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jForms stores all form data in sessions. In your controller, you'll access those data through a form object, instantiation of a class inheriting from jFormsBase. That class is automatically generated by jForms by parsing your XML file. As for DAO, it is stored in cache to optimize performance.

In your controller, you'll create, modify and destroy a form object with jForms static methods.

Forms and actions

As described in Classic forms, you are advised to create a set of actions to manage a form completely (name of actions below are not mandatory of course, you could use which ever you want):

  • "prepare" action. its role is to create a form object with jForms, pre-fill the form if needed and redirect to "show" action.
  • "show" action. it will first get the form object and use it in a template to display its form and maybe user input errors of a preceding submit. Upon user submit, "save" action will be called.
  • "save" action. the form object is retrieved filled with user inputs through a jForms method. Then, it could check data for errors. If so, it will redirect to "show" otherwise it will process data (save it to database for example) and redirect to "end".
  • "end" action. it will destroy the form object (it will clean data stored in session), and could display a confirmation of user posting or anything else...

Create a form object

Before using jForms, it is required to have an xml descriptive file and that one of your action creates a form object associated. Such object is returned form jForms::create() static method.

As every other jForms static method, its first argument is a selector of an XML file and accepts a second optional argument which is an id for your form object.

Say you have an XML file contact.form.xml in "main" module:

   $form = jForms::create("main~contact");

$form is an object of the class generated after parsing of XML file. that class inherits from jFormsBase. With $form, you'll have an API to manipulate form data.

In the example above, we don't use a second argument. As said it is optional. It is only needed if you want to display a form on some already existing data. For example, if you want to edit a product stored in database, you'll give its id to jForms.

Why? Modern browsers allow to open multiple tabs. As a result, a user could open the same product edit form more than once at the same time but on different products. To prevent saving data in the same session object (thus loosing inputs) for each opened form, you must set a unique id to the form object. This id can be anything (a string, a number) but generally you'll use a SQL record key.

If your XML is product.form.xml located in shop module, here is an example of a form object creation on an existing product:

   $form = jForms::create("shop~product", $product_id);

Off course, if you want to edit a new product, no need of an id:

   $form = jForms::create("shop~product"); // new product

Now, read again our previous example. We did not give an id to the contact form because we assume in this case this form is used to send a contact request, so it will always be an empty form.

Form initialization

After form creation, you may need to pre-fill it.

Simple initialization

Use setData() method of your form object. Give it your control name as first argument and its value as second.


You can of course, retrieve value from a dao, a business class or anything else.

Initialization from a dao

If you retrieve values from a dao, there is a more efficient way to fill your form. initFromDao() method allows to fill multiple form fields. Indicate a dao selector as first argument. The second argument should be the value of the primary key of the record to retrieve, if the id of the form doesn't correspond to this key (the key value can be an array of values if the primary key is on several fields). So if you don't indicate a key, the id of the form will be took as the key.

   $form = jForms::create("shop~product", $product_id);

Form will be filled with values of the record whose id is $product_id in "shop~products" dao.

However, note that only controls whose name (or ref) are the same as dao properties will be pre-filled. Others will stay untouched.

You could use more than one dao to fill your fields. Your form fields could correspond to multiple tables in database for example.

Initialization of a multiple choice control

<checkboxes> and <listbox multiple="true"> controls could be filled with more than one value. (Beware, here we talk about values to be pre-selected and not the list if choices label).

You can still use setData() by giving an array of values to pre-select:

    $form->setData('categories', array(5, 8, 10));

But, commonly, those value lists reside in database and are retrieve from a join statement. ie. a table having as primary key two or more foreign keys. Each foreign key being a primary key of a different table. Imagine a table for products ('products'), a table for product categories ('categories'), and a product can belong to more than one category, you will construct a join table ('products_categories'), associating product keys and category keys (product_id and category_id).

If you want to fill your listbox or your checkboxes, you should read from 'products_categories' table. jForms provide a method on your form object to achieve this initControlFromDao():

   $form->initControlFromDao("categories", "shop~products_categories");

Of course, you should before define a "shop~products_categories" dao. jForms expects as first dao key the one identifying a product and as second one the one identifying a category. Even if it is not the case, you could give an array fo key names as third arg to initControlFromDao():

   $form->initControlFromDao("categories", "shop~products_categories", array('product_id','category_id'));

Note that this example is an edit product form. Here we assume that the form id corresponds to a product id and as so initControlFromDao() will use it as search criteria to retrieve category id.

Defining choices for multiple choices controls

In jforms xml file, we have documented several ways to populate choices of a <menulist>, a <listbox>, a <radiobuttons> or a <checkboxes> controls (static data, dao, class).

Those could still be unsufficient. In that situation, declare neither <item> tag nor dao* or class attribute in you XML file. In your controller, define your choices as follow:

   // retrieve your choices in an associative array,
   $data = array(...);
   // create an object that implement jIFormsDatasource2
   $datasource = new jFormsStaticDatasource();
   $datasource->data = $data
   // retrieve the control and assign data
   $form->getControl('control_name')->datasource = $datasource;

In $data, keys should be value of choices and values should be label of choices.

Note : you should do this in "show" action, ie. action that display your form.

Activate/Deactivate controls

There are situations where you do not want to display some controls of your form. Use deactivate() and isActivated(). Those two methods expect a control name as argument. The latter return true if the control is activated. It is useful for checking a submitted form. The first one activate or deactivate a control. It accepts an optional parameter indicating whether to deactivate (if true) or activate (if false).

   // similar to
   $form->deactivate('control_name', true);

   // and to re-activate it :
   $form->deactivate('control_name', false);

   // check a control state :
   if ($form->isActivated('control_name')) ...

Get an already created form

In a specific action, you have created your form object with jForms::create(), but following actions need to get the same form object. Two jForms methods for this purpose: get() and fill().

get() retrieve simply your form object. As for create(), give it a form selector:

   $form = jForms::get("shop~product");

If you had given an id on creation, you'll have to give it also to get():

   $product_id = $this->param('id'); // id has been transmitted through http
   $form = jForms::get("shop~product", $product_id);

Note : get() method returns null if form does not exist. It probably means that user has mistepped action where your form was created. You should then redirect him to this action. Or directly create your form (this could prove sufficient on simple forms).

   $form = jForms::get("main~contact");
   if ($form === null) {
        $form = jForms::create("main~contact");

fill() method also returns a form object (in fact it calls jForms::get()), but achieve another functionality: it fills form data with all contents received through HTTP post or get request. Clear, it should be called after user submit (see preceding section on form submit).

   $product_id = $this->param('id');
   $form = jForms::fill("shop~product", $product_id);

Note: identifier (id here) is still transmitted manually but following jelix versions should automate this.

Adding fields dynamically

The deactivation is the prefered method, because it is simplier, and by reading the XML file, you know all used controls.

However, in some case you need to add several controls, for exemple repeated controls, depending of external values. For example, in a form dedicated to a news article, when you modify it, you would like to add an input for each label of photos attached to this article. So you would add a control for each label, depending of the number of photos.

In this kind of case, you have to instancy some new controls by hand, and add them to the form, before to manipulate it in each action:

  • retrieve the form with jForms::get() or jForms::create() (but not jForms::fill(), see below)
  • instancy an object which inherits from jFormsControl. There is a class for each type of controls: jFormsControlInput, jFormsControlListbox, jFormsControlRadiobuttons, jFormsControlHtmlEditor, etc. See the full list in the reference documentation.
  • add this object to the form object, with the addControl method, or the addControlBefore method to add the control after a specific one.
  • you can then display the form, or fill it with data of the request, by using initFromRequest().

You have to add these fields each time you create or retrieve the form. Indeed, each time you retrieve the form with jForms::get() or jForms::fill(), jForms always instancy the form object generated by jForms from what it is described in the XML file. So the form object doesn't contain your fields. It's why you have to add your fields before the display, but also before the retrieval of submitted data, so jForms know which data to retrieve.

1 – adding a field during the initialization:

  $form = jForms::get('myModule~myForm');
  $ctrl= new jFormsControlinput('identifiant');

2 – adding a field after the form submit :

  $form = jForms::get('myModule~myForm');
  $ctrl= new jFormsControlinput('identifiant');

You can put the code which add the field, into a private method of your controller, so you don't have to duplicate it in each action you use the form.

Warning : you musn't use the fill() method, because this method do a get() followed immediately by initFromRequest(), so it doesn't give you the opportunity to add your field before the retrieval of data. If you call it, your field won't receive corresponding data.