Skip to content

Useful skills

Learn how to use CiviCRM

Before diving into CiviCRM development, it's worth mentioning that a solid understanding of CiviCRM from the user's perspective can really help. You pick up the standard user interface patterns that you can re-use in your work, and you might even realise that the UI already provides the functionality you wish to develop. To that end, please see the User Guide.

Learn these developer skills

Below we've outlined the major technologies that CiviCRM is built with. You don't need to be a pro at everything listed here to get started, but it's useful to understand at least of couple of them well, and have a basic understanding of how they fit together to create CiviCRM.

Technologies which are contained within the CiviCRM project (e.g. civix, buildkit) are covered in detail within this guide, but other technologies (such as PHP and Git, which are not CiviCRM-specific) are outside its scope. As such, this guide assumes that readers arrive with a baseline understanding of these developer skills. This page lists these prerequisite skills, along with pointers to usher the reader towards appropriate resources for closing skills gaps, wherever necessary. Items listed towards the top of this list are, generally-speaking, more important skills for CiviCRM development, but the specific skills needed to accomplishing a particular development goal, certainly vary.

  • PHP - the main programming language in which CiviCRM is written.
  • Git, GitHub, and GitLab - Git is a version control system for tracking changes to source code. GitHub and GitLab are web-based tools which host git repositories and issue-tracking systems.
  • Command line / bash - in general, "the command line" refers to using a text-only interface to run programs such as civix, git, and many more. Bash is the most common "shell" program used to execute these commands on Unix computers (i.e. Linux and OS X).
    • Unix command line tutorial
    • Microsoft Windows has a command line shell which functions very differently from bash. While developing CiviCRM on Windows is possible, it will be a slightly more uphill battle, for this reason and others.
  • Javascript - another programing language used in CiviCRM, especially for any logic that happens within the web browser. (Note that "javascript" and "java" are entirely different technologies and should not be confused.)
  • jQuery - a javascript library that makes manipulating elements on a web page easy.
  • AngularJS - a front-end javascript/html library providing a client-side framework for creating one-page MVC (model-view-controller) and MVVM (model-view-viewmodel) apps.
  • HTML - the markup used so transmit page content to a web browser.
  • Smarty - a "template engine" which allows developers to write an HTML file for one web page, while easily including content dynamically generated from PHP.
  • CSS - a programming language used to specify consistent visual style to be applied to many different elements within a web page. Different web browsers interpret the CSS code in slightly different ways.
  • Drupal / WordPress / Joomla! - CiviCRM must be installed within one of these content management systems, and learning more about the underlying CMS will aid CiviCRM development. Drupal is favored by most CiviCRM developers and CiviCRM actually borrows many development practices from the project, so learning Drupal is a good place to start if you are unsure. That said, WordPress is the most popular CMS and it has been so for several years now.
  • SQL / MySQL - "SQL" is a standardized language used by many different types of database management systems to manipulate data in the database. "MySQL" is one specific database management system which, by default, CiviCRM uses to store all its data. The query syntax that MySQL uses conforms almost entirely to the SQL standard, so learning SQL is basically synonymous to learning MySQL.