Ryan Chandler

Published

Storing Laravel Users on Disk in Flat-Files

I'm tired of generic SQL databases. I've become infactuated with flat-file systems where content and data is stored on disk and persisted between environments, whether that be an SQLite database that powers my application or plain Markdown files.

That is one of the main reasons why I built Orbit - a flat-file "database" driver for Laravel's Eloquent ORM.

The main idea is that all of your content and data is stored inside of a "content" file but can still be used through a normal Eloquent Model, just like it would with a MySQL or Postgres database.

The User model

To start using Orbit, you'll need to install the Composer package in your Laravel application.

composer require ryangjchandler/orbit

Orbit operates and bootstraps a model via the Orbit\Concerns\Orbital trait. This can be added to your Model class like this:

use Orbit\Concerns\Orbital;

class User extends Model
{
    use Orbital;
}

This is all you need to do for the model to be "usable", but for it to function like a normal User, there are a couple of extra steps.

The schema method

Just like a model that's hooked up to a MySQL database, you should define a schema. This is what Orbit will use to determine what content is available in your flat-files and what should be accessible from the model.

It's essentially an "up" migration, written as part of your model's definition:

class User extends Model
{
    use Orbital;
  
    public static function schema(Blueprint $table)
    {

    }
}

Laravel provides a users table migration as standard, so we can take that existing migration and copy it into the schema method:

class User extends Model
{
    use Orbital;
  
    public static function schema(Blueprint $table)
    {
        $table->id();
        $table->string('name');
        $table->string('email')->unique();
        $table->timestamp('email_verified_at')->nullable();
        $table->string('password');
        $table->rememberToken();
    }
}

Orbit will automatically add the created_at and updated_at columns to this schema if your Model class needs timestamps.

And that's all there is to it. Really!

If you were to open up a tinker session and type User::create([...]), you would see a new content/users directory in your application, as well as a new 1.md file.

Customising the primary key

One thing that I like to do with these flat-file models is use a more descriptive "key" as the primary key. In the case of the User model, that's most likely going to be the email since it's always going to be unique.

To do this in Orbit, all you need to do is change the $primaryKey or overwrite the getKeyName method.

class User extends Model
{
    use Orbital;
  
    protected $primaryKey = 'email';
  
    public static function schema(Blueprint $table)
    {
        $table->string('name');
        $table->string('email')->unique();
        $table->timestamp('email_verified_at')->nullable();
        $table->string('password');
        $table->rememberToken();
    }
}

Now, when you create a new User, the file name will be the same as the email making it really easy to see which users already exist.

Changing the primary key of a model will affect the foreign and local columns for your relationships. For example, if you use email column as your User model's primary key, Laravel will guess that the foreign column name is user_email on the related model when using belongsTo relation. You can change this by specifying the column names when you define the relationship.

Sign off

If you're interested in Orbit and want to find out more, check out the GitHub repository.

Thanks for reading this post!