Modern PHP Development on OS X

16 Sep 2013

OS X 10.8 comes with Apache 2.2.22 and PHP 5.3.15 (with Suhosin).

The Problems

  1. Case insensitive filesystem
  2. Old version of PHP.
  3. Working with multiple projects is a pain.

These issues are easy to fix though, lets fix them one at a time.

Making a case-sensitive filesystem

If your work is going to end up on a case-sensitive system like Linux, it’s a good idea to work on a case-sensitive filesystem for development to avoid problems. The filesystem on OS X by default is case-insensitive HFS+.

You can install OS X on case-sensitive HFS+, but it’s not recommend.

  1. In Disk Utility, select a Hard Drive with enough free space.
  2. Add a new partition,
    • Set Format to “Mac OS Extended (Case-sensitive, Journaled)”
    • The name is up to you, I named mine “code”.
    • The size is up to you, I made mine 50 GB, which is overkill.
  3. Click Apply, make sure the warning contains “No partitions will be erased”, continue.

And that’s it. /Volumes/code is now a case sensitive oasis for code. Remember, If you named your partition something different, the path will be something different.

Make it more accessible

Link that volume to your home folder with ln -s /Volumes/code $HOME/code

Now you can just treat ~/code as your code folder

Install a newer version of PHP.

Download your preferred version of PHP from For PHP 5.4 the required command is

$curl -s | bash -s 5.4

Read the page though, because there are some gotchas! 1. You’ll want to set your path to be able to use PHP from the command line 2. You’ll want to set date.timezone to UTC or your local timezone

Set up “smart” virtual hosts.

When I go to, I want Apache to serve /Volumes/code/project/public. This is possible to do with the version of Apache 2 that comes with 10.8 via mod_vhost_alias

Configuring Apache

To make sure apache is loading the vhosts configuration file, open up /etc/apache2/httpd.conf and make sure

Include /private/etc/apache2/extra/httpd-vhosts.conf

is uncommented. Then, add the following to that vhosts file:

<VirtualHost *:80>
    ServerAlias *
    VirtualDocumentRoot /Volumes/code/%-4+/public

Note:: For VirtualDocumentRoot, that number is the part of the host from the right. If you want to set up your projects under $, your VirtualDocumentRoot line would have to be /Volumes/code/%-2+/public.

And then restart apache to get those changes loaded.

$sudo apachectl restart

And, there’s one more step, pointing that domain to your machine. The easiest way is to add entries to your /etc/hosts file, but wildcards are not supported, so you need an entry for every project.

Set up DNS

Because I chose to use a domain I control, I can just add DNS wildcard DNS records to get this to work. I want to add 2 DNS records for

Type Name Value
A dev
A *.dev

Local wildcard DNS

If you don’t control a domain, or want a short url like $, you have the option of setting up local DNS. This guide may work, I haven’t tried it myself. Watch out! OS X uses the .local TLD(top level domain) for Bonjour, so you shouldn’t use that like the guide shows, as it may cause problems for you.