6 Best PHP Template Engines

Photo by Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash

6 Best PHP Template Engines

PHP Dec 6, 2022

What are templating engines for at all when you can use PHP itself as a templating engine? Yes it is possible. But why, if there are more reliable and affordable options.

For example, to display the value of a variable in PHP , you would write:

<? php echo $var; ?>

But the same thing, only with shorter code, can be done with Twig and Django :

{{ var }}

PHP is best suited for business logic. It should not be confused with the presentation layer.

The business logic of an application defines how data is created, displayed, stored, and modified. The presentation layer defines how the data will be presented to the user in a specific format such as HTML , JSON , XML or other.

Personally, I don't consider PHP as a templating language, because I don't see any changes in it yet that would extend this technology and allow it to be used as a templating engine.

For example, Django introduced template inheritance a few years ago as a way to mimic classes, just for templates:

{% extends "base.html" %}
{% block header%}
{% endblock}
{% block body%}
{% endblock}
{% block footer%}
{% endblock}

This is such a powerful solution that many template engines now support this feature by default.

As we continue to develop complex web applications, it is becoming more and more important to separate back-end and front-end logic so that authors and third-party developers can collaborate on site components without stepping on each other's toes.

Sandbox mode

It is required when you allow users to edit templates ( for example, when webmasters are allowed to edit some back-end templates ). This is not an absolute requirement, in each case you need to make a decision individually. Setting a template to sandbox mode means you can limit what you can do in it.

For example, you need to be able to set limits on the methods/functions that can be called, the tags that can be used, and more. These functions are missing from PHP .

Alternative PHP Template Engines

I have found other engines that are designed specifically for templates. But not all of them are equally good. I read a lot of articles, compared the found engines by their main features, and as a result, I came up with the top 6 most widely used engines.

1. Twig

The Twig PHP templating engine was written by Armin Ronacher of Jinja . It is one of the popular template engines. While Twig is one of the most complete PHP templates , it is also the fastest:

Some of the main features of Twig :

  • Built -in template inheritance ( templates are compiled as classes ).
  • Fully automated escaping ( no associated compile-time costs ).
  • Safe sandbox mode , which allows Twig to be used as a templating language for applications where users can modify the design of a template.
  • Great extensibility: you override everything, even the core functionality, by adding your own tags and filters as an extension. AST ( Abstract Syntax Tree ) can also be manipulated before compilation . Using these features, you can even create your own DSL ( Domain Specific Language ) for your application.
  • Template-oriented syntax.
  • Functional − Supports multiple inheritance, blocks, automatic inference shutdown, and more.
  • Clear error messages.

2. Smarty

Smarty places a lot of emphasis on boilerplate and less on code. It uses the simple {tag} syntax , which is designed specifically for views:

Smarty provides a cool tutorial to get you started with this engine. It compiles copies of templates as PHP scripts . This allows you to take advantage of the template tag syntax and speed of PHP .

Compilation is done once when the template is called for the first time. The compiled versions are then used further. So Smarty made sure that the designer could just edit the templates and didn't have to manage the compiled versions.

Smarty also uses the concept of a sandbox.

Smarty 3 introduced inheritance. Using inheritance, blocks can be easily manipulated.

3. Mustache

The engine expands the tags in the template using the values ​​provided in the hash or object. We call it “ logic-less ” because there are no if statements , else conditions, or for loops . Instead, there are only tags.

4. Blade

A simple yet powerful Laravel templating engine . But that doesn't mean you can't use it with other frameworks.

Blade is a standalone component and can be used on its own. The engine was released in 2011. Today it is one of the most commonly used.

Unlike other popular templating engines, Blade is not limited to using simple PHP code in views. In fact, all Blade views are compiled into plain PHP code and cached until they are changed. This means Blade adds little to no overhead to your application.

But Blade 's main problem is the lack of extensive documentation . It lacks many important aspects.

5. Volt

The Volt PHP templating engine is a fast and convenient templating language written in C for PHP . Volt is tightly integrated with other Phalcon components . But at the same time, it can be used in your applications as a standalone component.

Volt 's main drawback is that it cannot be completely separated from Phalcon . So if you want to use Volt with other frameworks, you won't succeed. You can switch back to using the Twig templating engine , which is the closest language to Volt , yet completely standalone.

6. Dwoo

Like Twig and Smarty , Dwoo supports inheritance, which makes it easy to override default template values. But unfortunately Dwoo does not have a sandboxing feature and its core is not flexible enough.

Key features:

  • Faster than Smarty .
  • Flexible plugin creation.
  • Smarty syntax compatibility with several plugins and shortcuts to speed up template writing.


Twig is a templating engine that can be easily adapted. It's feature rich, highly customizable, and well documented. And if you know other PHP templating engines , you can easily get started with Twig because its syntax is similar to other engines.


Anurag Deep

Logical by Mind, Creative by Heart