Setting Reference

What is a Setting?

Applications like CiviCRM often need to be 'configured' with small bits of persistent data, which may be different for each installation. Examples are:

  • The url of the CiviCRM site.
  • The path on the server where the CiviCRM code lives
  • MySQL connection information
  • The primary language of the install.

Sites can configure the settings through the UI or put in overrides

This page describes the CiviCRM standard tool for managing these configuration settings – the 'Settings' system. As a developer, you'll want to understand this system so you can access CiviCRM 'core' settings (e.g. if you're sending out a system email, you'll want to set an appropriate From name and address). You may also want to use this system for storing and retrieving your own settings for your extension. If you're a Drupal developer, this system is analogous to the Drupal variables table and tools.

Not all configuration-type values need to use this system - in particular, if you need to store persistent data that changes frequently and/or may grow indefinitely in size, this may not be the right tool. For example: if you want to have a custom set of allowable values for your extension, you'll want to use the 'Option Group' system. If you want to temporarily cache a value for the duration of a session, then the Cache system is the right tool. And if you're saving persistent data that may grow indefinitely over time, you'll want to look into creating and managing your own tables.


In early versions of CiviCRM, all settings were stored either in the CRM_Core_Config object or else globally in civicrm.settings.php. v4.x introduced a more open "Settings" system. This documentation covers the new way of managing settings.

The "Settings" system developed incrementally:

  • v4.1 – Added civicrm_setting table, $civicrm_settings global, and CRM_Core_BAO_Setting class. Migrated some settings data from civicrm_domain to civicrm_setting.
  • v4.2 – Added public Settings API. Included support for CRUD'ing data from multiple sources (civicrm_domain and civicrm_setting). Migrated more settings data from civicrm_domain to civicrm_setting.
  • v4.3 to v4.6 – Incrementally migrate more settings data.
  • v4.7 – Added Civi::settings() and refactored init system. Finished migrating data from civicrm_domain to civicrm_setting.

Settings Definition

Settings are defined in the /settings directory, in files ending with .settings.php

Each file consists of a php snippet which returns an array. Array keys are strings corresponding with each setting's name. Values are an array of metadata properties for that setting. Note that for radio buttons or similar the options will be retrieved if there is an option group of the same name. An example array is as follows:

  'remote_profile_submissions' => array(
    'group_name' => 'domain',
    'name' => 'remote_profile_submissions',
    'type' => 'Boolean',
    'quick_form_type' => 'YesNo',
    'default' => FALSE,
    'html_type' => 'radio',
    'add' => '4.7',
    'title' => 'Accept profile submissions from external sites',
    'is_domain' => 1,
    'is_contact' => 0,
    'description' => 'If enabled, CiviCRM will permit submissions from external sites to profiles. This is disabled by default to limit abuse.',
    'help_text' => NULL,

The Supported Properties for settings are:

property Usage Example Notes
group ? Appears to correspond with the name of the file, doesn't that make it redundant?
group_name Name of group this setting belongs to. These are defined as constants in the class CRM_Core_BAO_Setting Uses a string & not a constant as it might be defined outside of core too (& the constants are particularly ugly for these). This has been deprecated as of 4.7. Since 4.7, the two main options are domain or contact. The older names such as CiviCRM Preferences are treated as aliases for domain or contact
name Name of this setting This is the same as the array key. Definitely redundant!
type Data type String, Array, Integer, Boolean
default Default value Value to use if setting is not set.
add Version added to CiviCRM
quick_form_type Widget type (admin form) e.g YesNo, Element
html_type Html type (admin form) Used when quick_form_type is "Element".
html_attributes size, style, class, etc.
title Title (admin form) note: do not use ts()
description Description (admin form) note: do not use ts()
help_text Popup Help (admin form) note: do not use ts()
validate_callback Function to call for checking when submitted (admin form) e.g CRM_Utils_Rule::url
on_change Callback function when this setting is altered e.g when you enable a component or logging
is_domain Domain setting see civicrm_setting table
is_contact Contact setting see civicrm_setting table
prefetch Legacy support - will store the setting in the $config object We need to migrate away from this

Deprecated settings properties are :

property Usage Example Notes
config_only Super legacy support - only store in the $config object (Removed/unnecessary in v4.7+) And this
config_key If the config key differs from the settings key (rarely used) (Removed/unnecessary in v4.7+) used in conversions & for 'debug' where the config key name can't be used in the api
legacy_key Used for conversions when upgrading and moving data from existing config array to being a setting (Removed/unnecessary in v4.7+) This happens on upgrade and when civicrm_api3('system','flush') is called

Setting Storage and Retrieval

To set a setting, developers can use either the Setting.Create API or use Civi::settings()->set() to set the value e.g. Civi::settings()->set('editor_id', 'CKEditor');. To Retrieve a setting value, developers can use the Setting.Get API or use Civi::settings()->get() e.g. Civi::settings()->get('max_attachments');

API actions

The following api actions have been introduced into CiviCRM

  • civicrm_api3('setting', 'getfields', array());
  • civicrm_api3('setting', 'get', array());
  • civicrm_api3('setting', 'getvalue', array()); (see note)
  • civicrm_api3('setting', 'create', array());
  • civicrm_api3('setting', 'getdefaults', array());
  • civicrm_api3('setting', 'revert', array());
  • civicrm_api3('setting', 'fill', array());


'getvalue' is not a pseudonym for get - it is intended for runtime whereas get is a heavier function intended for configuration

As with all CivicRM API you can access it through your standard CLI tools e.g.

drush civicrm-api setting.create debug_enabled =1 userFrameworkLogging=1
drush civicrm-api setting.revert filters.group=localization domain_id = 3

Smarty / Template Layer

crmAPI will interact with settings but a specific option exists. This will access settings stored in $config or settings

{crmSetting name="search_autocomplete_count" group="Search Preferences"}

Multiple Domains

The settings api supports the following values for domain_id :

  • current_domain (default)
  • integer
  • array of integers
  • all

It is desirable to make this api handling of domain id part of the api layer for all api that involve domains

Adding a new Setting to CiviCRM Core.

  1. Choose a group of settings to add the new setting to
  2. Add metadata to the appropriate .settings.php file about the new setting
  3. Choose an admin setting page to add the configuration option to.
  4. Add the name and group to the $_settings array at the top of the file. The rest happens automatically.
  5. If the template for that form is not set up to handle new items automatically, add the necessary markup.
  6. Your setting will not be active until you run bin/regen.sh - run it and commit the changes to git.


Do not use the "URL Preferences" group to store any setting that is not a url string.

Converting a config object to a setting

  1. remove config_only from the settings - this is simply a case of removing the flag - e.g. Core Example The upgrade process will do the conversion when it next runs. Probably calling civicrm_api3('system', 'flush', ()) or rebuilding menus will too. You might need to ensure the civicrm_cache table is truncated first.
  2. fix the admin form to still set the setting - you need to declare the settings on the form
    • the parent class should add them appropriately e.g Core Example
    • you may need to do other fixups - e.g fix the metadata on the setting e.g. Core Example
  3. As long as the 'prefetch' key is set you don't need to alter how the setting is accessed or used as it will still be cached in the $config object. If it's not really appropriate for the setting to be cached into config & it really is legacy you can grep for it & change how it is retrieved to use the api or setting retrieval functions above. Note that if you use getvalue api if will work on all stages on the conversion - ie. getvalue will retrieve 'config_only' settings as well as those that are 'prefetch' or simply settings. Using getvalue can be a migration strategy. If you do this you should also remove the property declaration from the config object.
  4. If you think a setting should be removed from config but are not going to take the time to do it at this stage think about adding a phpdoc comment to the relevant comment block in the config object to that effect.

Creating a new setting in an Extension

As with core settings, all settings declared in extensions should have appropriate metadata attached to them.

To avoid naming conflicts, it makes sense to prefix settings defined in an extension with the extension shortname. For example, a 'Rate limit' setting in a 'My Extension' should be named.my_extension_rate_limit.

  1. Ensure that the settings folder is declared Multisite extension example.
  2. Declare settings as in the same standard as CiviCRM Core Multisite extension example.
  3. Create Settings form, a good example of generic metadata based settings form in an extension - note that only the setting filter is non-generic
  4. Add routing for your settings form.
  5. Add a template for your settings form.
  6. Add a menu item by implementing hook_civicrm_navigationMenu.
  7. Use cv api system.flush or Admin → System Settings → Cleanup Caches to flush CiviCRM caches and register your new settings metadata.

Adding Setting Config to Admin Forms.

We are working towards it being sufficient to simply declare the settings on the relevant form & have the rest be done by the metadata - e.g if adding your setting like this doesn't work then try diagnosing & fixing so it wil in future

 * This class generates form components for Miscellaneous  
class CRM_Admin_Form_Setting_Miscellaneous extends CRM_Admin_Form_Setting {
  protected $_settings = array(
   'max_attachments' => CRM_Core_BAO_Setting::SYSTEM_PREFERENCES_NAME,  
   'contact_undelete' => CRM_Core_BAO_Setting::SYSTEM_PREFERENCES_NAME,  
   'versionAlert' => CRM_Core_BAO_Setting::SYSTEM_PREFERENCES_NAME,   
   'versionCheck' => CRM_Core_BAO_Setting::SYSTEM_PREFERENCES_NAME,  
   'empoweredBy' => CRM_Core_BAO_Setting::SYSTEM_PREFERENCES_NAME, 
   'maxFileSize' => CRM_Core_BAO_Setting::SYSTEM_PREFERENCES_NAME,
   'doNotAttachPDFReceipt' => CRM_Core_BAO_Setting::SYSTEM_PREFERENCES_NAME,
   'secondDegRelPermissions' => CRM_Core_BAO_Setting::SYSTEM_PREFERENCES_NAME,
   'checksumTimeout' => CRM_Core_BAO_Setting::SYSTEM_PREFERENCES_NAME,