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PHP is a general-purpose server-side scripting language to produce dynamic web pages.


USE flags

Portage knows the global php USE flag for enabling support for PHP in other packages. Enabling this USE flag will pull in the dev-lang/php package automatically upon updating the deep dependencies in the @world set. First set the global use flag in /etc/portage/make.conf:

FILE /etc/portage/make.confAdding php as global USE flag

The most important USE flags of the PHP package, the SAPI (Server API) USE flags, are apache2, cgi, and fpm. Alongside these flags, there is an elaborate list of flags to enable various features of the PHP interpreter:

Cannot load package information. Is the atom dev-lang/php correct?

The ebuild installs a modified "production" version of php.ini that has tighter security settings and default paths adjusted for Gentoo systems. Both upstream "production" and "development" php.ini files are installed to /usr/share/doc/php-*.


To install extensions, first decide which versions of PHP to compile the extensions for. This is done by setting the PHP_TARGETS variable:

FILE /etc/portage/make.conf

More than one version can be defined; just add in the additional versions separated by a space. Note that the php slot is named "5.6" and the corresponding PHP_TARGETS value is php5-6. This is due to current restrictions on USE names.


After making the above USE flag configurations it is necessary to update the system so the changes take effect:

root #emerge --ask --update --changed-use --deep @world

Running multiple versions of PHP

One of the great advantages of using Gentoo for PHP development is the version slotting. It is very simple to swap between multiple versions of PHP as well as run multiple versions simultaneously. This is all done with the eselect command provided by the app-eselect/eselect-php package which should get pulled in automatically by installing PHP. For example, selecting different versions of PHP can allow a system to run PHP 7.0 for the cli SAPI but PHP 5.6 for the system's web server. It also allows to quickly test an application on different versions of PHP.

To list the available versions for the cli SAPI use:

root #eselect php list cli
 [1]   php5.5 
 [2]   php5.6 *   
 [3]   php7.0

The version marked with the * is the current active version, and to check the other SAPIs simply replace cli with fpm,cgi or apache2.

To swap versions, use:

root #eselect php set cli 3

The number 3 in this example corresponds to the number in the output of the list sub-command used above. PHP version 7.0 is now used for the command-line:

root #php -v
PHP 7.0.10-pl0-gentoo (cli) (built: Aug 23 2016 12:38:44) ( NTS )


The PHP configuration is at /etc/php, which contains one subdirectory for each SAPI and for each PHP version. For instance, configuration files for the PHP-5.6 apache2 SAPI are installed in /etc/php/apache2-php5.6.

Web servers

To use PHP in a server-side fashion, a web server needs to be installed and configured to use PHP. A number of popular web servers are briefly touched upon next.


Simply emerge nginx to install it:

root #emerge --ask www-servers/nginx
If custom NGINX_MODULES_HTTP values are set in make.conf, make sure that the fastcgi module is enabled.

Once Nginx has been installed, modify the server section of /etc/nginx/nginx.conf to look something like this:

FILE /etc/nginx/nginx.confPart of the nginx configuration to enable PHP through FastCGI
server {
                server_name localhost;
                access_log /var/log/nginx/localhost.access_log main;
                error_log /var/log/nginx/localhost.error_log info;
                root /var/www/localhost/htdocs;
                location ~ .php$ {
                        include fastcgi.conf;

Now start the related services to have a working site. The php-fpm init script starts the PHP FastCGI Process Manager. FastCGI allows web servers to offload the PHP calculations to this process manager.

root #service nginx start
root #service php-fpm start


Do not enable the php USE flag for www-servers/lighttpd. It could actually break the build.

Make sure that lighttpd is built with support for fastcgi and that the php USE flag is disabled:

FILE /etc/portage/package.use
www-servers/lighttpd fastcgi -php

Lighttpd ships with a default FastCGI config file, but unfortunately, it is written to work with the old PHP FCGI SAPI only, instead of a general FCGI setup. Since the php USE flag has been disabled, it will not be included, and rightly so. However it does provide a good foundation for a configuration file that can be used with FPM.

Edit /etc/lighttpd/mod_fastcgi.conf to look something like this:

FILE /etc/lighttpd/mod_fastcgi.confEnable FastCGI on lighttpd
server.modules += ("mod_fastcgi")
fastcgi.server = ( ".php" =>
  ( "localhost" =>
      "host" => "",
      "port" => "9000"

Note the host and port parts.

Since Gentoo ships with a working php-fpm.ini file, located in /etc/php/fpm-php5/php-fpm.ini, and init script, starting the services is all that is needed:

root #/etc/init.d/php-fpm start
root #/etc/init.d/lighttpd start

Apache (mod_php)

To configure Apache to load the PHP5 module (mod_php), add -D PHP to APACHE2_OPTS variable in /etc/conf.d/apache2. Users might remember that previously, the PHP version had to be added as well (like -D PHP5). However, since app-eselect/eselect-php version 0.8.1, the variable is changed to just -D PHP to allow future major versions to be easily integrated.

FILE /etc/conf.d/apache2Configure Apache to load mod_php
## (settings for PHP5 and above)

Make sure that PHP is built with the apache2 USE flag.

If for some reason the system is missing the PHP module integration file /etc/apache2/modules.d/70_mod_php.conf, currently provided by app-eselect/eselect-php when installed with apache2 USE flag set, manually insert it. Its current content is displayed below.

FILE /etc/apache2/modules.d/70_mod_php.conf
<IfDefine PHP>
	# The symlink is controlled by
	# eselect-php. However, the module name changed from
	# php5_module to php7_module so we can't blindly load whatever
	# is there. Instead we let eselect-php manage a small
	# configuration file that loads the appropriate module.
	# This is relative to ServerRoot (see httpd.conf).
	Include ../../../var/lib/eselect-php/mod_php.conf
	# Tell apache that mod_php should handle PHP files.
	# NOTE: Avoiding AddHandler/AddType for security (bug
	# #538822). Please read the related news item!
	<FilesMatch "\.(php|php[57]|phtml)$">
		SetHandler application/x-httpd-php
	# PHP source files which are meant to be displayed as
	# syntax-highlighted source code.
	<FilesMatch "\.phps$">
		SetHandler application/x-httpd-php-source
	DirectoryIndex index.php index.phtml

Although multiple PHP versions can be installed on a system, Apache can only use a single PHP version. The eselect php command is used to switch between active PHP versions.

See also