Composer is a popular dependency manager for PHP that simplifies the process of managing libraries and packages within your PHP projects. The heart of Composer’s configuration is the composer.json file. In this article, we will break down the components of the composer.json file and explore how to understand and work with it effectively.

What is composer.json?

The composer.json file is a JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) file that serves as the central configuration file for Composer. It defines your project’s dependencies, scripts, and other essential details that Composer uses to manage packages and automate tasks.

Key Components of composer.json:

1. name
This field specifies the name of your project or package. It’s often in the format vendor/package-name and should be unique to avoid conflicts.

"name": "your-vendor/your-project"

2. type
The type field specifies the type of project, such as a library, project, metapackage, etc. It helps Composer understand the purpose of the package.

"type": "library"

3. description
Here, you can provide a brief description of your project, helping users understand its purpose and functionality.

"description": "A fantastic PHP project"

4. keywords
You can include an array of keywords to describe your project further. These are helpful for searchability.

"keywords": ["PHP", "library", "awesome"]

5. license
The license field indicates the licensing terms under which your project is distributed.

"license": "MIT"

6. authors
You can specify the authors of the project along with their names, email addresses, and optionally, homepage URLs.

"authors": [
    "name": "John Doe",          
    "email": "",          
    "homepage": ""      

7. require
This is one of the most critical sections. It lists the dependencies your project needs to function correctly. Composer uses this information to install the required packages.

"require": {
  "vendor/package-name": "^1.0",      
  "another-vendor/another-package": "2.*"  

8. require-dev
Similar to require, but it specifies packages that are only needed for development or testing purposes.

"require-dev": {      
  "phpunit/phpunit": "^9.0",      
  "squizlabs/php_codesniffer": "^3.0"  

9. autoload
The autoload section provides instructions to Composer on how to load your project’s classes and files. It defines a mapping between namespaces and directories.

"autoload": {      
  "psr-4": {          
    "YourVendor\\YourPackage\\": "src/"      

10. scripts
The scripts section allows you to define custom scripts and commands that can be executed using Composer. These are often used for tasks like running tests, generating documentation, and more.

"scripts": {      
  "test": "phpunit",      
  "post-install-cmd": "YourVendor\\YourPackage\\Installer::postInstall"  

Custom Configuration:

In addition to the standard fields mentioned above, the composer.json file can include custom configuration options that are specific to your project. These options can be used to define additional settings or variables that your application may need.

Running Composer Commands:

After you’ve created or modified your composer.json file, you can use the composer command-line tool to manage your project’s dependencies and perform other tasks. Here are some common Composer commands:

  • composer install: Installs the project’s dependencies based on the require and require-dev sections of composer.json.
  • composer update: Updates your project’s dependencies to the latest compatible versions, based on the composer.json file.
  • composer require package-name: Adds a new package to the require section and installs it.
  • composer remove package-name: Removes a package from the require section and uninstalls it.
  • composer dump-autoload: Regenerates the autoloader according to the autoload section.
  • composer update --dry-run: Simulates an update to see what packages would be affected without actually updating them.


Understanding and effectively using the composer.json file is essential for managing dependencies and automating tasks in your PHP projects. By mastering this central configuration file, you can streamline your development process and ensure your project functions smoothly while staying up to date with the latest packages and libraries in the PHP ecosystem.

By Ahmad Jawahir

I'm a project manager in Tokyo. I have experience in software development, Ubuntu server, IoT, artificial intelligence and networking. My hobby is gym and enjoying nature.

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