When I install php5-cli on Debian Wheezy (currently testing), the interactive prompt is very unusable due to missing readline support (bug 341868). What's the easiest way to install a version linked against libreadline (for usable line editing)?


9 Answers 9


Use the Dotdeb Debian stable packages. Although the documentation does not note this, the stable packages currently work fine with Wheezy/testing. After following the instructions, do:

apt-get install php5-cli

as root.

  • 1
    nup still no php> prompt for me :( Oct 12, 2013 at 8:57

After installing php5-cli from dotdeb, install the php5-readline package.

apt-get install php5-readline
  • This is only available in Jessie (testing) – packages.debian.org/… Jul 14, 2014 at 9:00
  • @williamt Thanks, I believe it is in the dotdeb repositories.
    – cmc
    Jul 14, 2014 at 13:24
  • The package php5-readline is available in the main archive of jessie and sid. And you don't need the php5-cli from dotdeb. Mar 6, 2015 at 7:33

As an addition to the answer by Gilles who suggest recompiling the complete PHP package you can also wait for PHP 5.4. In 5.4 I restructured the readline functionality that all required parts are in the readline module, so you can build that stand alone.

$ wget ...php-5.4.0.tar.bz2
$ tar xjf php-5.4.0.tar.bz2
$ cd php-5.4.0/ext/readline
$ phpize && ./configure && make

Then you will end up with a modules/readline.so which can be loaded from php.ini (make install will move it to extension_dir)

Alternatively the distributor may ship the readline module (maybe linked against libedit, not readline) and the interactive mode will be available.

This all won't help you now (as PHP 5.4. isn't out, yet) but might help others finding this question later.

Some more details on my blog: http://schlueters.de/blog/archives/133-Now-in-trunk-Improved-interactive-shell.html

Edit: Actually the blog post is older than this change, but might still be interesting. A little information is in the bug report #53878 but not much either ... after release http://php.net/commandline.interactive should have more.

  • Thanks, that helped. Encountered 2 problem on Ubuntu, however. Was missing libedit library (fixed by installing libedit-dev) and this compilation bug ocurred: bugs.php.net/bug.php?id=62612 Solution is there as well.
    – Dziamid
    Aug 1, 2012 at 9:47
  • Funny how I contradict myself! here I suggest phpize etc. in the bug I say it's not "fully" supported to do so ;-)
    – johannes
    Aug 1, 2012 at 12:22

Install rlwrap and run rlwrap php5. Rlwrap is a generic readline wrapper, it provides command line edition and history for any read-eval-print loop. Since it's a generic wrapper, you won't get any PHP-specific completion.

Alternatively, get the source package and rebuild it with readline support. Readline support was only left out due to licensing issues, but these issues only forbid distributing PHP5 linked with readline, they don't forbid you from using it.

apt-get source php5-cli
apt-get install build-essential fakeroot
apt-get build-dep php5-cli
cd php5-*/
# Edit debian/rules to configure with readline support
# Add an entry to debian/changelog to remember what you did
dpkg-buildpackage -rfakeroot -us -uc -b -nc
  • rlwrap doesn't seem to help much. When I run rlwrap php5, enter echo 1;, then hit return then Ctrl-D (end of input), it outputs the input echo 1; instead of the result (1). Thanks for noting that it's a licensing issue. Apr 9, 2011 at 21:05
  • 3
    @Matthew: I don't know anything about PHP, but trying this on lenny, I see no difference between rlwrap php5 and just php5, other than the former allowing command line edition. If you enter <?php echo 1;?>, the output is 1, but it's not emitted immediately in either case. Googling suggests that php5 simply isn't a PHP REPL, and you should use something like phpsh instead. Apr 9, 2011 at 21:42
  • 1
    you don't enter the <?php or ?> in the interactive shell. I agree that php doesn't have a full REPL. But using a version compiled with with working readline support (e.g. the dotdeb package I linked), it will output 1 (or whatever the real output is) immediately after you press enter. I agree there's no significant difference between rlwrap and no readline at all (besides line-editing and history, which are nice but not as useful as immediate output). Apr 9, 2011 at 21:49
  • @Matthew: Ah, so readline support does more than just link with readline, it also changes the behavior of the program? That seems weird. Then you can rebuild from source, or use the dotdeb packages if they work for you. Apr 9, 2011 at 21:54
  • yeah, a lot of things in PHP seem weird. ;) But it does look like the readline code path is different in this area only tangentially related to readline. Apr 9, 2011 at 22:00

Try this:

$ php -a
Interactive mode enabled

<?php echo "hi!"; ?>

The press Ctrl-d

  • 5
    This doesn't seem like it has anything to do with installing PHP May 20, 2011 at 10:21
  • 1
    This is actually very helpful, even though it doesn't directly answer the question. It shows that in the non-readline path, PHP only executes PHP code inside <?php ?> blocks. I wasn't aware of that, and it shows I misunderstood Gilles earlier. May 24, 2011 at 18:39

For Ubuntu users, php5-readline is the additional package you need to install to have a usable php command prompt:

sudo apt-get install php5-cli php5-readline
sudo php5enmod readline

I had to do this on my Ubuntu 14.04.


None of these worked for me. Use http://www.phpsh.org/ instead.


In debian jessie and in debian sid use:

sudo apt-get install php5 php5-readline


php -a
Interactive mode enabled

php > echo 1+2;
php >

As simple as sudo apt install php7.2-cli

[lucas:~] 20s 130 % sudo apt install php7.2-cli
Reading package lists... Done
Building dependency tree       
Reading state information... Done
The following packages were automatically installed and are no longer required:
  libapr1 libaprutil1 libaprutil1-dbd-sqlite3 libaprutil1-ldap libavdevice57
  libegl-mesa0:i386 libegl1:i386 libgbm1:i386 libgsasl7 libkyotocabinet16v5
  libmailutils5 libmemcached11 libntlm0 libwayland-egl1-mesa:i386
  libwayland-server0:i386 mailutils-common mysql-client-core-5.7 shim
  ttf-dejavu-core webhttrack-common
Use 'sudo apt autoremove' to remove them.
Suggested packages:
The following NEW packages will be installed:
0 upgraded, 1 newly installed, 0 to remove and 0 not upgraded.
Need to get 1.407 kB of archives.
After this operation, 4.956 kB of additional disk space will be used.
Get:1 http://br.archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu bionic-updates/main amd64 php7.2-cli amd64 7.2.24-0ubuntu0.18.04.4 [1.407 kB]
Fetched 1.407 kB in 0s (6.666 kB/s)  
Selecting previously unselected package php7.2-cli.
(Reading database ... 320578 files and directories currently installed.)
Preparing to unpack .../php7.2-cli_7.2.24-0ubuntu0.18.04.4_amd64.deb ...
Unpacking php7.2-cli (7.2.24-0ubuntu0.18.04.4) ...
Setting up php7.2-cli (7.2.24-0ubuntu0.18.04.4) ...
update-alternatives: using /usr/bin/php7.2 to provide /usr/bin/php (php) in auto mode
update-alternatives: using /usr/bin/phar7.2 to provide /usr/bin/phar (phar) in auto mode
update-alternatives: using /usr/bin/phar.phar7.2 to provide /usr/bin/phar.phar (phar.phar) in auto mode
Processing triggers for man-db (2.8.3-2ubuntu0.1) ...
[lucas:~] % php --version
PHP 7.2.24-0ubuntu0.18.04.4 (cli) (built: Apr  8 2020 15:45:57) ( NTS )
Copyright (c) 1997-2018 The PHP Group
Zend Engine v3.2.0, Copyright (c) 1998-2018 Zend Technologies
    with Zend OPcache v7.2.24-0ubuntu0.18.04.4, Copyright (c) 1999-2018, by Zend Technologies
[lucas:~] % php -a
Interactive mode enabled

php > 

Of course, this is PHP CLI only. It allows you to run Composer and all things CLI. It does not include a web server such as Apache or Nginx.

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