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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.
  • v5.7 - Added Civi::contactSettings() as a facade to allow for managing of Contact Settings rather than domain level settings.
  • v5.8 - Added Generic CiviCRM settings form.
  • v5.21 - CRM_Contact_BAO_Setting::setItem() will now emit deprecation warnings. Use Civi::settings(), Civi::contactSettings(), or the Setting API instead.

Settings Definition

Settings are defined in the /settings directory, in files ending with .setting.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. An example array is as follows:

  'remote_profile_submissions' => array(
    'name' => 'remote_profile_submissions',
    'type' => 'Boolean',
    'default' => FALSE,
    'html_type' => 'radio',
    'add' => '4.7',
    'title' => ts('Accept profile submissions from external sites'),
    'is_domain' => 1,
    'is_contact' => 0,
    'description' => ts('If enabled, CiviCRM will permit submissions from external sites to profiles. This is disabled by default to limit abuse.'),
    'settings_pages' => ['remote' => ['weight' => 10]],

For a serialized setting an example would be

  'deduper_resolver_custom_groups_to_skip' => [
    'name' => 'deduper_resolver_custom_groups_to_skip',
    'type' => 'String',
    'serialize' => CRM_Core_DAO::SERIALIZE_JSON,
    'is_domain' => 1,
    'description' => E::ts('Custom tables that should be completely ignored (generally calculated fields such as summary fields)'),
    'default' => [],
    'title' => E::ts('Custom tables to skip'),
    'help_text' => '',
    'html_type' => 'select',
    'html_attributes' => [
      'class' => 'crm-select2',
      'multiple' => 1,
    'settings_pages' => ['deduper' => ['weight' => 150]],
    'pseudoconstant' => [
      'callback' => 'CRM_Deduper_BAO_MergeConflict::getCustomGroups',

Supported Properties

The Supported Properties for settings are:

property Usage Example Notes
name Name of this setting This is the same as the array key. Required
type Data type String, Integer, Boolean (Array is discouraged as current uses of it do not have full handling and String + a serialize key addresses most uses)
title Title (admin form) note: use ts() or E::ts() for extensions
description Description (admin form) note: use ts() or E::ts() for extensions
serialize define how an array of values are stored ie CRM_Core_DAO::SERIALIZE_JSON is recommended. Other constants exist on the CRM_Core_DAO class
default Default value Value to use if setting is not set.
add Version added to CiviCRM
html_type Html type (admin form) This is the preferred way to describe the html type as it is not quick form specific. It will be used it present. Syntax is lower case. e.g 'select', 'radio', 'checkboxes', 'checkbox', 'text', 'textarea', 'entity_reference
pseudoconstant Provides information to build a list of available options This is the preferred methodology for lists of options and currently supports either a callback - e.g ['callback' => 'CRM_Core_SelectValues::geoProvider'] or an option group name ['optionGroupName' => 'advanced_search_options']. When specifying an optionGroupName you can optionally specify keyColumn to return a column from civicrm_option_value to use as the key. By default the keyColumn is the value column. As of CiviCRM 5.25 arbitrary tables are also supported. The format is the same as that used for DAO
options provides an array of available options This is not the preferred methodology but make make sense for very simple lists.
entity_reference_options extra data to pass when adding an entity reference e.g if the entity is not contact this make be needed as in ['entity' => 'group', 'select' => array('minimumInputLength' => 0)]
documentation_link Array of information to build the 'learn more' link 'page' is required, if on the wiki 'resource' is also needed - e.g 'documentation_link' => ['page' => 'Multi Site Installation', 'resource' => 'wiki'],
help_text Intended to populated. Popup Help (admin form) note: use ts(), not working as intended as of 5.8
html_attributes size, style, class, etc.
validate_callback A string, the name of a callback function to validate the setting value. The callback is fired whether the setting is updated via admin form or API. The callback should accept the proposed setting value as its only argument. It should return TRUE if the value is valid, otherwise FALSE. In the latter case the API request will fail (is_error will be set to 1 in the result). If the callback takes the value by reference, it can modify the setting value before it is saved -- it remains to be seen whether this is wise. Example: '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 Setting is_domain to 1 indicates that the setting applies to the entire installation (in single site mode) or to a single domain in multi-site mode. If is_domain is set to 1, then is_contact must be set to 0.
is_contact Contact setting Setting is_contact to 1 indicates that the setting applies to a single contact and can be different for each contact. If is_contact is set to 1, is_domain must be set to 0.
settings_pages Metadata for presentation on settings pages The key (or keys) are the last part of the url on the page the setting should be displayed on. Adding a weight provides sorting

Deprecated Properties

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
prefetch Legacy support - will store the setting in the $config object We need to migrate away from this
group none This is redundant now
group_name Name of group this setting belongs to. 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.
quick_form_type Widget type (admin form): YesNo, CheckBox, CheckBoxes, Select, EntityRef, ChainSelect Superseded by html_type.

Setting Storage and Retrieval

Domain Settings

To set a setting for a whole domain, 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');

Contact Settings

After 5.7.0 developers are able to use the Civi::contactSettings facade to set contact specific settings. You can also use the API to set it but must pass in a contact_id parameter. To set a contact setting it would be like Civi::contactSettings($contact_id)->set('navigation', $value). To retrieve the setting developers can use Civi::contactSettings($contact_id)->get('navigation')

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 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"}
(Group is still required here but .... fixing that)

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. Add metadata to the appropriate .setting.php file about the new setting
  2. Add it to the appropriate setting page per below
  3. Your setting will not be active until you run flush all caches (e.g cv flush or drush cvapi System.flush)


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

Adding a new Setting to an admin form

The preferred way of doing this is by using the Generic form. To do this the xml that declares the path should be like this

     <title>CiviEvent Component Settings</title>

The last parameter of the path is the designated form and it will pick up any settings with that parameter in their metadata - e.g to place an item on that page it should have the following in it's metadata.

'settings_pages' => ['event' => ['weight' => 10]]
  • If you are adding to an existing form and that form is not yet using the generic form ( see below) attempt to convert it. Failing that you may have to follow the protocol already in place on that form - generally add it to the $_settings array. Usually you should try to at least progress the form conversion. See the legacy method at the bottom.
  • If the template for that form is not set up to handle new items automatically, add the necessary markup, after attempting to progress the conversion first

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 using the alterSettingsFolders hook. It should already be there if civix was used to generate the boilerplate of the extension. Multisite extension example.
  2. Declare settings as in the same standard as CiviCRM Core Multisite extension example.
  3. Ensure that the xmlMenu hook is implemented by the extension, and define the admin page callback for the settings using XML in the file xml/Menu/myextension.xml, similar to:
<?xml version="1.0"?>
     <title>Really important settings</title>
  1. Optionally, add a navigation menu item by implementing hook_civicrm_navigationMenu.
  2. Use cv api system.flush or Admin → System Settings → Cleanup Caches to flush CiviCRM caches and register the new settings metadata.

Legacy method Adding Setting Config to Admin Forms.

 * 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,