Learning ZF2: Application flow

by Mateusz Tymek — on PHP, Zend Framework

Head's up! This post was written back in 2012 and is very likely to contain outdated information.
Zend Framework 2

This post covers basic tasks that you may want to do within controller: forwarding to different actions, redirecting, and displaying 404 page. Once again, I will show how this tasks can be achieved in both ZF1 and ZF2.


"Forwarding" means jumping from one action to another.

In Zend Framework 1 "forward" is implemented as a function within Zend_Controller_Action class.

// forward to "login" action of UserController
return $this->forward('login', 'user');

Zend Framework 2 comes with Forward plugin. Usage is very similar:

// forward to "login" action of UserController
return $this->forward()
    ->dispatch('Application\Controller\User', array('action' => 'login'));

Application\Controller\User must be defined in application config (manual).

There are two differences between ZF1 and ZF2:

  • When forwarding to different action within the same controller, ZF1 will create new instance of controller class. It means that all variables within this controller will be lost. ZF2 does the opposite - if controller object is already created, your data will be intact.
  • You can think of ZF1's forward as a function that sets new action to be executed after current one. So, if you forget to add return statement, your current action won't stop running. ZF2's forward will dispatch new action instantly.


Redirecting works in a similar way in both frameworks. Only difference is the syntax.

// redirect to URL
return $this->redirect('http://any-url-will-do.com');

// redirect to route
return $this->_helper->redirector->gotoRoute(
    array('page' => 'about-us'),

// redirect to different action & controller
return $this->_helper->redirector->gotoSimple('action', 'controller');


// redirect to URL
return $this->redirect()->toUrl('http://any-url-will-do.com');

// redirect to route
return $this->redirect()->toRoute(
    array('page' => 'about-us'),


Both Zend Frameworks will automatically show "page not found" when URL doesn't match any defined route, or when requested action (or controller) doesn't exist. Sometimes you may want to trigger this page manually (for example this blog application will show 404 page when you type http://dev.mateusztymek.pl/blog/invalid-article in the URL).

404 page in ZF1 is usually handled by ErrorController. Easiest way to get there is to throw an exception:

throw new Zend_Controller_Action_Exception('404 Page not found', 404);

Alternatively (I was actually using this method in most of my projects), you could forward to "special" action dedicated to handling 404s:

// forward to "page-not-found" action of ErrorController
$this->forward('page-not-found', 'error');

Zend Framework 2 doesn't come with ErrorController. Instead, it registers event listeners that will render "page not found" view script when response is about to return 404 code.
It can be triggered with this one-liner:


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