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ProcessWire v. Laravel, Symfony, etc

Peter Falkenberg Brown

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Howdy PW Gurus Who Also Know Laravel or Symfony,

I built a few web applications with PW, and was very happy with the result. For example:

- an email to web help ticket system, with a front-end login

- a Linux account management and multi-server account creation app, with a front-end login and PW server scripts run from the command line

- a complex business app to test the viability of business ideas against a variety of metrics and algorithms, with a front-end login.

The front-end logins displayed pages specific to the app needs, entirely bypassing the normal PW admin backend.

=> My question is: since PW can build the types of apps above, what can Laravel and Symfony do that PW cannot?

Thanks for any insights!



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Laravel or Symfony are first and foremost general purpose frameworks, while ProcessWire is first and foremost a CMS with the benefit of having a small general purpose framework beneath. The difference lies mostly in what you get out of the box and less so in what you can build with it. E.g. laravel/symfony have components for using queues, processwire doesn't, laravel/symfony have a templating system, ProcessWire doesn't (it's php), …. On the other hand ProcessWire comes with a flexible backend to hook into, laravel/symfony don't have that (laravel nova would be similar, but costs money). 

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What @LostKobrakai said. The short answer to "what can Laravel and Symfony do that PW cannot" is "nothing", but in my opinion that's not really the question you should be asking – rather you should ask what it is that they are better suited for than ProcessWire 🙂

In my experience (based on other web application frameworks, not Laravel or Symfony specifically) the biggest day-to-day difference is exactly the general purpose nature of web application frameworks: ProcessWire is specialised to content management, hence it's a "content management framework" (CMF) rather than a "web application framework" (WAF).

In some regards ProcessWire has more built-in stuff than WAF's, and in some regards it has less – just like LostKobrakai pointed out above 🙂

Some examples of the differences include routing and project structure / application architecture:

  • Although this might be changing, not too long ago it seemed that every PHP framework enforced MVC pattern, or at least recommended it. ProcessWire, on the other hand, doesn't (natively) include anything like that. The default, out-of-the-box approach ("output strategy") is a straightforward solution where single template file contains (or rather can contain – of course you can also split it into multiple include files) all the code required by said template.
  • Similarly in ProcessWire URLs are by default routed to pages, and although custom routing is technically possible using URL segments, there's no real, robust routing library included, other than what Pages / PagesFiles / Process modules require to function properly.

While it's true that you can build pretty much anything on top of ProcessWire (or WordPress, or Drupal, or any remotely flexible CMS/CMF for that matter), whether that's a good idea depends on a number of factors. For an example, if there's no content to manage – or the content you have requires a very specific type of structure or storage mechanism or something – a general purpose WAF may provide you with more suitable tools than most CMS/CMF platforms 🙂

Just for the record, https://madewithlaravel.com/ has quite a few examples of stuff built with Laravel. Some could've made at least as much sense as ProcessWire projects, while others are clearly better suited for a WAF.

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In my opinion you can build amazing backend web applications with ProcessWire, as I already built some with it. A big difference is, that most frameworks like Laravel do not come with a backend. So you have to use Laravel Nova or Voyager to create a nice looking backend.

ProcessWire on the other hand comes with a nice customizable backend. Depending of the type of backend/application you build, you have to "bend" the PW backend to your likings, this includes removing features, or writing modules to get the behaviour you would like (for example restricting users to a branch).

In other frameworks you start with "nothing" or a boilerplate and develop the features you like, which might be more work, but you get a very tailored application. You could do this with ProcessWire also, if you like, because you don't have to use the included backend.

What I was missing for example in Laravel Voyager were field dependencies, which hides or shows fields depending on the state of another field. 

One big drawback of ProcessWire is the sync between a live server and your dev server. Because ProcessWire does not distinguish between structural and content pages (or I am not aware of it), updating a live server with changes you made on dev is very cumbersome. There is some discussion about this going on here on the forums:

or here 

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On 11/29/2018 at 11:49 AM, bernhard said:

Would be interested in some examples 🙂 Thx for the elaborate answer!

Browse to madewithlaravel.com and check out pretty much anything that doesn't manage data, and/or doesn't produce output. From the front page: Clockwork, Fractal, Vessel, etc. Also anything that is more "component", intended to be used within other applications, rather than a "full-blown application" itself 🙂

Perhaps a more familiar example would be wireshell.pw. While it's not built using a WAF, it does make use of Symfony components. Could it be built using ProcessWire? In theory yes. Would it benefit from being powered by ProcessWire? Not really.

Edited by diogo
removed link to wireshell (obsolete)
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