Best Practices for Plugin Development

Method Naming Conventions

Method names must be in camelCase (e.g., getItem()).

For private or protected methods, prefix the method name with underscore (_).

See also the Zend Framework Coding Standards.

Maintain expected behaviors in Omeka

Omeka defines some hooks that operate on every record. For example, Omeka’s Omeka_Record_AbstractRecord::save method fires hooks before and after saving. In most cases, you don’t need to override it, but if you do, make sure you include $this->runCallbacks('beforeSave', $callbackArgs); and $this->runCallbacks('afterSave', $callbackArgs); where appropriate.

Similarly, whenever you override methods from abstract classes in Omeka, make sure that you have studied the parent methods’ code to include all the expected callback. This will allow other developers to work with the expected behaviors of the objects.

Also, if you use any non-standard routing in your plugin, you must override Omeka_Record_AbstractRecord::getRecordUrl so that it returns the correct url to the record. Compare the getRecordUrl() method on the SimplePagesPage model in the “Simple Pages” plugin.

Database changes

Omeka 2.0 switched MySQL database engines from MyISAM to InnoDB. We recommend that you set all plugin tables to InnoDB. Existing plugins may alter their tables during the upgrade hook:

public function hookUpgrade($args)
    if (version_compare($args['old_version'], $newPluginVersion, '<')) {
        // Change the storage engine to InnoDB.
        $sql = "ALTER TABLE {$this->_db->TableName} ENGINE = INNODB";

Record API

We’ve made some major changes to the record API. The following internal callbacks have been removed:

  • beforeSaveForm
  • afterSaveForm
  • beforeInsert
  • afterInsert
  • beforeUpdate
  • afterUpdate
  • beforeValidate
  • afterValidate

As such, the following plugin hooks have been removed, where “*” is “record” or a specific record name (e.g. “item”, “collection”):

  • before_save_form_*
  • after_save_form_*
  • before_insert_*
  • after_insert_*
  • before_update_*
  • after_update_*
  • before_validate_*
  • after_validate_*

By removing these callbacks we give you full control over the timing of execution. Any logic that’s currently in the SaveForm, Insert, and Update callbacks should be moved to beforeSave() and afterSave(). Any logic that’s currently in the Validate callbacks should be moved to _validate(). For example:

// Note the order of execution.
public function beforeSave($args)
    if ($args['insert']) {
        // Do something before record insert. Equivalent to beforeInsert.
    } else {
        // Do something before record update. Equivalent to beforeUpdate.

    // Do something before every record save.

    if ($args['post']) {
        // Do something with the POST data. Equivalent to beforeSaveForm.

// Note the order of execution.
public function afterSave($args)
    if ($args['insert']) {
        // Do something after record insert. Equivalent to afterInsert.
    } else {
        // Do something after record update. Equivalent to afterUpdate.

    // Do something after every record save.

    if ($args['post']) {
        // Do something with the POST data. Equivalent to afterSaveForm.

Note that the signature of the beforeSave() and afterSave() has changed to beforeSave($args) and afterSave($args), with no type specified for $args. To adhere to strict standards, existing beforeSave and afterSave methods should reflect that change.

Another change is that Omeka_Record_AbstractRecord::saveForm() has been merged into save(). Using save() to handle a form in your controller can be done like this:

public function editAction()
    // Check if the form was submitted.
    if ($this->getRequest()->isPost()) {
        // Set the POST data to the record.
        // Save the record. Passing false prevents thrown exceptions.
        if ($record->save(false)) {
            $successMessage = $this->_getEditSuccessMessage($record);
            if ($successMessage) {
                $this->_helper->flashMessenger($successMessage, 'success');
        // Flash an error if the record does not validate.
        } else {

Use View Helpers instead of global functions

View helpers are preferred alternatives to global theming functions. They provide a convenient interface (called directly from the view object) to logic and/or markup that’s commonly used in view scripts. If you find yourself using global functions or static methods to support your views, consider using view helpers instead.

First, you must add your view helper directory path to the stack during plugin initialization:

public function hookInitialize()
    get_view()->addHelperPath(dirname(__FILE__) . '/views/helpers', 'PluginName_View_Helper_');

Replace PluginName with your plugin’s name. The helpers/ directory may be anywhere in your plugin’s directory structure, but we recommend that you place it in the views/ directory for consistency.

Then create your view helper file in the helpers/ directory (named something like ViewHelperName.php) and in that file write your view helper class:

class PluginName_View_Helper_ViewHelperName extends Zend_View_Helper_Abstract
    public function viewHelperName($arg1, $arg2)
        // Build markup.
        return $markup;

Note the use of UpperCamelCase and lowerCamelCase. The viewHelperName() method can accept any number of arguments and should return something, most often markup. You may add __construct() to the class if the helper needs a one-time setup (e.g. to assign class properties). The constructor will not be called on subsequent calls to the helper.

Now you can call your view helper directly in your view script like so:

<p><?php echo $this->viewHelperName() ?></p>

Use View Partials

View partials let you separate out parts of long or complicated views into separate files. For example, if you have a browse view that allows different ordering, it is best to use view partials to separate the code for the different orderings to be in different partials. For example:

<?php if (isset($_GET['view']) && $_GET['view'] == 'hierarchy'): ?>
    <?php echo $this->partial('index/browse-hierarchy.php', array('simplePages' => get_simple_pages_for_loop())); ?>
<?php else: ?>
    <?php echo $this->partial('index/browse-list.php', array('simplePages' => get_simple_pages_for_loop())); ?>
<?php endif; ?>

When using hooks that add markup to views, such as admin_items_show, consider using partials instead of outputting markup directly in the callback.

Use Jobs instead of Processes

We highly recommend that all processes that may run longer than a typical web process are sent to a job. The job will mediate the process, reducing the chance of timeout and memory usage errors that can happen even with the best written code. To run a job just write a class that contains the code to run, like so:

class YourJob extends Omeka_Job_AbstractJob
    public function perform()
        // code to run

You have two options on how to run the code: default and long-running. The default way is intended to run processes that, though are more processor-intensive than the typical web process, are usually not in danger of timing out. You can run these processes like so:


Your other option is intended for processes that will most likely result in a timeout error if run as a normal web script. Processes that import thousands of records or convert hundreds of images are examples of such processes. You can run these processes like so:


It’s important to note that nothing that uses the job system should assume or require synchronicity with the web process. If your process has to be synchronous, it shouldn’t be a job.

Load Resources for Jobs At Will

In previous versions, long running processes were fired directly through a background process via ProcessDispatcher::startProcess(), which loaded resources (e.g. Db, Option, Pluginbroker) in phases. Phased loading is now removed in favor of loading resources when needed.

When using the background process adapter for your jobs (typically used for long running jobs), the following resources are pre-loaded for you: Autoloader, Config, Db, Options, Pluginbroker, Plugins, Jobs, Storage, Mail. If you need other resources, load them like so in your job:


Setting Up Your Plugin’s Config Page

You can provide a configuration page that will be linked from the Plugins page. Upon installing or upgrading a plugin that has a configuration form, Omeka redirects the user to the configuration page.

You provide the markup for your configuration form by using the config_form hook. Plugins often just require or include a config_form.php file, but any form of output will work. That hook is also the best place to read the current value of any options or other data that needs to be set on the form.

Omeka will provide a framework for most of the page for you: the page heading, the <form> element and the submit button are all provided and you do not need to write them.

To get form elements styled in a way that is consistent with the rest of the Omeka admin interface, you just need to use a simple set of CSS classes:

<div class="field">
    <div class="two columns alpha">
        <?php echo get_view()->formLabel('some-element', __('Some Element')); ?>
    <div class="inputs five columns omega">
        <p class="explanation">
            <?php echo __('Any explanatory text about the form element.'); ?>
        <?php echo get_view()->formInput('some-element', $someElementValue); ?>

The submitted data will be sent back in a POST, and you can use the config hook to handle that data and actually update the options or other settings.

Building Forms in Admin

Omeka 2.0 admin interface works with modern CSS and design practices, including responsive design. Omeka 2.0 therefore also includes a Omeka_Form_Admin class to help you quickly and easily build simple forms. It should be suitable for building basic add/edit forms. The SimplePages plugin makes uses it, can can offer a good example of usage.

It is best to put your form-building logic into your controller, e.g. in a _getForm() method. The Omeka_Form_Admin class works basically as follows.

If you are editing an existing record, instantiate it like so: $form = new Omeka_Form_Admin(array('record'=>$record);

If the form is for a record (which is typically the case), pass the record as one of the options. Additionally, if you want a link to the record’s public page on the admin side, pass 'hasPublicPage'=>true as an option:

$options = array('record'=>$record, 'hasPublicPage'=>true);

Other options available for Omeka_Form_Admin are:

string type
Often, this will be the record type (e.g. ‘simple_pages_page’), but can be anything. Hooks for the save panel follow the type that you give. See admin_<type>_panel_buttons and admin_<type>_panel_fields.
string editGroupCssClass
Change the CSS classes for the ‘main’ edit area. This should rarely be necessary.
string saveGroupCssClass
Change the CSS classes for the save panel. This should rarely be necessary.

To add your form elements to the main editing area, use Omeka_Form_Admin::addElementToEditGroup. You can either pass in a Zend_Form_Element you have already built, or pass in the parameters to build the element as if you were creating one. For example, creating a text input looks like this:

    'text', 'title',
        'size'  => 40,
        'value' => metadata($page, 'title'),
        'label' => 'Title',
        'description' => 'The title of the page (required).',
        'required' => true

The first argument specifies the element type (text, textarea, etc.). The second gives the name to be used on the element in the form. The third gives a keyed array of various attributes for the element, as well as a label and a description.

If you build the Zend_Form_Element yourself, you can simply pass that in as the first parameter and leave the rest empty.

In some cases, it makes sense to add an element directly to the save panel on the right. This should be reserved for small, peripheral data, such as whether a record is public or featured, if the model implements those features.

Doing so works similarly, using the Omeka_Form_Admin::addElementToSaveGroup method:

    'checkbox', 'is_published',
        'id' => 'simple_pages_is_published',
        'values' => array(1, 0),
        'checked' => metadata($page, 'is_published'),
        'label' => 'Publish this page?',
        'description' => 'Checking this box will make the page public and it will appear in Simple Page navigation.'

As with addElementToEditGroup(), you can build the element yourself and pass it as the first parameter.

For more complex form requiring tabs and a variety of sections, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with Understanding the Admin CSS.

See also workingwiththeadmintheme, which includes more details of how the HTML is constructed, and the CSS classes involved.

Customizing Search Type

Omeka now comes with three search query types: keyword (full text), boolean, and exact match. Full text and boolean use MySQL’s native full text engine, while exact match searches for all strings identical to the query.

Plugin authors may customize the type of search by implementing the search_query_types filter. For example, if you want to implement a “ends with” query type that searches for records that contain at least one word that ends with a string:

public function filterSearchQueryTypes($queryTypes)
    // Accept an array and return an array.
    function your_search_query_types_callback($queryTypes)
        // Register the name of your custom query type. The key should be
        // the type's GET query value; the values should be the human
        // readable and internationalized version of the query type.
        $queryTypes['ends_with'] = __('Ends with');
        return $queryTypes;

Then you must modify the search SQL using the search_sql hook, like so:

public function hookSearchSql($args)
    $params = $args['params'];
    if ('ends_with' == $params['query_type']) {
        $select = $args['select'];
        // Make sure to reset the existing WHERE clause.
        $select->where('`text` REGEXP ?', $params['query'] . '[[:>:]]');

Remember that you’re searching against an aggregate of all texts associated with a record, not structured data about the record.