The Road to EasyAdmin 3: No More Inheritance

EasyAdmin is an admin generator for Symfony applications. EasyAdmin 3 is the new version that will be released soon. This article is part of a series that explains some of its biggest changes and the reasoning behind them.


Some programming languages allow to define non-subclassable classes using keywords such as sealed and final. Compiled languages (Java, C#, etc.) do this mainly to allow aggressive optimizations while compiling code. In PHP this is mostly done to minimize the backward-compatibility breaks.

Any class that can be extended creates an “extension point” in your application. Users will assume that they can extend your classes to modify some of their methods. This provides lots of freedom to your uses, but will make your project more difficult to evolve because you can’t change those classes without breaking users code.

Should all classes be final?

Marco Pivetta published an article titled When to declare classes final where he defends that most/all classes should be final by default if they define interfaces. However, in the PHP world there are two main philosophies.

Taylor Otwell, creator of the Laravel framework, prefers to never use final and advocates against it. His reasoning is that if you use some non-final class and the project changes it, it probably won’t take you much time to fix your code:

Symfony follows the opposite philosophy and prefers to make everything final by default (unless there are some reasons to make something an “extension point”). However, Nicolas Grekas, the most active Symfony code contributor, agreed with Taylor and argued that using the @final annotation instead of the final keyword may be enough to warn users without taking their freedom to extend:

What should we do in EasyAdmin?

My position in the “final vs non-final” debate is very clear: I don’t know what to do. Both sides have strong points. This reminds me of Microsoft vs Apple: Microsoft keeps backward compatibility for decades whereas Apple breaks it often. None is wrong and both companies are wildly successful.

A thing to keep in mind before making a decision is that EasyAdmin 3 is a complete rewrite of EasyAdmin 2. We may have introduced serious problems or shortcomings in the new architecture, so giving complete freedom to users too soon may be counterproductive for the project.

Considering all this, I opted for the most conservative decision. If you start with “non-final”, you cannot make it “final” later without making people angry. If you start with “final”, you can keep it or turn some/all classes into “non-final” later if needed. That’s why all classes are final in EasyAdmin 3 (for now).

The only exceptions are a few abstract classes defined to simplify the creation of dashboard and CRUD controllers (and they are optional, because you can implement the related interface instead of extending the abstract class). In the coming months, after EasyAdmin 3 is released as stable and developers start using it in real applications, we’ll revisit this “all classes are final” decision.

Contracts

Symfony introduced a Contracts component to define a set of abstractions extracted out of the Symfony components. Most of these abstractions are PHP interfaces implemented by other Symfony components.

Following the same idea, EasyAdmin 3 defines multiple contracts in the EasyCorp\Bundle\EasyAdminBundle\Contracts namespace. This way we can group all our interfaces in a single place, making it easier to find and use them. Hopefully these contracts will be enough to make the project usable and extensible even if all classes are “final”.

👋 If EasyAdmin is useful for you or your company, please consider sponsoring me on GitHub.