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Best Free PHP Frameworks

Open Source PHP frameworks for Web and mobile development

PHP is one of the most popular server-side scripting languages which are used in creating dynamic and interactive web pages for web application development. PHP is widely used by developers across the globe as it is free and most efficient alternative to Microsoft’s ASP.NET. 

PHP Frameworks

PHP frameworks can help and simplify the process of web development in a more professional and efficient manner. With its many built-in features, PHP frameworks enable speedy web development process.

Below are the advantages of using PHP frameworks:

Follows design patterns like MVC (Model View Controller)
Re-usable, maintainable and organized code base
Built-in tested code blocks
Reduced delivery time
Web security handling

There are numerous free PHP frameworks available. Among them, the best free PHP frameworks are listed below:

Zend Framework


Laravel is a free open source PHP framework that follow MVC design pattern. Laravel is one of the most popular free PHP framework used by most of the PHP developers.

It has many good developer friendly features like

Modular Packaging System: It is a bundled feature by Laravel that can be easily added to the applications.

Application Logic: It is one of the core and integral part of the applications developed. This can be implemented by using Controllers.

Reverse Routing: This Laravel feature is used to determine the relationship between links and routes which makes it possible for automatically propagating the relevant links. Once the links are created with existing route names, Laravel will create the appropriate URIs (Universal Resource Identifier) automatically.

Query Builder: Laravel’s Query Builder provides direct access to the database so that writing SQL queries directly not required. It comes up with a group of methods and classes that has the ability of building SQL queries through application code. Executed SQL queries results are cached for future use.

Blade: Laravel’s Blade is a Templating Engine that can combine one or more templates with data model to produce result views. Blade also provides a set of coding statements, loops, control structures and many more that maps with its equivalent PHP code internally. Moreover, Blade can be extended with custom packages and Blade templates may be used to call Laravel services.

Database Seeding: Laravel’s database seeding is a useful way to populate database tables with default set of data that can be used for application testing.

Automatic Pagination: Laravel’s automatic pagination feature eases the way pagination is being implemented manually. It provides automated methods that can be easily integrated to create pagination.

Unit Testing: Laravel’s Unit Testing is one of the integral parts that can detect and prevent issues in the framework.

Application Deployment and Maintenance: It provides a version control system for database schemas that makes it possible for making corresponding changes in code logics and database structure as well. This way, it simplifies the deployment and maintenance process and migrating to future versions of Laravel based applications.

Support of session, Queuing, Caching and Restful API: Laravel provides different unique ways to separate different logics and use them in a professional and efficient way.


CodeIgniter is a free powerful PHP framework which is lightweight and fast compared to other PHP frameworks. Developer has the freedom to add third party plug-ins for enhanced functionality.

CodeIgniter is faster and lighter compared to other PHP frameworks. It provides an option to developers to minimize the code required by utilizing the built-in libraries.

Core features of CodeIgniter

Light Weight & Fast: CodeIgniter is light weight compared to other free PHP frameworks. Only few libraries are required to run the core system which in turn makes the CodeIgniter to be fast and light. Additional libraries can be loaded dynamically on demand basis when ever required at run time. Since CodeIgniter is lightweight, so the performance is faster as compared to other PHP frameworks.

Built-in Libraries: CodeIgniter libraries ease the life of developer by reducing the amount of code to written. It also come up with a simple logic structure and interface to access these libraries.

Template Engine: CodeIgniter does come with a template engine but it is not mandatory for the developers to use it. It can be used optionally when required as CodeIgniter developers believe that converting the template code to native PHP code will be a drawback to get the maximum performance.

Clean URLs: CodeIgniter generates clean and SEO friendly URLs as it follows a segment based approach rather than the conventional query string approach.


Symfony framework is a free PHP framework with lots of re-usable PHP components that facilitates developers with speedy development process and accomplishes different tasks easily.

Symfony framework is used developing websites and web applications by using Symfony components which are re-usable components even used by popular PHP based applications like Drupal and phpBB.

Symfony is used to build robust applications at an enterprise level and provides full control to developers over the configuration like directory structure, importing foreign libraries and many more. It also comes with additional tools that can be used for testing and debugging.

Symfony components are a set of re-usable PHP components that are used by developers to create high performance and scalable complex PHP based applications. These components give a provision to developers to work in a Rapid Application Development (RAD) environment.

Symfony components are a set of re-usable PHP components that are used by developers to create high performance and scalable complex PHP based applications. These components give a provision to developers to work in a Rapid Application Development (RAD) environment.

Symfony offers better database support that developers can use number of various databases including NoSQL and DynamoDB.


CakePHP is a well known PHP based open source framework that follows Model-View–Controller architecture. CakePHP is intended to developing, deploying and maintaining PHP applications much easier.

CakePHP is a free PHP framework with efficient built-in high level security features like database protection, input validations, Cross site request forgery (CSRF) protection and many more.

PHP developers use CakePHP for developing web applications simpler and faster as it required less code to develop PHP applications. CakePHP also provides flexible database and powerful scaffolding feature that gives added advantage to developers to create PHP applications faster.

Some of the important CakePHP features

Minimal Configuration: CakePHP configuration is very minimal as it runs on auto-detect method and there is no need to care much about manual installation and fixing issues in configuration. We just need to provide the database connection settings detail.

Built-in Validation: CakePHP has a sophisticated built-in validation feature that enables adding multiple advanced validations to single input field and thus reducing the amount of code needs to written by developer in validation part.

Extendable Plug-ins: This feature allows developers to easily re-use their existing codes in other projects as well. Existing programs can be extended in the form of Components, Behaviors, Helpers and Extensions. The best part is the application can be easily modularized as it follows MVC and the modules can be used in other applications based on requirements.

Object Relational Mapping (ORM): ORM is converting different category of data in to one compatible data type used by both database and object oriented programming. To simply put this, every database table is represented in the form of class where relationship between tables and validations can be defined.

Zend Framework

Zend is one of the most sophisticated and robust PHP frameworks that can be used for developing large and complex projects. Zend follows agile methodology that provides developers an added advantage to deliver high quality apps.

Zend Framework uses Model View Controller (MVC) along with Front Controller solution. Zend uses various packages through Composer as part of its Package Dependency Manager.

Some of the advantages of Zend Framework

Fast and Efficient: Zend framework strictly follows Object oriented approach like C++ which makes it powerful and runs faster compared to other similar applications developed using other PHP frameworks. Due to its efficiency, majority of big data web applications are developed using Zend framework.

Customization Options: Zend framework has unlimited number of customization options which gives developers added advantage to the developer in creating highly optimized and efficient web applications by following Agile methodology. Zend framework is more flexible and developer friendly which gives it a remarkable record for customization in web application development industry.

HTML5 Usage: Zend framework is developed keeping in mind the dominance of HTML5 in modern browsers. As Zend supports HTML5, even a designer can create simple web page like contact form in a professional manner by making use of Zend built-in input validation features. Designer may not need to worry about validations and testing the form as Zend takes care of all the validations.

Heavy and Huge: Zend framework is quite heavy and huge compared to other PHP frameworks due to its in-built libraries, components and classes available. Due to its robustness, code reusability and inheritance inside the application, Zend framework is highly recommended for developing enterprise level large scale web applications. Awesome applications are developed using Zend as it can handle any type and number of dependencies with in an application without affecting the performance and quality.

Community Support: Zend Framework is one of the PHP frameworks which has unmatched quality and widely used by developers across the globe. It is widely accepted by the web development industry and hundreds of complex and popular websites are developed using Zend. That is the reason, there are thousands of Zend certified PHP developers available in the industry which gives a large community support.


Yii is a free PHP framework that follows Object oriented programming and lazy loading technique. It is integrated with JavaScript libraries like JQuery and that simplifies the UI generation. It also provides a web interface to generate code required.

Yii framework is built on the popular Model View Controller (MVC) architecture. Yii facilitates developers to create modern web applications in a professional manner with good performance.

Some of the key features of Yii are

Installation and configuration is easy & simple as the installation is handled by the composer.
Yii components are highly extensible which gives developer an option to tailor fit their needs.
Yii is integrated with Codeception which is a PHP testing framework that facilitates writing automated tests for Yii applications.
Yii uses most of the modern technologies like Object Oriented frameworks and leverages on PHP’s most advanced features.
Yii allows simplifying the namespaces by defining aliases.
Yii provides a whole set of tools to simplify the process of implementing the RESTful Web Service APIs.
Yii has a fully specified pagination object where we can retrieve and display data even partially by using the OFFSET and LIMIT clause of the Database query with the corresponding values provided by the pagination object.
Yii provides caching mechanisms like Data, Page, Fragment and HTTP caching that are used to store relatively static data in cache and serve it when required thus improving the web application performance.
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