Building PHP-GTK with Cairo Support on Ubuntu Jaunty

April 25, 2009

Elizabeth Smith managed to pique my interest and maintain the patience of Job long enough for me to successfully build PHP 5.3.0RC1 with PHP-GTK including Cairo support on Ubuntu Jaunty. The process was a bit arduous, as Ubuntu apparently has a rather "interesting" automake package, so I thought I'd document it here for anyone who might be interested in repeating the process.

I'm assuming here that you want to use as many available Ubuntu packages as is feasible, aside from maybe PHP itself, in order to minimize the amount of manual compilation necessary. To that end, there are a number packages you will need to install before getting started that do not come with a standard Jaunty installation.

sudo apt-get install subversion cvs libcairo2-dev libgtk2.0-dev

If you plan to build PHP from source, you will also need a few more packages.

sudo apt-get install build-essential autoconf libxml2-dev

Once you've got all the dependencies installed, the first step will be to grab a copy of PHP. You've got a few options in that regard.

Assuming you do a custom build, here's how I did it.

./configure \
    --with-gettext \
    --disable-cgi \
    --without-pear \


make install

Next, use Subversion to check out a copy of Cairo extension. If you did a custom PHP build, you can just place it on the same directory level as that.

svn co svn:// cairo

At the present moment, the easiest way to install the Cairo extension is manually as a PECL extension. So, compile using the phpize utility in your PHP build.

cd cairo


./configure \
    --prefix=`pwd`/build/php_build \

It's at this point that Ubuntu's "interesting" automake package comes into play. The Makefile generated by phpize will be missing a critical flag -DCOMPILE_DL_CAIRO in its CFLAGS setting value. Open the Makefile in any text editor and find the line that looks like this.

CFLAGS = -g -O2

Append the missing flag to the line so it looks like this, then save it.


At that point, just continue the compilation process for the Cairo extension as normal.


make install

Now use CVS to check out a copy of the PHP-GTK extension. Place it on the same directory level as Cairo.

export CVSROOT=:pserver:[email protected]:/repository

cvs -q checkout -P php-gtk

If the phpize utility is not in your PATH, you'll have to assign it to an environmental variable as those are the only two ways that the buildconf utility you're about to use will pick it up.

export PHPIZE=../php-5.3.0RC1/build/php_build/bin/phpize

Execute the buildconf utility to generate the configure script, then execute it.


./configure \
    --prefix=`pwd`/build/php_build \

To have the PHP-GTK extension take advantage of the presence of the Cairo extension, you'll need to add a flag to the CFLAGS setting in its Makefile. Open that, find the line that looks exactly like the original one modified in the Cairo Makefile, and append the flag -DHAVE_CAIRO to it so it looks like this.


At that point, continue the compilation process normally just as with the Cairo extension. Once that's done, since the extensions were compiled as PECL extensions, you'll need to enable them in your php.ini file.

If you did a custom build of PHP, just copy the php.ini-development file in the root of the extracted tarball directory to lib/php.ini within your build directory as this is where PHP will look for it by default. If you're using PHP 5.3.0RC1, there is a syntax error around line 581 of that file. A URL should be commented out using a semicolon but isn't. Note that the extension_dir setting needs to be set and, if you use a relative path, it must be relative to the current working directory from which PHP is invoked (the root PHP build directory in my case).

extension_dir = "lib/php/extensions/no-debug-non-zts-20090115"
extension =
extension =

At this point, if you execute your php binary with the -m switch, you should get a list of extensions loaded. cairo and php-gtk should be among them and you shouldn't see any errors before the extension listing. To take this for a test spin, there's a particular demo file for PHP-GTK with Cairo support in the php-gtk checkout.

cd php-5.3.0RC1/build/php_build

bin/php php-gtk/demos/examples/cairo_support.php

If this works as expected, you should see a nifty little PHP-powered clock widget on your desktop.

Many thanks to Elizabeth for her help in putting this tutorial together and for all the very cool people working on the PHP-GTK project. You can find them in the #php-gtk channel on the Freenode IRC network. At the present time, some of them are in the process of revamping the PHP-GTK docs. In the meantime, you can check out the GTK docs for more current information.