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Building a flexible template system with Twig - Part 2: Custom functionality and integrations


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This is part two of my tutorial on integrating Twig in ProcessWire sites. As a reminder, here's the table of contents:

  1. Part 1: Extendible template structures
    • How to initialize a custom twig environment and integrate it into ProcessWire
    • How to build an extendible base template for pages, and overwrite it for different ProcessWire templates with custom layouts and logic
    • How to build custom section templates based on layout regions and Repeater Matrix content sections
  2. Part 2: Custom functionality and integrations
    • How to customize and add functionality to the twig environment
    • How to bundle your custom functionality into a reusable library
    • Thoughts on handling translations
    • A drop-in template & functions for responsive images as a bonus

Make sure to check out part one if you haven't already! This part will be less talk, more examples, so I hope you like reading some code ?

Adding functionality

This is more generic Twig stuff, so I'll keep it short, just to show why Twig is awesome and you should use it! Twig makes it super easy too add functions, filters, tags et c. and customize what the language can do in this way. I'll show a couple of quick examples I built for my projects.

As a side note, I had some trouble with functions defined inside a namespace that I couldn't figure out yet. For the moment, it sufficed to define the functions I wanted to use in twig inside a separate file in the root namespace (or, as shown further below, put all of it in a Twig Extension). If you want a more extensible, systematic approach, check out the next section (going further).

Link template with external target detection

This is a simple template that builds an anchor-tag (<a>) and adds the necessary parameters. What's special about this is that it will automatically check the target URL and include a target="_blank" attribute if it's external. The external URL check is contained in a function:

// _functions.php

 * Finds out whether a url leads to an external domain.
 * @param string $url
 * @return bool
function urlIsExternal(string $url): bool {
    $parser = new \League\Uri\Parser();
    [ 'host' => $host ] = $parser->parse($url);
    return $host !== null && $host !== $_SERVER['HTTP_HOST'];

// _init.php

require_once($config->paths->templates . '_functions.php');

// don't forget to  add the function to the twig environment
$twig_env->addFunction(new \Twig\TwigFunction('url_is_external', 'urlIsExternal'));

This function uses the excellent League URI parser, by the way. Now that the function is available to the Twig environment, the link template is straightforward:

 # Renders a single anchor (link) tag. Link will automatically
 # have target="_blank" if the link leads to an external domain.
 # @var string url The target (href).
 # @var string text The link text. Will default to display the URL.
 # @var array classes Optional classes for the anchor.

{%- set link_text = text is not empty ? text : url -%}
<a href="{{ url }}"
	{%- if classes is not empty %} class="{{ classes|join(' ') }}"{% endif %}
	{%- if url_is_external(url) %} target="_blank"{% endif %}>
	{{- link_text -}}

String manipulation

A couple of functions I wrote to generate clean meta tags for SEO, as well as valid, readable IDs based on the headline field for my sections.

 * Truncate a string if it is longer than the specified limit. Will append the 
 * $ellipsis string if the input is longer than the limit. Pass true as $strip_tags
 * to strip all markup before measuring the length.
 * @param string $text The text to truncate.
 * @param integer $limit The maximum length.
 * @param string|null $ellipsis A string to append if the text is truncated. Pass an empty string to disable.
 * @param boolean $strip_tags Strip markup from the text?
 * @return string
function str_truncate(
    string $text,
    int $limit,
    ?string $ellipsis = ' …',
    bool $strip_tags = false
): string {
    if ($strip_tags) {
        $text = strip_tags($text);
    if (strlen($text) > $limit) {
        $ell_length = $ellipsis ? strlen($ellipsis) : 0;
        $append = $ellipsis ?? '';
        $text = substr($text, 0, $limit - ($ell_length + 1)) . $append;
    return $text;

 * Convert all consecutive newlines into a single space character.
 * @param string $text The text to convert.
function str_nl2singlespace(
    string $text
): string {
    return preg_replace(
        ' ',

 * Build a valid html ID based on the passed text.
 * @param string $title
 * @return string
function textToId(string $title): string
    return strtolower(preg_replace(

// again, add those functions to the twig environment
$twig_env->addFilter(new \Twig\TwigFilter('truncate', 'str_truncate'));
$twig_env->addFilter(new \Twig\TwigFilter('nl2ss', 'str_nl2singlespace'));
$twig_env->addFilter(new \Twig\TwigFilter('text_to_id', 'textToId'));

Example usage for SEO meta tags:

{% if seo.description %}
    {% set description = seo.description|truncate(150, ' …', true)|nl2ss %}
    <meta name="description" content="{{ description }}">
    <meta property="og:description" content="{{ description }}">
{% endif %}

instanceof for Twig

By default, Twig doesn't have an equivalent of PHP's instanceof keyword. The function is super simple, but vital to me:

// instanceof test for twig
// class must be passed as a FQCN with escaped backslashed
$twig_env->addTest(new \Twig\TwigTest('instanceof', function ($var, $class) {
    return $var instanceof $class;

In this case, I'm adding a TwigTest instead of a function. Read up on the different type of extensions you can add in the documentation for Extending Twig.

Note that you have to use double backslashes to use this in a Twig template:

{% if og_img is instanceof('\\Processwire\\Pageimages') %}

Going further: custom functionality as a portable Twig extension

Most of the examples above are very general, so you'll want to have them available in every project you start. It makes sense then to put them into a single library that you can simply pull into your projects with git or Composer. It's really easy to wrap functions like those demonstrated above in a custom Twig extension. In the following example, I have wired the namespace "moritzlost\" to the "src" folder (see my Composer + ProcessWire tutorial if you need help with that):

// src/MoritzFuncsTwigExtension.php

namespace moritzlost;

use Twig\Extension\AbstractExtension;
use Twig\TwigFunction;
use Twig\TwigFilter;
use Twig\TwigTest;

class MoritzFuncsTwigExtension extends AbstractExtension
    // import responsive image functions
    use LinkHelpers;

    public function getFunctions()
        return [
            new TwigFunction('url_is_external', [$this, 'urlIsExternal']),
    public function getFilters()
        return [
            new TwigFilter('text_to_id', [$this, 'textToId']),

    public function getTests()
        return [
            new TwigTest('instanceof', function ($variable, string $namespace) {
                return $variable instanceof $namespace;

// src/LinkHelpers.php

namespace moritzlost;

trait LinkHelpers
	// this trait contains the textToId and urlIsExternal methods
	// see the section above for the full code

Here I'm building my own class that extends the AbstractExtension class from Twig. This way, I can keep boilerplate code to a minimum. All I need are public methods that return an array of all functions, filters, tests et c. that I want to add with this extension. As is my custom, I've further split the larger functions into their own wrapper file. In this case, I'm using a trait to group the link-related functions (it's easier this way, since classes can only extend one other class, but use as many traits as they want to).

Now all that's left is to add an instance of the extension to our Twig environment:

// custom extension to add functionality
$twig_env->addExtension(new MoritzFuncsTwigExtension());

Just like that we have a separate folder that can be easily put under version control and released as a micro-package that can then be installed and extended in other projects.


If you are building a multi-language site, you will need to handle internationalization of your code. ProcessWire can't natively handle translations in Twig files, so I wanted to briefly touch on how to handle this. For a recent project I considered three approaches:

  • Build a module to add twig support to ProcessWire's multi-language system.
  • Use an existing module to do that.
  • Build a custom solution that bypasses ProcessWire's translation system.

For this project, I went with the latter approach; I only needed a handful of phrases to be translated, as I tend to make labels and headlines into editable page fields or use the field labels themselves, so there are only few translatable phrases inside my ProcessWire templates. But the beauty of ProcessWire is that you can build your site whatever way you want. As an example, here's the system I came up with.

I used a single Table field (part of the ProFields module) with two columns: msgid (a regular text field which functions as a key for the translations) and trans (a multi-language text field that holds the translations in each language). I added this field to my central settings page and wrote a simple function to access individual translations by their msgid:

 * Main function for the translation API. Gets a translation for the msgid in
 * the current language. If the msgid doesn't exist, it will create the
 * corresponding entry in the settings field (site settings -> translations).
 * In this case, the optional second parameter will be used as the default
 * translation for this msgid in the default language.
 * @param string $msgid
 * @param ?string $default
 * @return string
function trans_api(
    string $msgid,
    ?string $default = null
): string {
	// this is a reference to my settings page with the translations field
    $settings = \Processwire\wire('config')->settings;
    $translations = $settings->translations;
    $row = $settings->translations->findOne("msgid={$msgid}");
    if ($row) {
        if ($row->trans) {
            return $row->trans;
        } else {
            return $msgid;
    } else {
        $of = $settings->of();
        $new = $translations->makeBlankItem();
        $new->msgid = $msgid;
        if ($default) {
            $default_lang = \Processwire\wire('languages')->get('default');
            $new->trans->setLanguageValue($default_lang, $default);
        return $default ?? $msgid;

// _init.php

// add the function with the key "trans" to the twig environment
$twig_env->addFunction(new \Twig\TwigFunction('trans', 'trans_api'));	

// some_template.twig

// example usage with a msgid and a default translation
{{ trans('detail_link_label', 'Read More') }}

This function checks if a translation with the passed msgid exists in the table and if so, returns the translation in the current language. If not, it automatically creates the corresponding row. This way, if you want to add a translatable phrase inside a template, you simply add the function call with a new msgid, reload the page once, and the new entry will be available in the backend. For this purpose, you can also add a second parameter, which will be automatically set as the translation in the default language. Sweet.

While this works, it will certainly break (in terms of performance and user-friendliness) if you have a site that required more than a couple dozen translations. So consider all three approaches and decide what will work best for you!

Bonus: responsive image template & functions

I converted my responsive image function to a Twig template, I'm including the full code here as a bonus and thanks for making it all the way through! I created a gist with the extension & and template that you can drop into your projects to create responsive images quickly (minor warning: I had to adjust the code a bit to make it universal, so this exact version isn't properly tested, let me know if you get any errors and I'll try to fix it!). Here's the gist. There's a usage example as well. If you don't understand what's going on there, make sure to read my tutorial on responsive images with ProcessWire.


Including the first part, this has been the longest tutorial I have written so far. Again, most of this is opinionated and influenced by my own limited experience (especially the part about translations), so I'd like to hear how you all are using Twig in your projects, how you would improve the examples above and what other tips and tricks you have!

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Excellent tutorial, thanks!

Just wondering: why do you write your own str_truncate and textToId functions instead of using core $sanitizer methods like truncate() and name()? (for the latter there are several different sanitizer methods that could be used to get an ID string)

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19 hours ago, Robin S said:

Excellent tutorial, thanks!

Just wondering: why do you write your own str_truncate and textToId functions instead of using core $sanitizer methods like truncate() and name()? (for the latter there are several different sanitizer methods that could be used to get an ID string)

No special reason, to be honest. I just don't use the sanitizer that much, so it's easier for me to write some regex than using the sanitizer. Though I did want some special replacements (for German umlauts ä, ü and ö for example) that I'm not sure the sanitizer can handle.

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