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Install PHP_CodeSniffer for WordPress VIP

PHP_Codesniffer (PHPCS) can be installed by using one of two methods:

  • Globally (recommended): available anywhere on your local machine
  • Project level: available only when working within that project directory

Both methods will install:

Before beginning installation, ensure that Composer itself is up to date:

composer self-update && composer global update


PHPCS commands on a local machine running Windows may require different formatting than the command examples shown below.

Install globally

  1. Run the command below in a terminal. This command can be run to update an existing global installation. Verbose output in the terminal will indicate what is being installed (or updated).
composer g require --dev automattic/vipwpcs dealerdirect/phpcodesniffer-composer-installer -W
  1. The phpcs command should now be in the local machine’s PATH.
$ ls ~/.composer/vendor/bin
phpcbf	phpcs
  1. Check PHPCS to ensure it is up to date.
$ phpcs --version
PHP_CodeSniffer version 3.7.1 (stable) by Squiz (


If the phpcs command does not work, the Composer bin directory on the local machine will need to be added to the PATH environment variable. On most operating systems, the phpcbf and phpcs files are located in the ~/.composer/vendor/bin directory. On a local machine running Linux, the file path might be ~/.config/composer/vendor/bin. Verify the location of the phpcbf and phpcs files on the user’s local machine, and modify the file path as needed when following the instructions below.

  1. Edit the shell profile (e.g. ~/.bash_profile, ~/.zshrc, ~/.bashrc) and add the PATH environment variable.
    The syntax (and the actual file that the shell loads on startup) will vary depending on the shell being used.
    For example, in ~/.bash_profile, add the following code to the end of the file:
export PATH="$HOME/.composer/vendor/bin:$PATH"
  1. After adding and saving the PATH environment variable to the shell profile either
    • Open a new Terminal window
    • or source the shell profile in the existing Terminal window by running: source ~/.bash_profile.
  1. Run the phpcs command again.

Install at the project level


Steps to install

In the local machine’s terminal:

  1. Navigate (cd) to the root of the project.
  2. Run the following command to add or update composer.json and composer.lock files and a vendor/ directory (the vendor/ directory can optionally be ignored in version control):
composer require --dev automattic/vipwpcs dealerdirect/phpcodesniffer-composer-installer

When PHPCS is installed locally (at the project level), it will be necessary to format the commands shown below directly referencing the executable at vendor/bin/phpcs instead of phpcs.

For example, this command:

phpcs -i

should instead be formatted as:

vendor/bin/phpcs -i

Installed standards

The presence of the dealerdirect/phpcodesniffer-composer-installer Composer plugin package automatically registers standards with PHPCS, so this task doesn’t need to be done separately. To add more standards later on, this package is able to register the new standards as well.

A list of installed standards can be returned by running the command phpcs -i. After following the installation steps above, the returned standards should match this example:

$ phpcs -i
The installed coding standards are PEAR, Zend, PSR2, MySource, Squiz, PSR1, PSR12, WordPressVIPMinimum, WordPress-VIP-Go, WordPress, WordPress-Extra, WordPress-Docs and WordPress-Core

The WordPress-VIP standard should not appear in the returned list. This standard has been deprecated, is not used in the latest version of VIPCS, and has been removed completely from WPCS 2.x.

Running PHPCS against code

The following command example sets the appropriate standard (WordPress-VIP-Go), tells PHPCS to show the violation code for any violations(-s), show a progress bar (-p), cut the file paths down to be relative from the current directory (--basepath=.), and to ignore the vendor/ directory.

phpcs --standard=WordPress-VIP-Go -sp --basepath=. --ignore=vendor path/to/your/code

The command output can also be limited to output only errors and warnings of severity level 6 or higher, and format the output into columns:

phpcs --standard=WordPress-VIP-Go -sp --basepath=. --ignore=vendor --warning-severity=6 --error-severity=6 --report=csv /path/to/your/code/ | column -t -s, | less -S

Additional guidance on Interpreting a PHPCS report is available, and further instructions on how to use PHPCS can be found in the PHPCS wiki.

Integrating PHPCS into a code editor or IDE

VIP recommends integrating PHPCS inside code editors or IDEs to receive PHPCS feedback in real-time during development.
Documentation for integrating PHPCS in a selection of popular editors:

VS Code

Multiple plugins are available.


Sublime Text

Atom editor

It’s also possible to run PHP CodeSniffer in a Continuous Integration build process (e.g. via Travis or Circle CI), which enables issues to be reported against any pull requests and to for reports of issues to be sent via email and other channels.

Last updated: April 03, 2023

Relevant to

  • WordPress