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Installing Laravel using Composer

May 20, 2019 by Areg Sarkissian

Updated on May 29 by Areg Sarkissian


In this post I will detail how we can use Composer, the PHP package manager, to create a new Laravel project.

I will further show how we can run composer to install PHP packages for our Laravel project.

This post assumes that you have PHP and Composer installed on your local system.

Note: An alternate Laravel installation CLI tool is available that you can install as a global Composer package. We will avoid using this tool and just use the composer create-project command to create Laravel projects. This eliminates an additional dependency on the Laravel installer tool that we don’t need to install and keep updated.

For completeness sake, I will also mention running the Node package manager, Yarn to install NPM modules for our project.

Installing required PHP extensions for Laravel projects on macOS

Before we create a new laravel project we need to make sure certain PHP extensions are installed.

These are extensions required by Laravel:

I you install the latest PHP version using Homebrew for macOS, the extensions will be included by the PHP installation. So you will not need to explicitly install them. For Linux installation you will need to install all or some of these extensions individually using the package manager for your Linux distribution.

Note: The Laravel documentation requires the OpenSSL PHP extension as a requirement. However OpenSSL does not exist in the PHP extensions package repository any longer. In the latest PHP installation, OpenSSL is selected by default. This can be seen by running php -i | grep "SSL Version" which shows SSL Version => OpenSSL/1.0.2r.

You can verify installed extensions by running php -m.

Installing additional PHP extensions

I often install the following extensions by running a separate pecl install command for each individual extension:

pecl install --force xdebug
pecl install --force memcached
pecl install --force redis

Note: It is recommended to install any required extensions individually instead of including a list of space character delimited extensions on a single line. This is because PECL gets confused when adding the extension setting to the php.ini file, if a zend extension such as xdebug is included in the list

Using Composer to create a new Laravel project

We can run the following Composer command to download and create a new Laravel project:

composer create-project --prefer-dist laravel/laravel:5.8.* myapp

Here we specified myapp as the name of our project and 5.8.* as the version of Laravel project skeleton that we want to create. Composer will create a project directory by the name of myapp and install the project skeleton files in the directory. If we leave out the project name, the project name will default to laravel.

Note: If you are using PHP 7.3 and you get an JIT compiler setting error: preg_match(): JIT compilation failed: no more memory when you run the composer create-project command, you have to update the JIT compiler setting in your PHP configuration file as detailed in my blog post Installing Composer PHP Package Manager under the section Fixing Composer JIT compiler error for PHP v7.3.

When we execute the command the first line of the response will indicate the version of the Laravel project skeleton that is being installed:

Installing laravel/laravel (v5.8.17)

Once the project directory is created we can enter the project by running cd myapp.

To find out the version of the Laravel framework that is installed, within the project directory we can run:

php artisan --version

The output of this command for my laravel project was 5.8.19.

As you can see the version of the installed Laravel framework 5.8.19is different from the version of the Laravel project skeleton 5.8.17.

To understand why, you need to understand that there are two distinct codebases that get installed, from two distinct repositories, when we create a new Laravel project.

First there is the Laravel project skeleton repository:

This repo is where the template files for your initial project structure come from.

Then there is the Laravel framework repository:

This is where the files for the Laravel framework itself reside.

When we create a new Laravel project with composer create-project command, first Composer downloads a tagged version from the project skeleton repository into a project directory that it creates then Composer runs composer install from within the project directory to install the Laravel framework from the Laravel framework repo into the vendor subdirectory of the project directory. The version of the Laravel framework that it will install into the vendor directiory is determined by the version of the Laravel framework specified in the composer.json file in the project skelleton release that was downloaded.

The project skeleton repository and the Laravel framework repositories have independent tagged releases. As of this writing the latest tagged releases for each repository is shown below:

As you can see, the latest version for each is different and matches the versions that I saw for each when I installed the project skeleton from using composer create-project.

Note: the * patch version used in the project skeleton version 5.8.* of the create-project command indicates that composer should download the latest tagged release, which in this case is 5.8.17.

If we look at the composer.json file of the project skeleton that was installed, we will see the following composer require section:

"require": {
        "php": "^7.1.3",
        "fideloper/proxy": "^4.0",
        "laravel/framework": "5.8.*",
        "laravel/tinker": "^1.0"

As you can see laravel/framework": "5.8.* is specified. So when composer runs composer install during running the composer create-project installation, it will install the latest tagged release of the Laravel framework from

When we run php artisan --version from the project directory, the installed Laravel framework version is retrieved from the vendor\laravel\framework\src\Illuminate\Foundation\Application.php file. Inside this file the version is set to an Application class constant as show below:

const VERSION = '5.8.17';

This is where the artisan command retrieves the installed version of the Laravel framework.

Note: Unfortunately the actual version of the project skeleton that was installed is not stored anywhere in the project. However since Composer prints out the version that it downloads in the results of the composer create-project command, we can copy it into the file for future reference.

Note: Always remember that the version we specify in the composer create-project command is the version of the project skeleton. The version of the Laravel framework that gets installed within the project is specified in the composer.json file of the project skeleton.

If we want a specific version of the project skeleton we can specify it explicitly in the command.

composer create-project --prefer-dist laravel/laravel:5.8.17 myapp

This will download version 5.8.17 of the project skeleton if exist as a tagged release in the project skeleton repo

Note: If a tagged release does not exist for the specific version specified, then create-project will fail.

If we omit the patch version then the zero patch release will be downloaded:

composer create-project --prefer-dist laravel/laravel:5.8 myapp

This will download version 5.8.0 of the project skeleton.

If we omit the project skeleton version entirely, the latest tagged version of the project skeleton will be installed:

composer create-project --prefer-dist laravel/laravel myapp

This will download version 5.8.17 of the project skeleton.

In any of these cases the Laravel framework version that is installed will solely depend on the version specified in the composer.json file of the project skeleton.

Installing Composer packages

As mentioned before composer create-project will also install the Laravel framework packages for us which will create the vendor directory where the packages are installed.

So running composer install from the project directory, after the installation is complete, should indicate that there are no new packages to install.

If we want to install additional packages using composer we can use the composer require command.

For instance composer require predis/predis will install the latest Redis package that Laravel needs if we want to use Redis as a cache or queue in our laravel projects.

Installing NPM modules

If we have NodeJS installed on our system, we can also run yarn from the project directory to install NPM modules in our project. If we don’t have NodeJS installed, another way to install the NPM packages is to run yarn from the project directory using the official Node Docker container:

docker run --rm -v $(pwd):/app -w /app node yarn

Either way running the command will create the node_modules directory where the NPM modules will be installed.

Running yarn will also create the yarn.lock dependency file in the project directory.

Running the application

To run our application, we can run a PHP server using the following Artisan command:

php artisan serve --port=8080

We should now be able to navigate our web browser to localhost:8080 to see the Laravel application home page.

In another post I will detail how we can install and configure Laravel Valet to serve all our Laravel apps without having to explicitly run a web server.


In this post I detailed how we can create a new Laravel project with composer, using any version of the Laravel framework.

Thanks for reading.