macOS 10.14 Mojave Apache Setup: Multiple PHP Versions

First part in a multi-part blog series for Mac developers

15 mins

[Updated 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.

Part 1: macOS 10.14 Mojave Web Development Environment

This is an updated version of our prior OS X development series. The newly released macOS 10.14 Mojave and the accompanying updates to Brew require significant changes compared to prior releases, necessitating a thorough revamp in the process. Since macOS 10.12 we now use Homebrew's Apache, rather than the built-in version, but this new appraoch is more flexible and should continue to work on prior OS X versions.

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 However, there are times when MAMP Pro has slow downs, or out of date versions, or is simply behaving badly due to its restrictive system of configuration templates and non-standard builds.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.

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:

$ xcode-select --install

Homebrew Installation

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:

$ ruby -e "$(curl -fsSL https://raw.githubusercontent.com/Homebrew/install/master/install)"

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:

$ brew --version
Homebrew 1.7.6
Homebrew/homebrew-core (git revision a1ed; last commit 2018-09-25)

You should probably also run the following command to ensure everything is configured correctly:

$ brew doctor

It will instruct you if you need to correct anything.

Mojave Required Libraries

When installing fresh on Mojave, I ran into a few libraries that were missing when completing all the steps below. To make things easier, please simply run these now:

$ brew install openldap libiconv

Apache Installation

The latest macOS 10.14 Mojave 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

Without options, 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/2.4.35: 1,648 files, 26.9MB

Now we just need to configure things so that our new Apache server is auto-started

$ sudo 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!".

Troubleshooting Tips

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:

$ sudo apachectl -k restart

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 apachectl command so some useful commands to use are:

$ sudo apachectl start
$ sudo apachectl stop
$ sudo apachectl -k restart

The -k will force a restart immediately rather than asking politely to restart when apache is good and ready

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 Mojave, 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.

Apache Configuration

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 8080 to 80, so we will need to edit Apache's configuration file.

/usr/local/etc/httpd/httpd.conf

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.

$ code /usr/local/etc/httpd/httpd.conf

VSC

Find the line that says

Listen 8080

and change it to 80:

Listen 80

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:

DocumentRoot "/usr/local/var/www"

Change this to point to your user directory where your_user is the name of your user account:

DocumentRoot /Users/your_user/Sites

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:

<Directory /Users/your_user/Sites>

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 #:

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 User and Group Apache will run under. Change these to match your user account (replace your_user with your real username), with a group of staff:

User your_user
Group staff

Servername

Apache likes to have a server name in the configuration, but this is disabled by default, so search for:

#ServerName www.example.com:8080

and replace it with:

ServerName localhost

Sites Folder

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:

$ sudo apachectl -k restart

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!

PHP Installation

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.

We will proceed by installing PHP 5.6, PHP 7.1 and PHP 7.2, PHP 7.3 and using a simple script to switch between them as we need. 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 7.0 has been removed from Brew, so I've removed it from these blog posts. If you want to install it, there's probably some solid external keg's you can use and just mimic the steps for PHP 7.1.

$ brew install php@5.6
$ brew install php@7.1
$ brew install php@7.2
$ brew install php@7.3

The first one will take a little bit of time as it has to install a bunch of brew dependencies. Subsequent PHP versions will install faster.

You no longer have to unlink each version between installing PHP versions as they are not linked by default

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/7.1/php.ini
/usr/local/etc/php/7.2/php.ini
/usr/local/etc/php/7.3/php.ini

Let's switch back to the first PHP version now:

$ brew unlink php@7.3 && brew link --force --overwrite php@5.6

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!).

Quick test that we're in the correct version:

php -v

PHP 5.6.38 (cli) (built: Sep 14 2018 22:30:40)
Copyright (c) 1997-2016 The PHP Group
Zend Engine v2.6.0, Copyright (c) 1998-2016 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 LoadModule entries.

If you have been following this guide correctly, the last entry should be your mod_rewrite module:

LoadModule rewrite_module lib/httpd/modules/mod_rewrite.so

Below this add the following libphp modules:

LoadModule php5_module /usr/local/opt/php@5.6/lib/httpd/modules/libphp5.so
#LoadModule php7_module /usr/local/opt/php@7.1/lib/httpd/modules/libphp7.so
#LoadModule php7_module /usr/local/opt/php@7.2/lib/httpd/modules/libphp7.so
#LoadModule php7_module /usr/local/opt/php@7.3/lib/httpd/modules/libphp7.so

We can only have one module processing PHP at a time, so for now, so we have left our php@5.6 entry uncommented while all teh 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:

$ sudo apachectl -k stop
$ sudo apachectl start

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 ... php@5.6 ... 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.

We will install the sphp script into brew's standard /usr/local/bin:

$ curl -L https://gist.githubusercontent.com/rhukster/f4c04f1bf59e0b74e335ee5d186a98e2/raw > /usr/local/bin/sphp
$ chmod +x /usr/local/bin/sphp

Check Your Path

Homebrew should have added its preferred /usr/local/bin and /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, you might need to add these manually to your path. Depending on your shell your using, you may need to add this line to ~/.profile, ~/.bash_profile, or ~/.zshrc. We will assume you are using the default bash shell, so add this line to a your .profile (create it if it doesn't exist) file at the root of your user directory:

export PATH=/usr/local/bin:/usr/local/sbin:$PATH

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:

$ sphp 7.1

You will probably have to enter your administrator password, and it should give you some feedback:

$ sphp 7.1
Switching to php@7.1
Switching your shell
Unlinking /usr/local/Cellar/php@5.6/5.6.39... 25 symlinks removed
Unlinking /usr/local/Cellar/php@7.1/7.1.25... 0 symlinks removed
Unlinking /usr/local/Cellar/php@7.2/7.2.13... 0 symlinks removed
Unlinking /usr/local/Cellar/php/7.3.0... 0 symlinks removed
Linking /usr/local/Cellar/php@7.1/7.1.25... 25 symlinks created

If you need to have this software first in your PATH instead consider running:
  echo 'export PATH="/usr/local/opt/php@7.1/bin:$PATH"' >> ~/.zshrc
  echo 'export PATH="/usr/local/opt/php@7.1/sbin:$PATH"' >> ~/.zshrc
You will need sudo power from now on
Switching your apache conf
Password:
Restarting apache

PHP 7.1.25 (cli) (built: Dec  7 2018 08:20:45) ( NTS )
Copyright (c) 1997-2018 The PHP Group
Zend Engine v3.1.0, Copyright (c) 1998-2018 Zend Technologies
    with Zend OPcache v7.1.25, Copyright (c) 1999-2018, by Zend Technologies
    with Xdebug v2.6.1, Copyright (c) 2002-2018, by Derick Rethans

All done!

Test to see if your Apache is now running PHP 7.1 by again pointing your browser to http://localhost/info.php. With a little luck, you should see something like this:

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:

$ brew update

This will spit out a list of available updates, and any deleted formulas. To upgrade the packages simply type:

$ brew upgrade

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:

$ php -v

And you can see the specific versions of PHP available by typing:

$ brew info php@7.1                                                                                        php@7.1: stable 7.1.25 (bottled) [keg-only]
General-purpose scripting language
...

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, 7.1, 7.2, and 7.3. 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.