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RobotLoader: Class Autoloading

RobotLoader is a tool that gives you comfort of automated class loading for your entire application including third-party libraries.

  • get rid of all require
  • only necessary scripts are loaded
  • does not require strict directory or file naming conventions

So we can forget about those famous code blocks:

require_once 'Utils/Page.php';
require_once 'Utils/Style.php';
require_once 'Utils/Paginator.php';


composer require nette/robot-loader


Like the Google robot crawls and indexes websites, RobotLoader crawls all PHP scripts and records what classes and interfaces were found in them. These records are then saved in cache and used during all subsequent requests. You just need to specify what directories to index and where to save the cache:

$loader = new Nette\Loaders\RobotLoader;

// directories to be indexed by RobotLoader (including subdirectories)
$loader->addDirectory(__DIR__ . '/app');
$loader->addDirectory(__DIR__ . '/libs');

// use 'temp' directory for cache
$loader->setTempDirectory(__DIR__ . '/temp');
$loader->register(); // Run the RobotLoader

And that's all. From now on, you don't need to use require. Great, isn't it?

When RobotLoader encounters duplicate class name during indexing, it throws an exception and informs you about it. RobotLoader also automatically updates the cache when it has to load a class it doesn't know. We recommend disabling this on production servers, see Caching.

If you want RobotLoader to skip some directories, use $loader->excludeDirectory('temp') (it can be called multiple times or you can pass multiple directories).

Nette Application

Inside Nette application, where $configurator is used in bootstrap.php, you can setup RobotLoader this way:

$configurator = new Nette\Configurator;
$configurator->setTempDirectory(__DIR__ . '/../temp');
	->addDirectory(__DIR__ . '/../libs')


RobotLoader is very fast because it cleverly uses the cache.

When developing with it, you have practically no idea that it runs on the background. It continuously updates the cache because it knows that classes and files can be created, deleted, renamed, etc. And it doesn't repeatedly scan unmodified files.

When used on a production server, on the other hand, we recommend disabling the cache update using $loader->setAutoRefresh(false) (this is done automatically in the Nette Application), because the files are not changing. At the same time, it is necessary to clear the cache when uploading a new version on the hosting.

Of course, the initial scanning of files, when the cache does not already exist, may take a few seconds for larger applications. RobotLoader has built-in prevention against cache stampede. This is a situation where production server receives a large number of concurrent requests and because RobotLoader's cache does not yet exist, they would all start scanning the files. Which spikes CPU and filesystem usage. Fortunately, RobotLoader works in such a way that for multiple concurrent requests, only the first thread indexes the files, creates a cache, the others wait, and then use the cache.


Today, Composer can be used for autoloading in compliance with PSR-4. Simply saying, it is a system where the namespaces and class names correspond to the directory structure and file names, ie App\Router\RouterFactory is located in the file /path/to/App/Router/RouterFactory.php.

RobotLoader is not tied to any fixed structure, therefore, it is useful in situations where it does not suit you to have the directory structure designed as namespaces in PHP, or when you are developing an application that has historically not used such conventions. It is also possible to use both loaders together.