Skip to content

QuickForm Reference


Data-entry forms in CiviCRM use an extended variation of PEAR's HTML_QuickForm system. In QuickForm, a web developer defines a new form by creating a "Form" class which implements certain methods (such as "buildForm") and which calls methods to add new form fields (or "elements"). Reference materials for the main QuickForm system can be found online:

The Basics

A typical form in CiviCRM looks like this:

class CRM_Example_Form extends CRM_Core_Form {
   * @var string - Note make variables public to allow form hooks access
  public $_foo;

   * This function is called prior to building and submitting the form
  public function preProcess() {
    // Perform any setup tasks you may need
    // often involves grabbing args from the url and storing them in class variables
    $this->_foo = CRM_Utils_Request::retrieve('foo', 'String');

   * Will be called prior to outputting html (and prior to buildForm hook)
  public function buildQuickForm() {
    // Add elements to the form
    $this->add('text', 'my_text_field', ts('Enter Some Text'));

   * If your form requires special validation, add one or more callbacks here
  public function addRules() {
    $this->addFormRule(array('CRM_Example_Form', 'myRules'));

   * Here's our custom validation callback
  public static function myRules($values) {
    $errors = array();
    if ($values['foo'] != 'abc') {
      $errors['foo'] = ts('You entered the wrong text!');
    return empty($errors) ? TRUE : $errors;

   * Called after form is successfully submitted
  public function postProcess() {
    // get the submitted values as an array
    $vals = $this->getSubmittedValues();
    // Save to the database
    civicrm_api3('foo', 'create', $vals);

Retrieving values from the form

In general you should stick to using functions tagged with @api to get functions from forms if you are accessing them from outside the form.

The preferred methods to get the submitted values are $form->getSubmittedValues and $form->getSubmittedValue(). These methods will pass any fields identified as money fields through a function to remove money formatting. Note that accessing ->_submitValues directly is the same as checking $_POST - it bypasses any security.

In addition we try to add standard functions to core forms to get ids

  • ie

  • getEventID()

  • getParticipantID()
  • getContactID()
  • getContributionPageID()
  • getContributionID()
  • getPriceSetID()
  • getDiscountID()

And more recently in some forms - getContactValue() - getParticipantValue() - getEventValue()

builQuickForm v buildForm

In CiviCRM Core, sometimes in sub classes e.g. in the Custom Search Sub classes, the function buildForm is used instead of buildQuickForm, However there will be a call in the parent function for buildQuickForm which then includes the subClasses buildForm. This is not standard for new form classes.

Form Elements

Basic Types

These basic elements can be added using CRM_Core_Form()->add()

Type Notes
text Simple text box
textarea Multirow text region. Good for fields like description
select give it css class "crm-select2" to add select2 widget
advcheckbox like "checkbox" element but normalizes data in postProcess
radio Radio options
group mainly useful to contain radios, see addRadio extended method
hidden does not need to be added to the template
advmultiselect takes up a lot of space - consider using select.crm-select2
submit Buttons generally used to either submit or cancel the form
password Add a password field. The display will be replaced with dots

Extended Types

CRM_Core_Form includes methods to add special types or sets of form elements not included in basic quickform. See code-level function documentation for details.

Method Used For Notes
addButtons form submit buttons
addRadio set of radio buttons
addYesNo radio buttons with preset 'Yes' & 'No' options
addCheckbox set of checkboxes
addDateRange set of "to" and "from" dates requires an extra template to be included
addSelect autogenerate a select, fetching title and option list from metadata uses "select2" widget. also adds an "edit options" button visible to admin users note: to add a select2 that references an entity, see *addEntityRef** below*
addProfileSelector widget by which users can select, create and edit a profile form requires extra javascript files added using CRM_Core_Resources
addSelectOther select or other option requires extra javascript in the template
addUploadElement file upload
addCurrency select currency
addMoney money field + select currency
addEntityRef autocomplete select of contacts, tags, events, etc. EntityRef documentation

Deprecated Form Elements

Method Was Used For Notes
addDate Datepicker Element Use $form()->add('datepicker', ...) instead.
addDateTime Datepicker with time Element Use $form()->add('datepicker', ...) instead.
addWysiwyg Rich text Area Removed: Use $form()->add("wysiwyg", ... ) instead.
addCountry Country Select Field Removed. Use AddSelect instead or addEntityRef

Request Lifecycle

CiviCRM provides a more nuanced request lifecycle than traditional HTML_QuickForm. This extended request lifecycle allows the original web developer to create the form using a class – and allows third-party developers to modify the form using hooks. The request lifecycle is divided into a few phases, and each phase may have multiple steps. The phases and steps are presented in sequence:

Build Phase

Generate a set of HTML form fields ($form->addElement(), $form->add(), etc) and validation rules ($form->addFormRule()) to the form. (Note: The "Build" phase runs during the initial GET request and the subsequent POST request.)

Step Audience Comments
CRM_Core_Form::preProcess (override) Original Developer In any subclass of CRM_Core_Form, the preProcess() function can be overridden.
CRM_Core_Form::buildQuickForm (override) Original Developer In any subclass of CRM_Core_Form, the buildQuickForm() function can be overridden.
hook_civicrm_buildForm Third-Party Developer
CRM_Core_Form::addRules (override) Original Developer In any subclass of CRM_Core_Form, the addRules() function can be overridden.

Validate Phase

Examine submitted form data to determine validity. (Note: The "Validation" phase runs during the POST request.)

Step Audience Comments
(Process rules) Original Developer & Third-Party Developer Iteratively process any rules added during the "build" phase (i.e. call any callbacks registered via $form()->addFormRule()).
hook_civicrm_validate Third-Party Developer (Note: This is similar to hook_civicrm_validateForm but older)
hook_civicrm_validateForm Third-Party Developer (Note: This is similar to hook_civicrm_validate; added in CiviCRM v4.2)

Process Phase

Save the data, execute business logic, etc. (Note: The "Process" phase runs during the POST request – but only if the "Validation" was successful)

Step Audience Comments
CRM_Core_Form::postProcess (override) Original Developer In any subclass of CRM_Core_Form, the postProcess() function can be overridden.
hook_civicrm_postProcess Third-Party Developer

Render Phase

Generate HTML using Smarty.


The "Render" phase does not provide events or hooks to the PHP controller.