Zephir, and this manual, are intended for PHP developers who want to create C extensions, with a lower complexity.

We assume that you are experienced in one or more other programming languages. We draw parallels to features in PHP, C, Javascript, and other languages. We’ll point out features in Zephir that are similar to these other languages, as well as many features that are new or different. If you are familiar with these specific languages, you’ll pick up on these comparisons more quickly.

In this guide, we will use the standard Linux terminal commands. If you are a Windows user, you need to replace these commands with their counterparts.

Checking the Installation

If you have successfully installed Zephir, you will be able to execute the following command in your console:

zephir help

If everything is well, you should see the following help (or something very similar):

 _____              __    _
/__  /  ___  ____  / /_  (_)____
  / /  / _ \/ __ \/ __ \/ / ___/
 / /__/  __/ /_/ / / / / / /
/____/\___/ .___/_/ /_/_/_/

Zephir version 0.10.9a-dev

    command [options]

Available commands:
    stubs               Generates extension PHP stubs
    install             Installs the extension (requires root password)
    version             Shows the Zephir version
    compile             Compile a Zephir extension
    api [--theme-path=/path][--output-directory=/path][--theme-options={json}|/path]Generates a HTML API
    init [namespace]    Initializes a Zephir extension
    fullclean           Cleans the generated object files in compilation
    builddev            Generate/Compile/Install a Zephir extension in development mode
    clean               Cleans the generated object files in compilation
    generate            Generates C code from the Zephir code
    help                Displays this help
    build               Generate/Compile/Install a Zephir extension

    -f([a-z0-9\-]+)     Enables compiler optimizations
    -fno-([a-z0-9\-]+)  Disables compiler optimizations
    -w([a-z0-9\-]+)     Turns a warning on
    -W([a-z0-9\-]+)     Turns a warning off

If something went wrong, please return back to the installation page.

Extension Skeleton

The first thing we have to do is generate an extension skeleton. This will provide to our extension the basic structure we need to start working. In our case, we’re going to create an extension called utils:

zephir init utils

After this, a directory called “utils” is created on the current working directory:


The directory ext/ (inside utils) contains the code that is going to be used by the compiler to produce the extension. Another directory created is utils - this directory has the same name as our extension. We will place Zephir code there.

We need to change the working directory to “utils” to start compiling our code:

cd utils
ext/ utils/ config.json

The directory listing will also show us a file called config.json. This file contains configuration settings we can use to alter the behavior of Zephir and/or the extension itself.

Adding our first class

Zephir is designed to generate object-oriented extensions. To start developing functionality, we need to add our first class to the extension.

As in many languages/tools, the first thing we want to do is see a hello world generated by Zephir, and check that everything is well. So our first class will be called Utils\Greeting, and contain a method printing hello world!.

The code for this class must be placed in utils/utils/greeting.zep:

namespace Utils;

class Greeting

    public static function say()
        echo "hello world!";


Now, we need to tell Zephir that our project must be compiled and the extension generated:

zephir build

Initially, and only for the first time, a number of internal commands are executed producing the necessary code and configurations to export this class to the PHP extension. If everything goes well, you will see the following message at the end of the output:

Extension installed!
Add extension=utils.so to your php.ini
Don't forget to restart your web server

At the above step, it’s likely that you would need to supply your root password in order to install the extension.

Finally, the extension must be added to the php.ini in order to be loaded by PHP. This is achieved by adding the initialization directive: extension=utils.so to it.

NOTE: You can also load it on the command line with -d extension=utils.so, but it will only load for that single request, so you’d need to include it every time you want to test your extension in the CLI. Adding the directive to the php.ini will ensure it is loaded for every request from then on.

Initial Testing

Now that the extension was added to your php.ini, check whether the extension is being loaded properly by executing the following:

php -m
[PHP Modules]

Extension utils should be part of the output, indicating that the extension was loaded correctly. Now, let’s see our hello world directly executed by PHP. To accomplish this, you can create a simple PHP file calling the static method we have just created:

echo Utils\Greeting::say(), "\n";

Congratulations! Уou have your first extension running in PHP.

A useful class

The Utils\Greeting::say method was fine to check if our environment was right. Now, let’s create some more useful classes.

The first useful class we are going to add to this extension will provide filtering facilities to users. This class is called Utils\Filter and its code must be placed in utils/utils/filter.zep:

A basic skeleton for this class is the following:

namespace Utils;

class Filter


The class contains filtering methods that help users to filter unwanted characters from strings. The first method is called alpha, and its purpose is to filter only those characters that are ASCII basic letters. To begin, we are just going to traverse the string, printing every byte to the standard output:

namespace Utils;

class Filter

    public function alpha(string str)
        char ch;

        for ch in str {
            echo ch, "\n";

When invoking this method:


$f = new Utils\Filter();

You will see:


Checking every character in the string is straightforward. Now we’ll create another string with the right filtered characters:

class Filter

    public function alpha(string str) -> string
        char ch; string filtered = "";

        for ch in str {
            if (ch >= 'a' && ch <= 'z') || (ch >= 'A' && ch <= 'Z') {
                let filtered .= ch;

        return filtered;

The complete method can be tested as before:


$f = new Utils\Filter();
echo $f->alpha("!he#02l3'121lo."); // prints "hello"

In the following screencast you can watch how to create the extension explained in this tutorial:


This is a very simple tutorial, and as you can see, it’s easy to start building extensions using Zephir. We invite you to continue reading the manual so that you can discover additional features offered by Zephir!