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๐Ÿšฅ How to Automate Code Quality Checks in your Workflow? โš™

biros profile image Boris Jamot โœŠ / Originally published at mamyn0va.github.io ใƒปUpdated on ใƒป8 min read

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Previously, we focused on some widely adopted code quality tools for PHP (phpcs, phpmd and php-cs-fixer) and we arrived to the conclusion that those tools need to be included as part of our codebase.

This article is not particularly focused on PHP, but on controlling the quality of your codebase at every stage of your workflow (editing => versioning => building). Thus, it can be helpful for any kind of project (front or back, Go or JS, ...). You just have to find the right tools for your language.

For the most impatient of you, I created a template project on gitlab.com to allow you to quickly bootstrap a PHP project with ready-to-use quality tools.

How to embed code analysis tools in your workflowโ“

Using the CLI to manually check your code is cool (really? ๐Ÿค”), but not very productive. Let's automatize โš™ that a bit!

๐Ÿ“ In your editor or IDE

Personally, I use Atom and Neovim. Both offer plugins for many quality tools. But all of the existing editors (Emacs, SublimeText, VSCode...) and IDE (Intellij, PhpStorm...) have also plugins for that purpose.

๐Ÿ’ก Plugins' installation in Atom:

apm install linter-phpmd \
            linter-phpcs \
            linter-php \

Installing linter-phpmd to /home/boris/.atom/packages โœ“
Installing linter-phpcs to /home/boris/.atom/packages โœ“
Installing linter-php to /home/boris/.atom/packages โœ“
Installing php-cs-fixer to /home/boris/.atom/packages โœ“

Then you have to configure these plugins so that they find their related tool (for example linter-phpcs โžœ ./vendor/bin/phpcs).

If you installed them globally with Composer (composer global require xx/xx), then you just need to put ~/.config/composer/vendor/bin in your $PATH. No need to configure them in Atom.

And if you defined your own rulesets with the standard filenames for phpcs (phpcs.xml.dist), phpmd (phpmd.xml.dist) and php-cs-fixer (.php_cs.dist) at the root of your project, then they will be automatically loaded by Atom's plugins.

Let's see how it looks in Atom :

atom screenshot

By combining these 3 tools (phpcs, phpmd and php-cs-fixer), we can have a real-time diagnostic on the current file, an inline highlighting of the detected violations (errors are underlined, a tooltip appears on mouse-over, and an icon is displayed in the margin of the related line), and php-cs-fixer automatically fixes the errors on save.

In nvim also, errors are displayed in a dedicated buffer under the current file, with contextual info in the file itself:

vim screenshot

If you're looking for an out-of-box solution for an improved development experience in vim/neovim, have a look at this awesome ๐Ÿš€ project:

GitHub logo SpaceVim / SpaceVim

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About SpaceVim

SpaceVim is a community-driven modular Vim distribution. It manages collections of plugins in layers, which help to collect related packages together to provide IDE-like features SpaceVim is not just a vimrc but an ultimate Vim configuration, It contains many built-in features.


The last release is v1.5.0, check out following-HEAD page for what happened since last release.


See the followings below for more information:

If you have any questions about SpaceVim, please follow the Getting Help Guide.

New Features

This is a list of latest features implemented in SpaceVim:

Use toml as default configuration

Here is an example for using toml as SpaceVim config:

# This is basic configuration example for SpaceVim.
# All

๐ŸŒฑ With git hooks

Check the code in the editor is good, but do it before pushing to git is better!

Git comes with a set of hooks that you can use at many steps of the workflow (pre-commit, pre-push, post-update...). A git hook is just a script that will be executed before or after a particular event. It can be a shell script, a PHP script, a perl script, a python script or whatever scripting language. It can even be a binary. It just needs to be an executable.

Here is the list of all available hooks:

git hooks

We will focus on the pre-commit hook.

The idea is to run the quality tools in the pre-commit hook to check that your modifications are compliant with the standards that you defined for your project. Thus, you make sure that you don't commit erroneous code.

โš ๏ธ What is important to know before editing the pre-commit script is that if some of the tools returns an error code (different from 0), then it will stop the commit process. And that's exactly what we want.

๐Ÿ“œ Here are two rules that I personally use:

  • The pre-commit hook should only check (and fix) the files committed by the user. If you need to check/fix the whole codebase, then do it manually and notify your team to avoid a merge hell.
  • Any file modified by a hook should not be automatically re-added to the git index. This should be done by the user to let him the control on what is really committed.

To begin, the file .git/hooks/pre-commit.sample must be renamed in .git/hooks/pre-commit.

Then, you need to retrieve the list of files added to the git index, and to filter on the file extension you need (.php, .go, .py...):


STAGED_FILES_CMD=`git diff --cached --name-only --diff-filter=ACMR HEAD | grep \\\\.php`

Here I use bash in order to have a portable script that could run on (almost) any computer. But any scripting language is accepted.

Now, add below a call to each of your quality tools by providing them the list of staged files, and exit with 1 in case of error to break the commit:


echo "Running pre-commit hook"

PROJECT=`php -r "echo dirname(dirname(dirname(realpath('$0'))));"`
STAGED_FILES_CMD=`git diff --cached --name-only --diff-filter=ACMR HEAD | grep \\\\.php`

echo "Checking PHP Lint..."
    php -l -d display_errors=0 $PROJECT/$FILE
    if [ $? != 0 ]
        echo "Fix the error before(s) commit."
        exit 1

echo "Running PHP Code Beautifier and Fixer (phpcbf)..."
phpcbf --standard=phpcs.xml.dist $STAGED_FILES_CMD --colors --report=summary
if [ $? != 0 ]
    echo "Fix the error before(s) commit."
    exit 1

echo "Running PHP-CS-FIXER..."


    php-cs-fixer fix $FILE
    PHP_CS_STATUS=$(( $PHP_CS_STATUS + $? ))

if [ $PHP_CS_STATUS != 0 ]
    echo "Fix the error(s) before commit."

echo "End of pre-commit hook"


Here I don't run phpcs and phpmd, because they need to be highly customized to be used in a git hook. Otherwise, a lot of errors/warnings will be raised and block the commit. Do it only when you and your colleagues are ready. If you do it too early, it might discourage you and your team.

If you feel ready for that, this phpmd file would be a good start.

I also use the PHP linter (php -l) to ensure that all my PHP files are syntactically correct.

We could also add a call to phpunit, but be aware that it must not last more than a few seconds, because committing must be quick.

The limit of the git hooks is just the one of your imagination. I use it to lint many of my project's files: JSON, XML, swagger spec, markdown, shell scripts...

  • swagger-cli : lint your swagger file!
  • composer validate : lint your composer.json!
  • dockerlint : lint your Dockerfile!
  • shellcheck : lint your shell scripts!

And if there is no linter for your file, write your own linter! For example, I created a simple script to check that my i18n resource files are homogeneous across all the languages.

Finally, you're ready to test your hook by adding a file to the git index and committing. The pre-commit script will be triggered automatically. If not, check that it has the execution bit. Otherwise:

chmod +x .git/hooks/pre-commit

โš™ Automatisation through Composer

In the first part of this series, I introduced three tools and how to automatize their installation within Composer. This way, each developer can install them just by running composer install at the project's root.

But how to ensure that each of them will use them each time they modify a single line of code? Fortunately, Composer comes also with a set of hooks allowing you to automatize some of your tasks.

Thus, instead of manually creating a pre-commit script for every developers, the idea is to put the script somewhere in your codebase (e.g. in /contrib), and to ask Composer to install it automatically when installing or updating your project.

Just add a new section in your composer.json:

    "scripts": {
        "post-update-cmd": [
            "mv .git/hooks/pre-commit .git/hooks/pre-commit.bak",
            "cp contrib/pre-commit .git/hooks/pre-commit",
            "chmod a+x .git/hooks/pre-commit"
        "post-install-cmd": [
            "mv .git/hooks/pre-commit .git/hooks/pre-commit.bak",
            "cp contrib/pre-commit .git/hooks/pre-commit",
            "chmod a+x .git/hooks/pre-commit"

That way, anytime a dev will be running composer install or composer update, the script will be installed.

๐Ÿš‰ In your CI/CD pipeline

The goal of the quality control in the CI/CD pipeline is twofold:

  • first check the whole codebase against your project's quality rules, and break the build in case of any error (like a unit test would do)
  • (optionnally) perform a deeper analysis and publish a detailed build report that can be consulted by the devs at any time

Of course, it doesn't make sense to use a fixer (phpcbf, php-cs-fixer) in the pipeline as it would modify the code after it has been pulled from the repo, and we don't want the code to be modified without any control of the devs.

โš  Checking your whole codebase will have a significant impact on the build time. It can vary from few seconds to few minutes, depending on your code size.
For your information, on a 40 000 LoC project, it takes approximately 5 seconds for phpcs and 40 seconds for phpmd, with a relatively ยซlightยป analysis.

Regarding the deeper analysis, we'll use phpcs and phpmd to raise errors/warnings and to publish the results, either in ยซhuman-readableยป reports for devs (e.g. on a static website) with a notification in Slack, or in a standard format (junit, checkstyle, other...) to be integrated in a statistics tool like Sonar or PhpMetrics.

Here is a simple example of a gitlab-ci's pipeline allowing to build, test & check a PHP app and to publish the reports to gitlab pages:

image: composer

  - test
  - deploy

  stage: test
    - apk add --no-cache $PHPIZE_DEPS
    - pecl install xdebug-2.6.0
    - docker-php-ext-enable xdebug
    - composer install
    - ./vendor/bin/phpunit --testsuite=unit --coverage-text --colors=never --log-junit reports/phpunit-junit.log --testdox-html reports/phpunit-report.html
    - ./vendor/bin/phpcs -sw --standard=phpcs_squiz.xml.dist src --basepath=. --report=full --report-file=reports/phpcs-report.log || echo "ok"
    - ./vendor/bin/phpmd src html phpmd.xml.dist --reportfile reports/phpmd-report.html --ignore-violations-on-exit
      - reports
    expire_in: 30m

  stage: deploy
    - test:app
    - mkdir public
    - cp ci/pages/index.html public/
    - cp reports/* public/
      - public
    - master

You can find all you need to bootstrap a PHP project with quality tools and git+gitlab integration on my template project.

For your information, if you want to enable the Gitlab Pages for your project, you just have to create a job named pages in your pipeline. All that you put in /public will be accessible on the static Website of your project at the following URL: https://<group-or-username>.pages.forge.orange-labs.fr/<project-name>.

And since we're talking about Gitlab Pages, we can also use it to host the API documentation (PHPDoc, JavaDoc, or other), the tests reports with code coverage, and the Swagger documentation.

โญ To go further

There are many frameworks to manage the git hooks. Some of them are language specific (Node.js, PHP, Go, ...), and some others are language agnostic. They support many types of stacks. Just pick yours!

If you're interested in this topic, you can have a look at the Python pre-commit which is very powerful (but buggy on Windows...). However, it's worth taking a look because with a simple configuration file, you can toggle a whole bunch of hooks for your pre-commit's stage. You can also extend its capacities by writing your own plugins.

For PHP, have a look at the DigitalPulp plugins.

๐ŸŒŸ I would be happy to give you more details if you need, so don't hesitate to ask!


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