-3 compatible logger instances.

Events that get logged:

  • JSON data contain a key, but the class does not have a property or setter method for it.
  • Neither setter nor property can be set from outside because they are protected or private

Handling invalid or missing data

During development, APIs often change. To get notified about such changes, JsonMapper may throw exceptions in case of either missing or yet unknown data.

Unknown properties

When JsonMapper sees properties in the JSON data that are not defined in the PHP class, you can let it throw an exception by setting $bExceptionOnUndefinedProperty:

$jm = new JsonMapper();
$jm->bExceptionOnUndefinedProperty = true;
Missing properties

Properties in your PHP classes can be marked as "required" by putting @required in their docblock:

 * @var string
 * @required
public $someDatum;

When the JSON data do not contain this property, JsonMapper will throw an exception when $bExceptionOnMissingData is activated:

$jm = new JsonMapper();
$jm->bExceptionOnMissingData = true;
Passing arrays to map()

You may wish to pass array data into map() that you got by calling

json_decode($jsonString, true)

By default, JsonMapper will throw an exception because map() requires an object as first parameter. You can circumvent that by setting $bEnforceMapType to false:

$jm = new JsonMapper();
$jm->bEnforceMapType = false;


via PEAR

From our PEAR channel:

$ pear channel-discover
$ pear install nr/jsonmapper-alpha

via Composer

From Packagist:

$ composer require netresearch/jsonmapper

Related software

About JsonMapper


JsonMapper is licensed under the OSL 3.0.

Coding style

JsonMapper follows the PEAR Coding Standards.


Christian Weiske, Netresearch GmbH & Co KG