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Creating Model

Before writing the HTML code needed by a form, we should decide what kind of data we are expecting from end users and what rules these data should comply with. A model class can be used to record these information. A model, as defined in the Model subsection, is the central place for keeping user inputs and validating them.

Depending on how we make use of the user input, we can create two types of model. If the user input is collected, used and then discarded, we would create a form model; if the user input is collected and saved into database, we would use an active record instead. Both types of model share the same base class CModel which defines the common interface needed by form.

Note: We are mainly using form models in the examples of this section. However, the same can also be applied to active record models.

1. Defining Model Class

Below we create a LoginForm model class used to collect user input on a login page. Because the login information is only used to authenticate the user and does not need to be saved, we create LoginForm as a form model.

class LoginForm extends CFormModel
    public $username;
    public $password;
    public $rememberMe=false;

Three attributes are declared in LoginForm: $username, $password and $rememberMe. They are used to keep the user-entered username and password, and the option whether the user wants to remember his login. Because $rememberMe has a default value false, the corresponding option when initially displayed in the login form will be unchecked.

Info: Instead of calling these member variables properties, we use the name attributes to differentiate them from normal properties. An attribute is a property that is mainly used to store data coming from user input or database.

2. Declaring Validation Rules

Once a user submits his inputs and the model gets populated, we need to make sure the inputs are valid before using them. This is done by performing validation of the inputs against a set of rules. We specify the validation rules in the rules() method which should return an array of rule configurations.

class LoginForm extends CFormModel
    public $username;
    public $password;
    public $rememberMe=false;
    public function rules()
        return array(
            array('username, password', 'required'),
            array('password', 'authenticate'),
    public function authenticate($attribute,$params)
        if(!$this->hasErrors())  // we only want to authenticate when no input errors
            $identity=new UserIdentity($this->username,$this->password);
                $duration=$this->rememberMe ? 3600*24*30 : 0; // 30 days
                $this->addError('password','Incorrect password.');

The above code specifies that username and password are both required, password should be authenticated.

Each rule returned by rules() must be of the following format:

array('AttributeList', 'Validator', 'on'=>'ScenarioList', ...additional options)

where AttributeList is a string of comma-separated attribute names which need to be validated according to the rule; Validator specifies what kind of validation should be performed; the on parameter is optional which specifies a list of scenarios where the rule should be applied; and additional options are name-value pairs which are used to initialize the corresponding validator's property values.

There are three ways to specify Validator in a validation rule. First, Validator can be the name of a method in the model class, like authenticate in the above example. The validator method must be of the following signature:

 * @param string the name of the attribute to be validated
 * @param array options specified in the validation rule
public function ValidatorName($attribute,$params) { ... }

Second, Validator can be the name of a validator class. When the rule is applied, an instance of the validator class will be created to perform the actual validation. The additional options in the rule are used to initialize the instance's attribute values. A validator class must extend from CValidator.

Note: When specifying rules for an active record model, we can use a special option named on. The option can be either 'insert' or 'update' so that the rule is applied only when inserting or updating the record, respectively. If not set, the rule would be applied in both cases when save() is called.

Third, Validator can be a predefined alias to a validator class. In the above example, the name required is the alias to CRequiredValidator which ensures the attribute value being validated is not empty. Below is the complete list of predefined validator aliases:

Below we list some examples of using the predefined validators:

// username is required
array('username', 'required'),
// username must be between 3 and 12 characters
array('username', 'length', 'min'=>3, 'max'=>12),
// when in register scenario, password must match password2
array('password', 'compare', 'compareAttribute'=>'password2', 'on'=>'register'),
// when in login scenario, password must be authenticated
array('password', 'authenticate', 'on'=>'login'),

3. Securing Attribute Assignments

Note: scenario-based attribute assignment has been available since version 1.0.2.

After a model instance is created, we often need to populate its attributes with the data submitted by end-users. This can be done conveniently using the following massive assignment:

$model=new LoginForm;

Note: The scenario property has been available since version 1.0.4. The massive assignment will take this property value to determine which attributes can be massively assigned. In version 1.0.2 and 1.0.3, we need to use the following way to perform massive assignment for a specific scenario:

$model->setAttributes($_POST['LoginForm'], 'login');

The last statement is a massive assignment which assigns every entry in $_POST['LoginForm'] to the corresponding model attribute in the login scenario. It is equivalent to the following assignments:

foreach($_POST['LoginForm'] as $name=>$value)
    if($name is a safe attribute)

The task of deciding whether a data entry is safe or not is based on the return value of a method named safeAttributes and the specified scenario. By default, the method returns all public member variables as safe attributes for CFormModel, while it returns all table columns except the primary key as safe attributes for CActiveRecord. We may override this method to limit safe attributes according to scenarios. For example, a user model may contain many attributes, but in login scenario we only need to use username and password attributes. We can specify this limit as follows:

public function safeAttributes()
    return array(
        'login' => 'username, password',

More accurately, the return value of the safeAttributes method should be of the following structure:

   // these attributes can be massively assigned in any scenario
   // that is not explicitly specified below
   'attr1, attr2, ...',
   // these attributes can be massively assigned only in scenario 1
   'scenario1' => 'attr2, attr3, ...',
   // these attributes can be massively assigned only in scenario 2
   'scenario2' => 'attr1, attr3, ...',

If the model is not scenario-sensitive (i.e., it is only used in one scenario, or all scenarios share the same set of safe attributes), the return value can be simplified as a single string:

'attr1, attr2, ...'

For data entries that are not safe, we need to assign them to the corresponding attributes using individual assign statements, like the following:


4. Triggering Validation

Once a model is populated with user-submitted data, we can call CModel::validate() to trigger the data validation process. The method returns a value indicating whether the validation is successful or not. For CActiveRecord model, validation may also be automatically triggered when we call its CActiveRecord::save() method.

When we call CModel::validate(), we may specify a scenario parameter. Only the validation rules that apply to the specified scenario will be executed. A validation rule applies to a scenario if the on option of the rule is not set or contains the specified scenario name. If we do not specify the scenario when calling CModel::validate(), only those rules whose on option is not set will be executed.

For example, we execute the following statement to perform the validation when registering a user:


Note: The scenario property has been available since version 1.0.4. The validation method will take this property value to determine which rules to be checked with. In version 1.0.2 and 1.0.3, we need to use the following way to perform scenario-based validation:


We may declare the validation rules in the form model class as follows,

public function rules()
    return array(
        array('username, password', 'required'),
        array('password_repeat', 'required', 'on'=>'register'),
        array('password', 'compare', 'on'=>'register'),

As a result, the first rule will be applied in all scenarios, while the next two rules will only be applied in the register scenario.

Note: scenario-based validation has been available since version 1.0.1.

5. Retrieving Validation Errors

We can use CModel::hasErrors() to check if there is any validation error, and if yes, we can use CModel::getErrors() to obtain the error messages. Both methods can be used for all attributes or an individual attribute.

6. Attribute Labels

When designing a form, we often need to display a label for each input field. The label tells a user what kind of information he is expected to enter into the field. Although we can hardcode a label in a view, it would offer more flexibility and convenience if we specify it in the corresponding model.

By default, CModel will simply return the name of an attribute as its label. This can be customized by overriding the attributeLabels() method. As we will see in the following subsections, specifying labels in the model allows us to create a form more quickly and powerful.