Creating your own template using Twig


In this tutorial we will guide you on how to build templates in phpDocumentor using the Twig templating engine.

phpDocumentor’s templating system is powerful and flexible enough to produce any kind of output or even multiple types of output combined into one template. During this tutorial we will guide you on how to create a simple template that will produce HTML files that you can serve from your website.

While building a template there are three important steps:

  1. Creating a template definition file.
  2. Defining all transformations that your template must do.
  3. Writing your Twig templates and providing assets.

Each of these steps is covered in the following subchapters, so if you want to make your own template you can just read on and follow along with the text.


This tutorial assumes that you have worked with Twig before and know how it works. If you are unclear on how some things work, please consult the Twig documentation.

Create your template definition

Simply put, a template is a combination of transformations that will read the data that phpDocumentor has aggregated and transform that into the output that you desire, such as an HTML page.

In order for phpDocumentor to know what to do there is always a template definition file present, called template.xml, in the root of your template. This file contains some meta-data and a series of transformation definitions that are executed sequentially.

Let’s look at a very simple example:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>

     <author>Mike van Riel</author>
     <email>[email protected]</email>
     <description>This is a description that will inform the user what to expect from your template</description>
         <transformation writer="FileIo" query="copy" source="templates/responsive/css" artifact="css"/>
         <transformation writer="twig" source="templates/responsive-twig/index.html.twig" artifact="index.html"/>

The meta-data of this template is rather straight-forward but we will shortly describe them here for context:

  1. author - defines the name of the author of this template. This field may be repeated if there are several authors.
  2. email - email address of the maintainer for this template (only one is expected).
  3. description - a short piece of text that will inform the person who wants to use this template what to expect.
  4. version - a version number according to Semantic Versioning that will describe what the current version of the template is.

The transformations collection is far more interesting and the next chapter will go into much more detail on how transformations work.

Defining transformations

The previous chapter shows an example of what a simple template could look like. There you could see a transformations element with two transformations. Let’s continue from there and see what a transformation is and how to create one.

The definition of a transformation is an action that transforms one type of data to another. Practically this means that one transformation can copy a file, generate an HTML file from data aggregated by phpDocumentor, generate a graph from data in phpDocumentor and other equal tasks. As long as data is input and data is output then you can do it with a transformation.

Let’s look at the transformations definition from the previous chapter again:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>

        <transformation writer="FileIo" query="copy" source="templates/responsive/css" artifact="css"/>
        <transformation writer="twig" source="templates/responsive-twig/index.html.twig" artifact="index.html"/>

In this definition we can spot two transformations with each several attributes. It is these attributes that influence the behaviour of said transformations.

If we look closely at the first transformation then we can distinguish four properties:

  1. Writer - reference to a specialized class that will actually perform the transformation.
  2. Query - an attribute which allows you to guide the transformation or limit it to a subset of the provided data.
  3. Source - reference to the input. This can be a template file, origin location (in case of a copying action) or any other data location.
  4. Artifact - the destination folder, file or object where the output for this transformation is written to.

So. What does this transformation do?

It uses the “FileIO” writer, which is used for disk operations, to “copy” the contents of the “templates/responsive/css” source folder to the “css” destination folder.

How the query, source and artifact attribute functions exactly differs per Writer, but this is the general use for them.

As another excercise, let’s look at the second transformation in our example.

This transformation uses the “Twig” writer, which is used to generate physical text-based files from Twig template files, to create the “index.html” artifact in your target folder using the “index.html.twig” template in the “templates/responsive-twig” folder of phpDocumentor’s data folder.

What you might notice is that we do not have a query attribute in this transformation. Only the writer attribute is required and all others can be omitted when necessary. This does not mean that the writer cannot use this attribute, it is just not there because it is not used.

For example: the Twig writer can use the query attribute to only sent a bit of the aggregated data to the twig template.

Writing template files

Hopefully by now you know how to create a template, which meta-data to add to the template and how to define transformation steps.

This is just one side of the coin. Now we have to create the actual Twig template files which we can use to generate HTML documents. Please note that this is a tutorial, we won’t cover every bit in detail. If you want to know in-depth what options are supported, please read the guide and browse through existing templates.

Generating a series of output files