Have Composer use development branches

Using Composer for our PHP projects is a given. It helps immensely in keeping track of our dependencies and we have easy access to several thousand useful libraries just by adding them to our composer.json.

But what about when you stumble over a bug in one of those libraries? Being a good open source citizen you of course patch it up, push to GitHub and send the project your pull request.

That solves the bug but it could take some time before the maintainer accepts your patch, during while we need to be able to move on with the code we know solves our problem. Enter custom Composer repositories.

By defining your own repositories explicitly, Composer will read their branches and use them first, before falling back on the Packagist repository.

Overriding a package

Say I fix a bug in the Someone\SomeAwesomeBundle library on GitHub. I fork the project to my own repository tobiassjosten\SomeAwesomeBundle, to which I commit the patch in a bugfixes branch.

Next I add my own fork to my composer.json.

"repositories": [
        "type": "vcs",
        "url": "https://github.com/tobiassjosten/SomeAwesomeBundle"

This will make Composer first look in the given repository for a composer.json file, to see which package it supplies. If any is found then that package will take precedence over Packagist’s default ones.

Finally, tell Composer to use your custom branch instead of whatever you were using before. Custom branches needs to be prefixed by dev-.

"require" : {
    "php": ">=5.3.3",
    "some/awesome-bundle": "dev-bugfixes"

Now just run composer update and Composer will fetch your patch and update composer.lock for the rest of your team to use the same.

Just be sure to roll back your composer.json once the maintainer merges your fixes.

Inline aliases

Update: Igor Wiedler pointed out that I should propably mention inline aliases; a mechanism that lets you override a package with your custom bugfixes, while keeping the dependency tree intact.

Say for example that the above SomeAwesomeBundle is a requirement for another library you are using; the SomeSuckyBundle. This sucky piece of code needs at least version 2.0.0 of its awesome dependency. Then if you make it use version dev-bugfixes instead, Composer would not be able to compare the version to see if the dependency is satisfied.

That is when you use an inline alias, to make Composer use your custom development branch but treat it as a canonical version.

"require" : {
    "php": ">=5.3.3",
    "some/awesome-bundle": "dev-bugfixes as 2.0.0"