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Version: 4.3

Form Usage

Draft document
This documentation is currently in-progress. You can help by contributing edits to this page.

Moodle's Form API is an extension of the Pear HTML_QuickForm API, which is no longer supported. Some documentation for the upstream library is available in the PEAR package page, including a short tutorial. A longer tutorial is also available, courtesy of the Internet Archive.

Moodle will attempt to provide a more complete tutorial in this documentation where possible.


Some good examples of usage of the Forms API can be found at the following locations:

Whilst much of the API originates in the PEAR package, all interaction with the library should be via the moodleform class, which acts as a controlling wrapper to HTML_QuickForm.

Basic Usage in A Normal Page

Generally the structure of a page with a form on it looks like this:

// You will process some page parameters at the top here and get the info about
// what instance of your module and what course you're in etc. Make sure you
// include hidden variable in your forms which have their defaults set in set_data
// which pass these variables from page to page.

// Setup $PAGE here.

// Instantiate the form that you defined.
$mform = new \plugintype_pluginname\form\myform();
// Default 'action' for form is strip_querystring(qualified_me()).

// Set the initial values, for example the existing data loaded from the database.
// This is typically an array of name/value pairs that match the
// names of data elements in the form.
// You can also use an object.

if ($mform->is_cancelled()) {
// You need this section if you have a cancel button on your form.
// You use this section to handle what to do if your user presses the cancel button.
// This is often a redirect back to an older page.
// NOTE: is_cancelled() should be called before get_data().

} else if ($fromform = $mform->get_data()) {
// This branch is where you process validated data.

// Typically you finish up by redirecting to somewhere where the user
// can see what they did.

// If the form was not cancelled, and data was not submitted, then display the form.
echo $OUTPUT->header();
echo $OUTPUT->footer();

You are encouraged to look at lib/formslib.php to see what additional functions and parameters are available. Available functions are well commented.

Defining Your Form Class

The form class tells us about the structure of the form.

In most cases you can place this in an auto-loadable class, in which case it should be placed in a folder named form, for example:


namespace mod_forum\form;

class myform extends \moodleform {
// ...

Historically it was not possible to auto-load classes. As a result, there are many parts of the core codebase which will manually require a file and expect a non-namespaced class name.

One example of this is in the activity edit form, which must be named mod_[modname]_mod_form and can either be located in mod/[modname]/classes/mod_form.php or in mod/[modname]/mod_form.php.

The name you give the class is used as the id attribute of your form in html. Any trailing '_form' is removed. Your form class name should be unique in order for it to be selectable in CSS by theme designers who may want to adjust the css just for that form.


Form definition is defined in further detail in the Form definition documentation.

Use in Activity Modules Add / Update Forms

The same form is used to create or edit an activity, but some legacy constraints still apply:

  • The form must be named mod_[modname]_mod_form
  • The class must be located in either:
    • mod/[modname]/mod_form.php; or
    • mod/[modname]/classes/mod_form.php
  • The form must extend the moodleform_mod class.


Since the data for the activity editing form is automatically filled from the database, you may need to pre-process this data to set values for some form fields. For example, in the Forum activity, in some situations a Unix Time Stamp is used to set a boolean checkbox.

This can be achieved using the defaults_preprocessing method.

Post Processing

Whilst the pre-processing stage is performed in the defaults_preprocessing function, all post-processing is perform in the [modname]_add_instance and [modname]_update_instance functions in the activities lib.php.

These are called after data bas been validated by the Forms API.

Standard activity form elements

Moodle has a set of standard form elements used by all Activity modules. These allow for consistent control over activity visibility, group modes, and other common APIs.

The standard_coursemodule_elements() function is used to add these common elements, and it should be called before the standard action elements are added, for example:

class mod_example_mod_form extends \moodleform_mod {
public function definition() {
// Add the various form elements.
$this->_form->addElement( ... );

// Add the standard elements.

// Add the form actions.