OctoberCMS is an interesting CMS platform build on Laravel. There is a great official tutorial on how to setup OctoberCMS with a Vagrant box using the quick install approach.

That approach is great if you will use OctoberCMS’s project management tools to update, install plugins, themes, etc. But if you want to do any custom work, including install a composer package, you are out of luck. The quick install doesn’t include composer.json, so there is no way forward.

Alternatively, you can setup OctoberCMS via command line, which will give you a standard PHP/composer project, but there is no tutorial on how do to that, but the steps are pretty straightforward.

This tutorial will show you how to setup OctoberCMS as a normal PHP/composer project inside a Vagrant box. Later tutorials cover important security considerations that I think OctoberCMS does horribly wrong, how to deploy the project to Heroku (my favorite PaaS solution) and finally additional configuration you will need in order for your application to work with Heroku’s ephemeral storage and across multiple instances.

Get the Vagrantbox (Scotchbox)

Open a terminal window. Execute the following to create directory for your project and then clone the scotchbox repository into the directory.

mkdir octobercms && cd octobercms
git clone https://github.com/scotch-io/scotch-box .

Customize the Vagrant box

The default Scotchbox is a good start, but we want to make a few changes so it works well for OctoberCMS and Heroku.

Change the mapped public directory

First, change the default directory so that we can install OctoberCMS in the root directory. This allows Heroku to easily identify our application as a PHP application.

Open Vagrantfile in a text editor. Replace

config.vm.synced_folder ".", "/var/www", :mount_options => ["dmode=777", "fmode=666"]


config.vm.synced_folder ".", "/var/www/public", :mount_options => ["dmode=777", "fmode=666"]

Configure PHP 7.1

OctoberCMS works well with PHP 7.x and older versions of PHP will soon be deprecated. It is good idea to start a new project with an environment that will be supported in the future. Scotchbox only has PHP 5.6, but we can configure it to install PHP 7.1.

Open Vagrantfile in a text editor. After the line config.vm.hostname = "scotchbox", add the following (maintaing the same 4-space indentation):

    config.vm.provision :shell, path: "bootstrap.sh"

Then get bootstrap.sh download from https://gist.github.com/garretfick/7b27eaf88dbe4762e994b875e9de23b6 and save it to the root directory, for example:

curl -O  https://gist.githubusercontent.com/garretfick/7b27eaf88dbe4762e994b875e9de23b6/raw/d10e736a3a6d0ddfe9b684c6ea26432cfbd32f8d/bootstrap.sh

Install OctoberCMS

Now that the Vagrant box is in a good state, we can proceed with installing OctoberCMS.

Start the Vagrant box

We will install OctoberCMS within the Vagrant box. In the terminal windown, execute the follwing to start and connect to the virtual machine.

vagrant up && vagrant ssh

Update composer

Composer, how we will get and install OctoberCMS gets regular updates. If desired, update composer so you have a recent version.

sudo /usr/local/bin/composer self-update

Create an OctoberCMS project

We want to install OctoberCMS using composer. However, composer will only install into an empty directory which is incompatible with how Heroku expects to find your project. So, we will create the the project in a temporary directory, then move the files into the desired location.

cd /var/www/public
composer create-project october/october temp dev-master --prefer-dist

At the end of the installation, composer will prompt you if you want to keep the project history. Choose Y

Do you want to remove the existing VCS (.git, .svn..) history? [Y,n]? Y

Then move the files to the root project directory.

mv temp/{*,.*} ./ && rmdir temp

The {*,.*} syntax to make sure to copy the hidden files.

Validate your setup

At this point, you should be able to see the OctoberCMS site running via your browser.

On your host machine, enter the IP address of your site (or URL if you are using the hostupdater Vagrant plugin). You should see the OctoberCMS welcome page.

Create a git repository

Deploying to Heroku requires a git repository (and you should be tracking your source code changes in source control anyway).

In a terminal window, execute the following to create a git repository for your project and stage your initial commit.

git init && git add .

Most projects have files that should not be committed to the repository.

Open .gitignore in a text editor. Add the following

# Ignore the vagrant box virtual machine files

# Ignore Laravel/OctoberCMS logs and cache

Also, remove the item composer.lock (which should be tracked and is required for deploying on Heroku).

The .gitignore above ignores a few files that we don’t want excluded, so force them to be added to the repository.

git add -f storage/**/.gitignore storage/framework/services.json

Finally, commit your change.

git commit -m "Initial commit of website code"

Tip: If you are running git within the scotchbox, you will need to tell git a little about yourself before you can commit your first change.

git config --global user.email "your.email@example.com"
git config --global user.name "Your Name"

Tip: Although outside the scope of this tutorial, this is a good time to setup a remote repository and push your code there.

Customize the OctoberCMS installation

Although we have a working OctoberCMS installation, isn’t quite compatible with our Vagrant box nor Heroku.

Disable OctoberCMS updates

Since we are using composer, we don’t want to use OctoberCMS’s update mechanism.

Open config/cms.php in a text editor. Find disableCoreUpdates and set it’s value to true as below:

'disableCoreUpdates' => true,

Setup database connection and admin User

OctoberCMS comes with an installer to help setup a DB connection and default user based on the MySQL instance that is part of the scotchbox. We’ll use it to start things, but then customize it further so it works with Heroku and is secure in the next step.

In the terminal window, execute the following

php artisan october:install

When prompted, input the following:

  1. Database type: 0 (MySQL)
  2. MySQL Host: localhost
  3. MySQL Port: 3306
  4. Database Name: scotchbox
  5. MySQL Login: root
  6. MySQL Password: root
  7. First Name: Admin
  8. Last Name: Person
  9. Email Address: your.email@example.com
  10. Admin Login: admin
  11. Admin Password: admin
  12. Application URL: http://localhost
  13. Configure advanced options: no

The installer should complete successfully.

Externalize environment configuration

The default configuration of OctoberCMS encourages you to put the database passwords and other sensitive information in the configuration files. This won’t work if you want to have different passwords for your local development (vagrant box) and production (Heroku) environments. It is also very insecure because the configuration files are checked into your git repository.

In the terminal window, execute the following to externalize your passwords to a .env file which we have already ignored with the .gitignore file.

php artisan october:env

Set good production defaults

As a good practice, your default configuration settings should be set to be safe for your production environment. That way, if you forget to configure your production environment, your configuration is what makes sense for production.

Open config/app.php in a text editor. Find log and set it’s default value to errorlog as below:

'log' => env('APP_LOG', 'errorlog'),

Test out the backend

At this point, you should be able to see the OctoberCMS backend running via your browser.

On your host machine, enter the IP address of your site followed by /backend (or URL if you are using the hostupdater Vagrant plugin). You should be able to login with the credientials you input above.

Commit your customization to Git

Assuming all of the above works, you are at a good checkpoint before we do some final customization for Heroku.

In the terminal window, execute the following to stage and then commit your changes

git add .
git commit -m "Externalize configuration settings"

Tip You will not commit the .env file because this file contains your sensitive and instance specific information.

Setup Heroku

Our goal was to setup the application so that you can deploy it to a PaaS provider such as Heroku. So far, we have a site that runs locally in a virtual machine. Our next step is to get things working on Heroku.

I’ll assume you have already installed the Heroku CLI. If you haven’t, get that first.

Create a new Heroku application

Next, in the terminal window, execute the following to create a new Heroku application.

heroku apps:create your-app-name

Setup Heroku to use PHP 7.1

Since we are using PHP 7.1 on our virtual machine, we should also configure Heroku to use PHP 7.1.

Open composer.json in a text editor. Find php in the require section and change it’s value to >=7.0 as below:

"php": ">=7.0",

Create a composer.lock file

The composer.lock file tells composer precisely which version of packages to install for your application. The default OctoberCMS create project script does not include this file, but it is a requirement for Heroku’s PHP support. However, it is easy to generate it from your installation.

In the terminal window, execute the following to update and generate the lock file.

composer update

Deploy to Heroku

Deploying to Heroku is as easy as pushing to git. First, however, we need to commit our changes.

git add . && git commit -m "Setup Heroku support"

then push your changes to Heroku

git push heroku

and finally view your site running on Heroku

heroku open

When the page loads, it should look strange - as though none of the JavaScript and CSS files were loaded. We will solve this and other issues in the next article.