Environment configuration can easily pollute application and system code. Fortunately, Laravel keeps this nicely separated.

Sensitive Configuration

The next couple of lines, in the vendor/…/Foundation/start.php file, isolates some of this configuration data:

with($envVariables = new EnvironmentVariables(

This is from vendor/laravel/framework/src/Illuminate/Foundation/start.php

The comment preceding this explains that this is to keep the $_ENV and $_SERVER variables away from the rest of the application code. Looking back insider the Application class, we see the following method:

public function getEnvironmentVariablesLoader()
  return new FileEnvironmentVariablesLoader(
    new Filesystem,

This is from vendor/laravel/framework/src/Illuminate/Foundation/Application.php

This is the low-level code used to read .env.php files. These allow sensitive configuration variables to be excluded from the app/config files. The load() method looks like this:

public function load($environment = null)
  foreach ($this->loader->load($environment) as $key => $value)
    $_ENV[$key] = $value;

    $_SERVER[$key] = $value;


This is from vendor/laravel/framework/src/Illuminate/Configuration/

This means that the application environment variable is used to determine the configuration variables loaded. For instance, if the environment is set to local, the file .env.local.php is loaded.

If the environment is set to production the FileEnvironmentVariablesLoader class will attempt to load .env.php instead. We’ll look at how this happens, when we dissect the illuminate/config package.

These configuration files define arrays of keys and values. Multi-dimensional arrays are not supported, but that’s reasonable when you consider that neither $_ENV nor $_SERVER support multi-dimensional arrays either.

The putenv() call allows for the same variables to be pulled out with calls to the getenv() function.

You can learn more about using these kinds of configuration files at

Plain Old Configuration

Back in vendor/../Foundation/start.php, we see more configuration happening, with:

$app->instance('config', $config = new Config(

 $app->getConfigLoader(), $env


This is from vendor/laravel/framework/src/Illuminate/Foundation/start.php

This is to facilitate the loading of the regular configuration files (those in app/config) with a loader provided by the Application instance. That happens to be:

public function getConfigLoader()
  return new FileLoader(
    new Filesystem,

This is from vendor/laravel/framework/src/Illuminate/Foundation/Application.php

This code is very similar to that used to load the .env.php files. Part of me thinks that could be abstracted in a useful way, so that the code isn’t repeated across packages…

You can learn more about using configuration files at

Exception Handling

The next few lines set the exception handling and error reporting:


if ($env != 'testing') ini_set('display_errors', 'Off');

This is from vendor/laravel/framework/src/Illuminate/Foundation/start.php

We see this method, over in the Application class:

public function startExceptionHandling()


This is from vendor/laravel/framework/src/Illuminate/Foundation/Application.php

The register() method registers exception, error and shutdown handler functions (though the last one is excluded for the testing environment). The setDebug() method helps the exception class determine which kind of error messages should be displayed.

To illustrate this; when debug is set to true (in app/config/app.php), comprehensive debugging information is displayed. If debug is set to false, then the generic “Whoops, looks like something went wrong.” message is displayed.

You should never have debug set to true, in the production environment. It leaks sensitive system information, and can lead to all sort of security nonsense.

We’ll review the specifics of the exception handler in another article.

You can learn more about handling errors at


Following the exception handling, the timezone is configured:

$config = $app['config']['app'];


This is from vendor/laravel/framework/src/Illuminate/Foundation/start.php

The timezone affects the difference between the time on your computer/in your location and that of the server. It’s not usually a huge problem, but PHP 5.3+ will display a warning if you aren’t using this method or setting date.timezone in your php.ini configuration file.

Laravel would naturally suppress these errors, based on environment and configuration, but you don’t really want them in your log files either.

Class Aliases

The next couple lines of code do something magical:

$aliases = $config['aliases'];


This is from vendor/laravel/framework/src/Illuminate/Foundation/start.php

The aliases key referred to here is that in app/config/app.php. It basically uses the built-in class_alias() function:

public function load($alias)
  if (isset($this->aliases[$alias]))
    return class_alias($this->aliases[$alias], $alias);

This is from vendor/laravel/framework/src/Illuminate/Foundation/AliasLoader.php

I spent a great deal of time trying to understand why some of the things in this class were done. Here are my thoughts:

  1. The AliasLoader class is built as a Singleton class, but it is used only after the Container is initialised. I can only assume this is to avoid overhead when aliases are used, especially when considering…

  2. The AliasLoader class prepends itself as an spl_class_autoloader. This is because the class_alias() function will attempt to load the class being aliased before applying the alias. For example; if we want to alias App to Illuminate\Support\Facades\App, the class_alias() method will first try to load the full class path before making the alias. Deferring the the call to class_alias() until the point at which the class first required avoids this premature I/O work.

The program flow then becomes:

  1. An alias is used with App::make().

  2. AliasLoader, having prepended itself to the list of autoloaders, runs load().

  3. This uses class_alias() to link App to Illuminate\Support\ Facades\App.

  4. The full class path is then loaded, using one of the remaining class autoloaders.

Interesting stuff!