Widgets

Widgets are reusable building blocks used in views to create complex and configurable user interface elements in an object-oriented fashion. For example, a date picker widget may generate a fancy date picker that allows users to pick a date as their input. All you need to do is just to insert the code in a view like the following:

<?php
use yii\jui\DatePicker;
?>
<?= DatePicker::widget(['name' => 'date']) ?>

There are a good number of widgets bundled with Yii, such as active form, menu, jQuery UI widgets, Twitter Bootstrap widgets. In the following, we will introduce the basic knowledge about widgets. Please refer to the class API documentation if you want to learn about the usage of a particular widget.

Using Widgets

Widgets are primarily used in views. You can call the yii\base\Widget::widget() method to use a widget in a view. The method takes a configuration array for initializing the widget and returns the rendering result of the widget. For example, the following code inserts a date picker widget which is configured to use the Russian language and keep the input in the from_date attribute of $model.

<?php
use yii\jui\DatePicker;
?>
<?= DatePicker::widget([
    'model' => $model,
    'attribute' => 'from_date',
    'language' => 'ru',
    'clientOptions' => [
        'dateFormat' => 'yy-mm-dd',
    ],
]) ?>

Some widgets can take a block of content which should be enclosed between the invocation of yii\base\Widget::begin() and yii\base\Widget::end(). For example, the following code uses the yii\widgets\ActiveForm widget to generate a login form. The widget will generate the opening and closing <form> tags at the place where begin() and end() are called, respectively. Anything in between will be rendered as is.

<?php
use yii\widgets\ActiveForm;
use yii\helpers\Html;
?>

<?php $form = ActiveForm::begin(['id' => 'login-form']); ?>

    <?= $form->field($model, 'username') ?>

    <?= $form->field($model, 'password')->passwordInput() ?>

    <div class="form-group">
        <?= Html::submitButton('Login') ?>
    </div>

<?php ActiveForm::end(); ?>

Note that unlike yii\base\Widget::widget() which returns the rendering result of a widget, the method yii\base\Widget::begin() returns an instance of the widget which you can use to build the widget content.

Note: Some widgets will use output buffering to adjust the enclosed content when yii\base\Widget::end() is called. For this reason calling yii\base\Widget::begin() and yii\base\Widget::end() is expected to happen in the same view file. Not following this rule may result in unexpected output.

Configuring global defaults

Global defaults for a widget type could be configured via DI container:

\Yii::$container->set('yii\widgets\LinkPager', ['maxButtonCount' => 5]);

See "Practical Usage" section in Dependency Injection Container guide for details.

Creating Widgets

To create a widget, extend from yii\base\Widget and override the yii\base\Widget::init() and/or yii\base\Widget::run() methods. Usually, the init() method should contain the code that normalizes the widget properties, while the run() method should contain the code that generates the rendering result of the widget. The rendering result may be directly "echoed" or returned as a string by run().

In the following example, HelloWidget HTML-encodes and displays the content assigned to its message property. If the property is not set, it will display "Hello World" by default.

namespace app\components;

use yii\base\Widget;
use yii\helpers\Html;

class HelloWidget extends Widget
{
    public $message;

    public function init()
    {
        parent::init();
        if ($this->message === null) {
            $this->message = 'Hello World';
        }
    }

    public function run()
    {
        return Html::encode($this->message);
    }
}

To use this widget, simply insert the following code in a view:

<?php
use app\components\HelloWidget;
?>
<?= HelloWidget::widget(['message' => 'Good morning']) ?>

Below is a variant of HelloWidget which takes the content enclosed within the begin() and end() calls, HTML-encodes it and then displays it.

namespace app\components;

use yii\base\Widget;
use yii\helpers\Html;

class HelloWidget extends Widget
{
    public function init()
    {
        parent::init();
        ob_start();
    }

    public function run()
    {
        $content = ob_get_clean();
        return Html::encode($content);
    }
}

As you can see, PHP's output buffer is started in init() so that any output between the calls of init() and run() can be captured, processed and returned in run().

Info: When you call yii\base\Widget::begin(), a new instance of the widget will be created and the init() method will be called at the end of the widget constructor. When you call yii\base\Widget::end(), the run() method will be called whose return result will be echoed by end().

The following code shows how to use this new variant of HelloWidget:

<?php
use app\components\HelloWidget;
?>
<?php HelloWidget::begin(); ?>

    content that may contain <tag>'s

<?php HelloWidget::end(); ?>

Sometimes, a widget may need to render a big chunk of content. While you can embed the content within the run() method, a better approach is to put it in a view and call yii\base\Widget::render() to render it. For example,

public function run()
{
    return $this->render('hello');
}

By default, views for a widget should be stored in files in the WidgetPath/views directory, where WidgetPath stands for the directory containing the widget class file. Therefore, the above example will render the view file @app/components/views/hello.php, assuming the widget class is located under @app/components. You may override the yii\base\Widget::getViewPath() method to customize the directory containing the widget view files.

Best Practices

Widgets are an object-oriented way of reusing view code.

When creating widgets, you should still follow the MVC pattern. In general, you should keep logic in widget classes and keep presentation in views.

Widgets should be designed to be self-contained. That is, when using a widget, you should be able to just drop it in a view without doing anything else. This could be tricky if a widget requires external resources, such as CSS, JavaScript, images, etc. Fortunately, Yii provides the support for asset bundles, which can be utilized to solve the problem.

When a widget contains view code only, it is very similar to a view. In fact, in this case, their only difference is that a widget is a redistributable class, while a view is just a plain PHP script that you would prefer to keep within your application.