Child Process Component

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Library for executing child processes.

This library integrates Program Execution with the EventLoop. Child processes launched may be signaled and will emit an exit event upon termination. Additionally, process I/O streams (i.e. STDIN, STDOUT, STDERR) are exposed as Streams.

Table of contents

Quickstart example

$loop = React\EventLoop\Factory::create();

$process = new React\ChildProcess\Process('echo foo');

$process->stdout->on('data', function ($chunk) {
    echo $chunk;

$process->on('exit', function($exitCode, $termSignal) {
    echo 'Process exited with code ' . $exitCode . PHP_EOL;


See also the examples.


Stream Properties

Once a process is started, its I/O streams will be constructed as instances of React\Stream\ReadableStreamInterface and React\Stream\WritableStreamInterface. Before start() is called, these properties are null.Once a process terminates, the streams will become closed but not unset.

Each of these implement the underlying ReadableStreamInterface or WritableStreamInterface and you can use any of their events and methods as usual:

$process->stdout->on('data', function ($chunk) {
    echo $chunk;

$process->stdout->on('end', function () {
    echo 'ended';

$process->stdout->on('error', function (Exception $e) {
    echo 'error: ' . $e->getMessage();

$process->stdout->on('close', function () {
    echo 'closed';

$process->stdin->end($data = null);

For more details, see the ReadableStreamInterface and WritableStreamInterface.


The Process class allows you to pass any kind of command line string:

$process = new Process('echo test');

By default, PHP will launch processes by wrapping the given command line string in a sh command, so that the above example will actually execute sh -c echo test under the hood.

This is a very useful feature because it does not only allow you to pass single commands, but actually allows you to pass any kind of shell command line and launch multiple sub-commands using command chains (with &&, ||, ; and others) and allows you to redirect STDIO streams (with 2>&1 and family). This can be used to pass complete command lines and receive the resulting STDIO streams from the wrapping shell command like this:

$process = new Process('echo run && demo || echo failed');

In other words, the underlying shell is responsible for managing this command line and launching the individual sub-commands and connecting their STDIO streams as appropriate. This implies that the Process class will only receive the resulting STDIO streams from the wrapping shell, which will thus contain the complete input/output with no way to discern the input/output of single sub-commands.

If you want to discern the output of single sub-commands, you may want to implement some higher-level protocol logic, such as printing an explicit boundary between each sub-command like this:

$process = new Process('cat first && echo --- && cat second');

As an alternative, considering launching one process at a time and listening on its exit event to conditionally start the next process in the chain. This will give you an opportunity to configure the subsequent process I/O streams:

$first = new Process('cat first');

$first->on('exit', function () use ($loop) {
    $second = new Process('cat second');

Keep in mind that PHP uses the shell wrapper for ALL command lines. While this may seem reasonable for more complex command lines, this actually also applies to running the most simple single command:

$process = new Process('yes');

This will actually spawn a command hierarchy similar to this:

5480 … \_ php example.php
5481 …    \_ sh -c yes
5482 …        \_ yes

This means that trying to get the underlying process PID or sending signals will actually target the wrapping shell, which may not be the desired result in many cases.

If you do not want this wrapping shell process to show up, you can simply prepend the command string with exec, which will cause the wrapping shell process to be replaced by our process:

$process = new Process('exec yes');

This will show a resulting command hierarchy similar to this:

5480 … \_ php example.php
5481 …    \_ yes

This means that trying to get the underlying process PID and sending signals will now target the actual command as expected.

Note that in this case, the command line will not be run in a wrapping shell. This implies that when using exec, there's no way to pass command lines such as those containing command chains or redirected STDIO streams.

As a rule of thumb, most commands will likely run just fine with the wrapping shell. If you pass a complete command line (or are unsure), you SHOULD most likely keep the wrapping shell. If you want to pass an invidual command only, you MAY want to consider prepending the command string with exec to avoid the wrapping shell.


The exit event will be emitted whenever the process is no longer running. Event listeners will receive the exit code and termination signal as two arguments:

$process = new Process('sleep 10');

$process->on('exit', function ($code, $term) {
    if ($term === null) {
        echo 'exit with code ' . $code . PHP_EOL;
    } else {
        echo 'terminated with signal ' . $term . PHP_EOL;

Note that $code is null if the process has terminated, but the exit code could not be determined (for example sigchild compatibility was disabled). Similarly, $term is null unless the process has terminated in response to an uncaught signal sent to it. This is not a limitation of this project, but actual how exit codes and signals are exposed on POSIX systems, for more details see also here.

It's also worth noting that process termination depends on all file descriptors being closed beforehand. This means that all process pipes will emit a close event before the exit event and that no more data events will arrive after the exit event. Accordingly, if either of these pipes is in a paused state (pause() method or internally due to a pipe() call), this detection may not trigger.

The terminate(?int $signal = null): bool method can be used to send the process a signal (SIGTERM by default). Depending on which signal you send to the process and whether it has a signal handler registered, this can be used to either merely signal a process or even forcefully terminate it.


Keep the above section in mind if you want to forcefully terminate a process. If your process spawn sub-processes or implicitly uses the wrapping shell mentioned above, its file descriptors may be inherited to child processes and terminating the main process may not necessarily terminate the whole process tree. It is highly suggested that you explicitly close() all process pipes accordingly when terminating a process:

$process = new Process('sleep 10');

$loop->addTimer(2.0, function () use ($process) {

For many simple programs these seamingly complicated steps can also be avoided by prefixing the command line with exec to avoid the wrapping shell and its inherited process pipes as mentioned above.

$process = new Process('exec sleep 10');

$loop->addTimer(2.0, function () use ($process) {

Many command line programs also wait for data on STDIN and terminate cleanly when this pipe is closed. For example, the following can be used to "soft-close" a cat process:

$process = new Process('cat');

$loop->addTimer(2.0, function () use ($process) {

While process pipes and termination may seem confusing to newcomers, the above properties actually allow some fine grained control over process termination, such as first trying a soft-close and then applying a force-close after a timeout.

Sigchild Compatibility

When PHP has been compiled with the --enabled-sigchild option, a child process' exit code cannot be reliably determined via proc_close() or proc_get_status(). Instead, we execute the child process with a fourth pipe and use that to retrieve its exit code.

This behavior is used by default and only when necessary. It may be manually disabled by calling setEnhanceSigchildCompatibility(false) on the Process before it is started, in which case the exit event may receive null instead of the actual exit code.

Note: This functionality was taken from Symfony's Process compoment.

Windows Compatibility

Due to the blocking nature of STDIN/STDOUT/STDERR pipes on Windows we can not guarantee this package works as expected on Windows directly. As such when instantiating Process it throws an exception when on native Windows. However this package does work on Windows Subsystem for Linux (or WSL) without issues. We suggest installing WSL when you want to run this package on Windows.


The recommended way to install this library is through Composer. New to Composer?

This will install the latest supported version:

$ composer require react/child-process:^0.4.3

More details about version upgrades can be found in the CHANGELOG.


To run the test suite, you first need to clone this repo and then install all dependencies through Composer:

$ composer install

To run the test suite, go to the project root and run:

$ php vendor/bin/phpunit


MIT, see LICENSE file.