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Symfony Framework vs. Zend Framework

Here is a comprehensive comparison between the Symfony Framework and the Zend Framework.

Like the .Net Framework, Zend is a bucket of functions that, together, provide advanced interfaces to the most complex of tasks that web developers need to write regularly. They then leave the developer to work up a quick interface to the application, which they enable with their views structure. Zend’s major strength and weakness is that there isn’t one particular way to do things and that you can pick and choose which libraries you want to use.

Both frameworks are PHP5-native frameworks and won’t function in PHP4. Both are heavily object-oriented and make use of inheritance that’s only offered in PHP>5. Both use the front controller model.

The similarities end there.

Zend uses very little code generation and configuration is all in the front controller; Symfony has a great deal of code generation and a huge amount of configuration overhead. Zend is flexible about it’s directory hierarchy and allows you to heavily customize your directories to use global code libraries; Symfony has a required directory structure that is created when you use the command line tool to create modules. Zend doesn’t require command-line creation of modules.

After the jump, I’ll focus on a few areas where there’s some specific differences.

Getting Started

Symfony has a lot of ‘buzz’ and user support, and there are excellent guides from both the authors and the communities to get users started on the learning curve. Zend doesn’t have as much, and the documentation is really directed at more experienced developers who are old hands with the more complex aspects of object-orientation.
Unit Testing

Symfony provides command-line tasks for unit testing and automatically generates a default (empty) testing object for you when you create a module.

Zend doesn’t have integrated support for unit testing, but all components that go into the framework require unit tests.


Zend’s templating is immature and doesn’t allow easy nesting without a well-documented hack or two, but will in the next release… or ‘Soon ™’.

Symfony’s templating is extremely mature and uses caching extensively to rapidly deliver content to users. You can plug components and entire other modules into slots in your symfony templates, and you can customize the templates as much as you want through the use of layout scripts.


Symfony has an extensive plugin and extension community in it’s community wiki. Zend, as yet, does not. It’s interesting to note that you can pull in the Zend framework’s functionality with Symfony by using the Zend Framework plugin for Symfony.
Database Modules

Zend uses the ActiveRecord model for databases. Symfony allows the user to plug in whatever database manager they want, including Zend_Db.

My issues with Symfony’s two current frontrunning database plugins (propel and doctrine) include the extensive bugs in both (Propel’s issues depend greatly on the lag in changing from Creole to DBO and also the stupidly complex criteron objects, and Doctrine’s as of yet an immature project that recently saw it’s first 1.0 release.) and the code generation / configuration overhead that you end up with when you’re creating hundreds of tables and managing changes to those tables. It gets to be a headache once you get past twenty or thirty tables. Zend’s active record implementation is much easier because all you need to do is direct an object at the item.

For the conclusion, you should read here ;P

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3 Responses to Symfony Framework vs. Zend Framework

  1. Raj Anand says:

    Hi Wenbert. Thanks for your thoughts I think you certainly have a point here. We have recently adopted Zend too. Quoted your blog :)


  2. Saman says:

    Could you PLEASE stop calling it Zend? Thats a company.

  3. Simon says:

    Just read this article and this line “Zend uses the ActiveRecord model for databases” is just bullshit man.
    I’m sorry to it like that but that’s true. Check the REAL definition of ActiveRecord before mention something like that.

    But nice article BTW.

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