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Hooks in Symfony


The Symfony EventDispatcher is an event library used by several PHP applications and frameworks. For example, Symfony SE, Drupal 8, Magento, Laravel, CiviCRM, and many others support EventDispatcher. It provides a common mechanism for dispatching and listening to events.

In CiviCRM v4.7.19+, you can use Symfony EventDispatcher with hooks.

Civi::dispatcher()->addListener('hook_civicrm_EXAMPLE', $callback, $priority);

Using EventDispatcher is useful if you need more advanced features, such as:

  • Setting the priority of an event-listener
  • Registering an object-oriented event-listener
  • Registering a dynamic, on-the-fly event-listener
  • Registering multiple listeners for the same event
  • Registering for internal/unpublished events

For a general introduction or background on EventDispatcher, consult the Symfony documentation.

Example: Civi::dispatcher()

In this case, we have a CiviCRM extension or Drupal module named example. During the system initialization, we lookup the EventDispatcher, call addListener(), and listen for hook_civicrm_alterContent.

Example 1:

function example_civicrm_config(&$config) {
  if (isset(Civi::$statics[__FUNCTION__])) { return; }
  Civi::$statics[__FUNCTION__] = 1;

  Civi::dispatcher()->addListener('hook_civicrm_alterContent', '_example_say_hello');

function _example_say_hello($event) {
  $event->content = 'hello ' . $event->content;

Example 2 - referencing a function within a class:

function example_civicrm_config(&$config) {
  Civi::dispatcher()->addListener('hook_civicrm_alterContent', ['CRM_Example_Utils', 'alterContent']);

abstract class CRM_Example_Utils {

  function alterContent($event) {
    $event->content = 'hello ' . $event->content;


Using the $event object

Hook parameters are passed as an object, $event. For example, hook_civicrm_alterContent has the parameters (&$content, $context, $tplName, &$object). You can access the data as $event->content, $event->context, $event->tplName, and $event->object.

Using hook_civicrm_config

In some environments, hook_civicrm_config runs multiple times. The flag Civi::$statics[__FUNCTION__] prevents duplicate listeners.

Example: Container::findDefinition()

In this case, we have a CiviCRM extension or Drupal module named example. We lookup the defintion of the dispatcher service and amend it.

function example_civicrm_container($container) {
    ->addMethodCall('addListener', array('hook_civicrm_alterContent', '_example_say_hello'));

function _example_say_hello($event) {
  $event->content = 'hello ' . $event->content;


CiviCRM broadcasts many different events through the EventDispatcher. These events fall into two categories:

  • External Events/Hooks (v4.7.19+): These have a prefix hook_civicrm_*. They extend the class GenericHookEvent (which, in turn, extends Event). Hooks are simulcast across EventDispatcher as well as CMS-specific event systems.
  • Internal Events (v4.5.0+): These have a prefix civi.*. They extend the class Event. They are only broadcast via EventDispatcher (not CMS-specific event systems).

You can recognize these events by their naming convention. Compare:

// Listen to a hook. Note the prefix, "hook_civicrm_*".
Civi::dispatcher()->addListener('hook_civicrm_alterContent', $callback, $priority);

// Listen to an internal event. Note the prefix, "civi.*".
Civi::dispatcher()->addListener('civi.api.resolve', $callback, $priority);


The EventDispatcher has several different methods for registering a listener. Our examples have focused on the simplest one, addListener(), but the Symfony documentation describes other methods (addSubscriber()). See also:

Using addListener()

When calling addListener(), you can pass any PHP callable. However, in practice, the safest bet is to pass a string (function-name) or array (class-name, function-name). Other formats may not work with the container-cache.


To control the order in which listeners run, one manages the $priority. It will help to have an example configuration:

Listener Name Priority Comment
doSomePrep() +1000 Custom priority. Runs earlier than most.
twiddleThis() 0 Typical priority of many listeners.
delegateToUF() -100 Typical priority of many listeners.
doSomeAlteration() -1000 Custom priority. Runs later than most.

The example supports a few general observations:

  • Highest to lowest: As with any system using Symfony EventDispatcher, execution starts with the highest priority (e.g. +1000) and ends with the lowest priority (e.g. -1000)..
  • Symfony default is 0: When registering new listeners via addListener(), the implied default is $priority=0. We use 0 as the reference-point for "typical". All custom priorities will be higher or lower.
  • External default is -100: All external listeners (e.g. Drupal modules and WordPress plugins) have an effective priority of -100. This default is numerically close to the Symfony default, but it is distinct.

Returning to the example: why would doSomeAlteration() specifically have priority -1000? It's purely a matter convention.

Some Civi subsystems have explicit conventions. For example, the API kernel and Flexmailer both make extensive use of "Internal Events" and internal listeners, and (by convention) the listeners are organized into phases. Each phase has a priority number:

  • In civi.api.* events, the listeners are grouped into three phases: W_EARLY, W_MIDDLE, W_LATE (respectively: +100, 0, -100)
  • In civi.flexmailer.* events, the listeners are grouped into five phases: WEIGHT_START, WEIGHT_PREPARE, WEIGHT_MAIN,WEIGHT_ALTER, WEIGHT_END (respectively: +2000, +1000, 0, -1000, -2000).

In some rare cases where further precision is needed, one might apply a delta. For example, WEIGHT_ALTER+100 would come early in the alteration phase; WEIGHT_ALTER-100 would run late in the alteration phase.

Most Civi events do not have an explicit convention. For want of a convention, you may use this as a baseline:

Priority Description Availability
0 "Normal" or "Default" or "Main" For any listener/software
+1000 "Early" or "Before" or "Pre" or "Prepare" For any listener/software
-1000 "Late" or "After" or "Post" or "Alter" For any listener/software
+2000 Extrema: "First" or "Start" Reserved, subject to the subsystem's design
-2000 Extrema: "Last" or "End" Reserved, subject to the subsystem's design


  • CiviCRM v4.5.0: Introduced Symfony EventDispatcher for internal use (within civicrm-core). For example, APIv3 dispatches the events civi.api.resolve and civi.api.authorize while executing an API call.
  • CiviCRM v4.7.0: Introduced hook_civicrm_container.
  • CiviCRM v4.7.0: Integrated the Symfony Container and EventDispatcher.
  • CiviCRM v4.7.19: Integrated hook_civicrm_* with the Symfony EventDispatcher.
  • CiviCRM v4.7.19: Added the Civi::dispatcher() function.


  • Boot-critical hooks: hook_civicrm_config, hook_civicrm_container, and hook_civicrm_entityTypes are fired during the bootstrap process -- before the Symfony subsystems are fully online. Consequently, you may not be able to listen for these hooks.
  • Opaque CMS listeners: Most hooks are dispatched through EventDispatcher as well as the traditional hook systems for Drupal modules, Joomla plugins, WordPress plugins, and/or CiviCRM extensions. This is accomplished by daisy-chaining: first, the event is dispatched with EventDispatcher; then, the listener CiviEventDispatcher::delegateToUF() passes the event down to the other systems. If you inspect EventDispatcher, there will be one listener (delegateToUF()) which represents all CMS-based listeners.