Part 1: macOS 11.0 Big Sur Web Development Environment
Developing web applications on macOS is a real joy. There are plenty of options for setting up your development environments, including the ever-popular MAMP Pro that provides a nice UI on top of Apache, PHP and MySQL. However, there are times when MAMP Pro has slow downs, or out of date versions, or is simply behaving badly due to its restrictive system of configuration templates and non-standard builds.
It is times like these that people often look for an alternative approach, and luckily there is one, and it is relatively straight-forward to setup.
In this blog post, we will walk you through setting up and configuring Apache 2.4 and multiple PHP versions. In the second blog post in this two-post series, we will cover MySQL, Apache virtual hosts, APC caching, and Xdebug installation.
11/27/2019 Updated to add some information on PHP 8.0
11/13/2020 Updated to reflect the release of macOS 11.0 Big Sur
12/02/2019 Updated to reflect the latest release of PHP 7.4 and the removal of PHP 7.1 from Official tap
12/02/2019 Updated to reflect the latest release of PHP 7.4 and the removal of PHP 7.1 from Official tap
10/08/2019 Updated to reflect the release of macOS 10.5 Catalina
01/10/2019 Updated to add back PHP 5.6 and PHP 7.0 from and external deprecated keg
12/12/2018 Updated to reflect the latest release of PHP 7.3 and the removal of PHP 7.0 from Brew.
If you have followed this guide in the past with the
Homebrew/php tap, and are looking to upgrade to the new
Homebrew/core approach, then you should first clean-up your current installation by following our new Upgrading Homebrew.
This guide is intended for experienced web developers. If you are a beginner developer, you will be better served using MAMP or MAMP Pro.
XCode Command Line Tools
If you don't already have XCode installed, it's best to first install the command line tools as these will be used by homebrew:
This process relies heavily on the macOS package manager called Homebrew. Using the
brew command you can easily add powerful functionality to your mac, but first we have to install it. This is a simple process, but you need to launch your Terminal (
/Applications/Utilities/Terminal) application and then enter:
/bin/bash -c "$(curl -fsSL https://raw.githubusercontent.com/Homebrew/install/master/install.sh)"
Just follow the terminal prompts and enter your password where required. This may take a few minutes, but when complete, a quick way to ensure you have installed
brew correctly, simply type:
Homebrew 2.5.10 Homebrew/homebrew-core (git revision 542ff0; last commit 2020-11-13)
You should probably also run the following command to ensure everything is configured correctly:
It will instruct you if you need to correct anything.
Big Sur Required Libraries
When installing fresh on Big Sur, I ran into a few libraries that were missing when completing all the steps below. To make things easier, please simply run this now:
brew install openssl
aa The latest macOS 11.0 Big Sur comes with Apache 2.4 pre-installed, however, it is no longer a simple task to use this version with Homebrew because Apple has removed some required scripts in this release. However, the solution is to install Apache 2.4 via Homebrew and then configure it to run on the standard ports (80/443).
If you already have the built-in Apache running, it will need to be shutdown first, and any auto-loading scripts removed. It really doesn't hurt to just run all these commands in order - even if it's a fresh installation:
sudo apachectl stop sudo launchctl unload -w /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/org.apache.httpd.plist 2>/dev/null
Now we need to install the new version provided by Brew:
brew install httpd
httpd won't need to be built from source, so it installs pretty quickly. Upon completion you should see a message like:
🍺 /usr/local/Cellar/httpd/2.4.46: 1,658 files, 27.9MB
Now we just need to configure things so that our new Apache server is auto-started
brew services start httpd
You now have installed Homebrew's Apache, and configured it to auto-start with a privileged account. It should already be running, so you can try to reach your server in a browser by pointing it at
http://localhost:8080, you should see a simple header that says "It works!".
If you get a message that the browser can't connect to the server, first check to ensure the server is up.
ps -aef | grep httpd
You should see a few httpd processes if Apache is up and running.
Try to restart Apache with:
brew services restart httpd
You can watch the Apache error log in a new Terminal tab/window during a restart to see if anything is invalid or causing a problem:
tail -f /usr/local/var/log/httpd/error_log
Apache is controlled via the
brew services command so some useful commands to use are:
$ brew services stop httpd $ brew services start httpd $ brew services restart httpd
Visual Studio Code
In past guides, I've always provided instructions to edit files using the default
TextEdit application that comes pre-installed. However, this is not what I use myself as it's a terrible editor and when testing my guide for Big Sur, I kept running into problems with encoding, finding line numbers etc. The better solution is to simply install a better editor. So please install the amazingly versatile yet, 100% free, Visual Studio Code. It's available on Mac, Windows, and Linux, but right now we only care about the mac version.
Go to the Visual Studio Code site and click Download for Mac
Once downloaded, drag the application to your preffered Applications location. Next, you want to install the command line tools, so follow the official step-by-step instructions so that you can use the
code command from the Terminal.
Now that we have a working web server, we will want to do is make some configuration changes so it works better as a local development server.
In the latest version of Brew, you have to manually set the listen port from the default of
80, so we will need to edit Apache's configuration file
If you followed the instructions above you should be able to use Visual Studio Code to edit your files using the
code Terminal command. However, if you want to use the default TextEditor application to perform edits, you can use the
open -e command followed by the path to the file.
Find the line that says
and change it to
Next we'll configure it to use the to change the document root for Apache. This is the folder where Apache looks to serve file from. By default, the document root is configured as
/usr/local/var/www. As this is a development machine, let's assume we want to change the document root to point to a folder in our own home directory.
Search for the term
DocumentRoot, and you should see the following line:
Change this to point to your user directory where
your_user is the name of your user account:
You also need to change the
<Directory> tag reference right below the DocumentRoot line. This should also be changed to point to your new document root also:
We removed the optional quotes around the directory paths as TextEdit will probably try to convert those to smart-quotes and that will result in a Syntax error when you try to restart Apache. Even if you edit around the quotes and leave them where they are, saving the document may result in their conversion and cause an error.
In that same
<Directory> block you will find an
AllowOverride setting, this should be changed as follows:
# # AllowOverride controls what directives may be placed in .htaccess files. # It can be "All", "None", or any combination of the keywords: # AllowOverride FileInfo AuthConfig Limit # AllowOverride All
Also we should now enable mod_rewrite which is commented out by default. Search for
mod_rewrite.so and uncomment the line by removing the leading
# by pushing
/ on the line (this is a quick way to uncomment and comment a single or multiple lines:
LoadModule rewrite_module lib/httpd/modules/mod_rewrite.so
User & Group
Now we have the Apache configuration pointing to a
Sites folder in our home directory. One problem still exists, however. By default, apache runs as the user
daemon and group
daemon. This will cause permission problems when trying to access files in our home directory. About a third of the way down the
httpd.conf file there are two settings to set the
Group Apache will run under. Change these to match your user account (replace
your_user with your real username), with a group of
User your_user Group staff
Apache likes to have a server name in the configuration, but this is disabled by default, so search for:
and replace it with:
Now, you need to create a
Sites folder in the root of your home directory. You can do this in your terminal, or in Finder. In this new
Sites folder create a simple
index.html and put some dummy content in it like:
<h1>My User Web Root</h1>.
mkdir ~/Sites echo "<h1>My User Web Root</h1>" > ~/Sites/index.html
Restart apache to ensure your configuration changes have taken effect:
brew services stop httpd brew services start httpd
If you receive an error upon restarting Apache, try removing the quotes around the DocumentRoot and Directory designations we set up earlier.
Pointing your browser to
http://localhost should display your new message. If you have that working, we can move on!
Makes sure you remove the
:8080 port we used earlier. Also, you might need to
Reload to clear the browser cache and pick up the new file.
Troubleshooting Non-Sudo httpd Services Start
I will be updating this section with more tips and things to try as I find solutions to common problems. Please hop on our #macos Discord Chat to get some "live" help.
This year, with macOS Big Sur, I've switched from using
sudo to launch
httpd with root (even though it ran as the user/group defined in
httpd.conf), and for people who have upgraded from that version to this, there have been problems.
I ran into some problems myself but was able to get it working pretty easily, but others have reported more wide-spread problems. Please try these steps if your Apache is not starting when you use
brew services start httpd.
First, try to start apache directly with:
/usr/local/bin/httpd -k start
This bypasses the brew services command and often prints out specific issues. If you have issues reported about not being able to write to log files, try removing all the current log httpd log files:
rm -Rf /usr/local/var/log/httpd/*
Then try starting again.
If you have see a message saying something like
Address already in use: AH00072: make_sock: could not bind to address, try changing the
Listen config in
If you have existing PHP installations via Brew, you need to first cleanup your setup with our Upgrading Homebrew guide before continuing with this section.
Up until the end of March 2018, all PHP related brews were handled by
Homebrew/php tab, but that has been deprecated, so now we use what's available in the
Homebrew/core package. This should be a better maintained, but is a much less complete, set of packages.
PHP 5.6, PHP 7.0, and PHP 7.1 have been deprecated and removed from Brew because they are out of support, and while it's not recommended for production, there are legitimate reasons to test these unsupported versions in a development environment. These versions also need to "built from source" in order to use the latest versions of
Remember only PHP 7.2 through 7.4 are officially supported by Brew, but these also have to be built which is pretty slow. For the latest version of our guide we will use the new tap from @shivammahtur as there are many versions (including PHP 8.0 builds) pre-built.
PHP 8.0 has just been released and you are able to install it, but it might take some time for compatible PHP modules are fully available.
brew tap shivammathur/php
We will proceed by installing various versions of PHP and using a simple script to switch between them as we need. Feel free to exclude any versions you don't want to install.
brew install firstname.lastname@example.org brew install email@example.com brew install firstname.lastname@example.org brew install email@example.com brew install firstname.lastname@example.org brew install email@example.com brew install firstname.lastname@example.org
Also, you may have the need to tweak configuration settings of PHP to your needs. A common thing to change is the memory setting, or the
date.timezone configuration. The
php.ini files for each version of PHP are located in the following directories:
/usr/local/etc/php/5.6/php.ini /usr/local/etc/php/7.0/php.ini /usr/local/etc/php/7.1/php.ini /usr/local/etc/php/7.2/php.ini /usr/local/etc/php/7.3/php.ini /usr/local/etc/php/7.4/php.ini /usr/local/etc/php/8.0/php.ini
At this point, I strongly recommend closing ALL your terminal tabs and windows. This will mean opening a new terminal to continue with the next step. This is strongly recommended because some really strange path issues can arise with existing terminals (trust me, I have seen it!).
We have installed but not linked these PHP versions. To switch to PHP
5.6 for example we can type:
brew unlink php && brew link --overwrite --force email@example.com
Quick test that we're in the correct version:
PHP 5.6.40 (cli) (built: Jul 2 2020 04:41:54) Copyright (c) 1997-2016 The PHP Group Zend Engine v2.6.0, Copyright (c) 1998-2016 Zend Technologies with Zend OPcache v7.0.6-dev, Copyright (c) 1999-2016, by Zend Technologies
and to switch to to
brew unlink php && brew link --overwrite --force firstname.lastname@example.org
And check that it's changed correctly:
PHP 7.4.12 (cli) (built: Oct 30 2020 00:56:27) ( NTS ) Copyright (c) The PHP Group Zend Engine v3.4.0, Copyright (c) Zend Technologies with Zend OPcache v7.4.12, Copyright (c), by Zend Technologies
Apache PHP Setup - Part 1
You have successfully installed your PHP versions, but we need to tell Apache to use them. You will again need to edit the
/usr/local/etc/httpd/httpd.conf file scroll to the bottom of the
If you have been following this guide correctly, the last entry should be your
LoadModule rewrite_module lib/httpd/modules/mod_rewrite.so
Below this add the following
LoadModule php5_module /email@example.com/lib/httpd/modules/libphp5.so #LoadModule php7_module /firstname.lastname@example.org/lib/httpd/modules/libphp7.so #LoadModule php7_module /email@example.com/lib/httpd/modules/libphp7.so #LoadModule php7_module /firstname.lastname@example.org/lib/httpd/modules/libphp7.so #LoadModule php7_module /email@example.com/lib/httpd/modules/libphp7.so #LoadModule php7_module /firstname.lastname@example.org/lib/httpd/modules/libphp7.so #LoadModule php_module /email@example.com/lib/httpd/modules/libphp.so
We can only have one module processing PHP at a time, so for now, so we have left our
firstname.lastname@example.org entry uncommented while all the others are commented out. This will tell Apache to use PHP 5.6 to handle PHP requests. (We will add the ability to switch PHP versions later).
Also you must set the Directory Indexes for PHP explicitly, so search for this block:
<IfModule dir_module> DirectoryIndex index.html </IfModule>
and replace it with this:
<IfModule dir_module> DirectoryIndex index.php index.html </IfModule> <FilesMatch \.php$> SetHandler application/x-httpd-php </FilesMatch>
Save the file and stop Apache then start again, now that we have installed PHP:
brew services stop httpd brew services start httpd
Validating PHP Installation
The best way to test if PHP is installed and running as expected is to make use of phpinfo(). This is not something you want to leave on a production machine, but it's invaluable in a development environment.
Simply create a file called
info.php in your
Sites/ folder you created earlier with this one-liner.
echo "<?php phpinfo();" > ~/Sites/info.php
Point your browser to
http://localhost/info.php and you should see a shiny PHP information page:
If you see a similar phpinfo result, congratulations! You now have Apache and PHP running successfully. You can test the other PHP versions by commenting the
LoadModule ... email@example.com ... entry and uncommenting one of the other ones. Then simply restart apache and reload the same page.
PHP Switcher Script
We hard-coded Apache to use PHP 5.6, but we really want to be able to switch between versions. Luckily, some industrious individuals have already done the hard work for us and written a very handy little PHP switcher script.
sphp script has been updated to support PHP 8.0. If you want to use that version, please repeat the process below to get the latest version.
We will install the
sphp script into brew's standard
curl -L https://gist.githubusercontent.com/rhukster/f4c04f1bf59e0b74e335ee5d186a98e2/raw/0c36a5067fbd63e6a36700a6aaa119df0836bdfc/sphp.sh > /usr/local/bin/sphp chmod +x /usr/local/bin/sphp
Check Your Path
Homebrew should have added its preferred
/usr/local/sbin to your path as part of its installation process. Quickly test this by typing:
echo $PATH /usr/local/bin:/usr/bin:/bin:/usr/sbin:/sbin
If you don't see this, first try closing your terminal and restarting it. If that doesn't work, check that you have
/usr/sbin in the path definition of your
~/.zshrc file. You can do it temporarily in the shell by typing:
Testing the PHP Switching
After you have completed these steps, you should be able to switch your PHP version by using the command
sphp followed by a two digit value for the PHP version:
You will probably have to enter your administrator password, and it should give you some feedback:
Switching to firstname.lastname@example.org
Switching to email@example.com Switching your shell Unlinking /usr/local/Cellarfirstname.lastname@example.org/5.6.40... 0 symlinks removed Unlinking /usr/local/Cellaremail@example.com/7.1.33... 0 symlinks removed Unlinking /usr/local/Cellarfirstname.lastname@example.org/7.2.34... 0 symlinks removed Unlinking /usr/local/Cellar/php/7.4.12... 24 symlinks removed Linking /usr/local/Cellar/php/7.4.12... 24 symlinks created Switching your apache conf Restarting apache PHP 7.4.12 (cli) (built: Oct 30 2020 00:56:27) ( NTS ) Copyright (c) The PHP Group Zend Engine v3.4.0, Copyright (c) Zend Technologies with Zend OPcache v7.4.12, Copyright (c), by Zend Technologies All done!
Test to see if your Apache is now running PHP 7.4 by again pointing your browser to
http://localhost/info.php. With a little luck, you should see something like this:
Troubleshooting PHP Switching
If you have upgraded from a previous version of this guide and have installed PHP8, you may see message like:
Unknown version of PHP. PHP Switcher can only handle arguments of: 5.6,7.0,7.1,7.2,7.3,7.4, then you need to reinstall the
sphp script which has been updated.
If you get a message about conflicting PHP versions, then you probably have a conflict of taps. You will need to uninstall your previous PHP versions, then remove the old tap, then add the new tap, and then reinstall PHP versions using the syntax above. For example:
brew untap exolnet/deprecated brew tap shivammathur/php brew install email@example.com
Test Your Setup with Grav CMS!
What better way to test your new powerful setup than to quickly install and test Grav. The best flat-file CMS in the world 😆! We can do this with just a couple of quick terminal commands:
cd ~/Sites curl -OJL https://getgrav.org/download/core/grav-admin/latest
% Total % Received % Xferd Average Speed Time Time Time Current Dload Upload Total Spent Left Speed 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 --:--:-- --:--:-- --:--:-- 0 100 646 100 646 0 0 1664 0 --:--:-- --:--:-- --:--:-- 1664 100 10.5M 100 10.5M 0 0 8198k 0 0:00:01 0:00:01 --:--:-- 21.6M curl: Saved to filename 'grav-admin-v1.6.28.zip'
Then just extract the zip file:
This will extract the zip into a
~/Sites/grav-admin folder. Then simply point your browser at this directory
Fill in the relevant information to create a new administator user, and simply click Create User to get into the admin. No other steps needed.
Updating PHP and other Brew Packages
Brew makes it super easy to update PHP and the other packages you install. The first step is to update Brew so that it gets a list of available updates:
This will spit out a list of available updates, and any deleted formulas. To upgrade the packages simply type:
You will need to switch to each of your installed PHP versions and run update again to get updates for each PHP version and ensure you are running the version of PHP you intend.
Activating Specific/Latest PHP Versions
Due to the way our PHP linking is set up, only one version of PHP is linked at a time, only the current active version of PHP will be updated to the latest version. You can see the current active version by typing:
And you can see the specific versions of a PHP package by typing:
brew info firstname.lastname@example.org
PHP 7.4.12 (cli) (built: Oct 30 2020 00:56:27) ( NTS ) Copyright (c) The PHP Group Zend Engine v3.4.0, Copyright (c) Zend Technologies with Zend OPcache v7.4.12, Copyright (c), by Zend Technologies rhuk@macos-big-sur ~ % brew info email@example.com php: stable 7.4.12 (bottled), HEAD General-purpose scripting language https://www.php.net/ /usr/local/Cellar/php/7.4.12 (497 files, 72.2MB) * Poured from bottle on 2020-11-13 at 11:57:43 From: https://github.com/Homebrew/homebrew-core/blob/HEAD/Formula/php.rb License: PHP-3.01 ==> Dependencies Build: httpd ✔, pkg-config ✔ Required: apr ✔, apr-util ✔, argon2 ✔, aspell ✔, autoconf ✔, curl-openssl ✔, freetds ✔, gd ✔, gettext ✔, glib ✔, gmp ✔, icu4c ✔, krb5 ✔, libffi ✔, libpq ✔, libsodium ✔, libzip ✔, oniguruma ✔, openldap ✔, firstname.lastname@example.org ✔, pcre2 ✔, sqlite ✔, tidy-html5 ✔, unixodbc ✔ ...
OK, that wraps up Part 1 of this 3 part series You now have a fully functional Apache 2.4 installation with a quick-and-easy way to toggle between PHP 5.6, 7.0, 7.1, 7.2, 7.3, 7.4, and 8.0. Check out Part 2 to find out how to setup your environment with MySQL, Virtual Hosts, APC caching, YAML, and Xdebug. Also take a gander at Part 3 to find out how to setup SSL for your Apache Virtual Hosts.