I’ve missed having something like chruby for use with PHP. I am a huge fan of Direnv. Since chruby is really not much more than setting your $PATH, I figured I could do the same for PHP with Direnv.

I primarily use macOS and Homebrew. The default php formula installs the latest PHP version. I also use shivammathur/php taps to install older verisons.

brew install php
brew install shivammathur/php@7.4

With Homebrew’s setup, you really just need to set $PATH (and optionally $MANPATH to the right locations for everything to Just Work™.

To accomplish that, I setup the following function in ~/.direnvrc:

# Sets PATH for Homebrew core and shivammathur/php taps
# Usage in .envrc:
#   use homebrew_php
#   use homebrew_php 8.2
use_homebrew_php() {
  local version="$1"
  local optdir="${HOMEBREW_PREFIX-/opt/homebrew}/opt/php${version:+"@$version"}"

  if [[ -d "$optdir" ]]; then
    PATH_add "$optdir/bin"
    PATH_add "$optdir/sbin"
    MANPATH_add "$optdir/share/man"
    >&2 echo "Unknown PHP version"
    return 1

In each PHP project where I want a custom PHP version, just add the following to .envrc in the project root:

use homebrew_php 7.4

To enable it run (from the project root):

direnv allow

Check that you see the right PHP with:

which php

You can also check that man pages work properly:

man php

Scroll to the bottom and make sure the version reported matches the expected PHP version you configured.

Homebrew takes care to setup distinct versioned php.ini files for you. But, if you need to set a custom one, you could also define $PHPRC. For example, if you had config/php/php.ini in the root of your project, you could configure it with:

export PHPRC="$PWD/config/php"

Note: The $PHPRC variable should point to a folder, not the full path to php.ini.

I’ve also used a similar approach on Linux servers. On our dev server at work, we maintain apps with a few different PHP versions. They are installed as php for the default PHP 7.4 binary, then we have php8 and php72, etc.

To make this work with Direnv, I just created a separate directory tree and symlinked each PHP binary and accompanying commands.

Besides php, you also have these commands in /usr/bin or similar:

  • pear
  • peardev
  • pecl
  • phar
  • phar.phar
  • php
  • php-cgi
  • php-config
  • phpdbg
  • phpize

There are commands in /usr/sbin (currently just the one):

  • php-fpm

How you set these up will depend on your OS and package manager, but a rough idea is:

mkdir -p /usr/local/opt/php-bins/{7.4,7.2,8.0}/{bin,sbin}

for "$bin" in pear peardev pecl phar phar.phar php php-cgi php-config phpdbg phpize; do
  ln -s /usr/bin/"$bin" /usr/local/opt/php-bins/7.2/bin/"$bin"
  ln -s /usr/bin/"$bin" /usr/local/opt/php-bins/7.4/bin/"$bin"
  ln -s /usr/bin/"$bin" /usr/local/opt/php-bins/8.0/bin/"$bin"

ln -s /usr/sbin/php-fpm /usr/local/opt/php-bins/7.2/sbin/php-fpm
ln -s /usr/sbin/php-fpm74 /usr/local/opt/php-bins/7.4/sbin/php-fpm
ln -s /usr/sbin/php-fpm80 /usr/local/opt/php-bins/8.0/sbin/php-fpm

Then, in the project root, I just add the following to .envrc:

PATH_add /usr/local/opt/php-bins/7.4/bin
PATH_add /usr/local/opt/php-bins/7.4/sbin