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Version: 4.4

Custom fields API

Since 3.7

Custom fields API overview

Custom fields API allows to configure custom fields that can be added to various contexts. Each component (or plugin) that wants to use custom fields can define several areas.


The core_course component defines an area course that allows to add custom fields to the courses. The same component can define another area coursecat that will allow to add custom fields to the course categories.

Inside each area, the component/plugin can decide whether to use or not to use itemid.


Course custom fields are the same throughout the system and they don't use itemid (it is always 0). But there could be an activity module that would want to configure different custom fields for each individual instance of module. Then this module would use the module id as the itemid, as in (example). This would allow to create modules similar to mod_data and mod_feedback where each instance has its own set of fields.

New plugin type customfield was also added as part of the Custom fields API. Additional types of custom fields can be installed into /customfield/field/.

How to use custom fields

Component/plugin that uses custom fields must define a handler class for each area and a configuration page. Handler class must be called <PLUGINNAME>/customfield/<AREA>_handler and be placed in autoloaded location <PLUGINDIR>/classes/customfield/<AREA>_handler.php. This class must extend \core_customfield\handler . Configuration page may be located anywhere. For course custom fields configuration the admin settings page is used /course/customfield.php. If the area uses itemid this page should take itemid as a parameter.

Handler has protected constructor, to get a handler call create() method. Some areas may choose to return a singleton here:

$handler = HANDLERCLASS::create($itemid);

Configuration page contents will be:

$output = $PAGE->get_renderer('core_customfield');
$outputpage = new \core_customfield\output\management($handler);
echo $output->render($outputpage);

Handler must implement all abstract methods (calculate configuration or instance context, check permissions to configure, view or edit) and also may choose to overwrite:

handler::config_form_definition() // For example, the course_handler adds "locked" and "visibility" settings that control who can edit or view the particular field.
handler::setup_edit_page() // Sets page context/url/breadcrumb for the customfield/edit.php page, in some cases it must be overridden.

Add custom fields to the instance edit form

Custom fields are added to the instances. For example, course custom fields are added to the courses, so courseid is the instanceid. In the example of mod_surveybuilder we use $USER->id as the instanceid (which means that in this example one user can fill the survey in one module only once). In each case of using custom fields there should be a clear concept of an instance. Instanceid is required to save the data but it may be empty when we render the instance edit form (for example, the course is not yet created).

Developer must add custom field callbacks to the instance edit form. If the instance is "made up" (like in mod_surveybuilder), a new form has to be created with id field in it that will refer to the instanceid.

The following callbacks should be used in form definition, definition_after_data, validation and after form submission:


The instance_form_save() method must be called after the form was saved as the $data parameter must have the id attribute.

On deletion of an instance or on deletion of the whole item call:


Retrieving instances custom fields

How custom fields are used depends entirely on the situation.

Handler methods to retrieve custom fields values for the given instance(s)

Additional methods for advanced usage:


Method restore_instance_data_from_backup() exists in the handler class but is not implemented.

To retrieve the list of custom fields used in the given component/area/itemid

The list of fields is cached in the handler and these two functions can be called multiple times.

Example code for course custom fields. This function will return all the custom fields for a given courseid
function get_course_metadata($courseid) {
$handler = \core_customfield\handler::get_handler('core_course', 'course');
// This is equivalent to the line above.
//$handler = \core_course\customfield\course_handler::create();
$datas = $handler->get_instance_data($courseid);
$metadata = [];
foreach ($datas as $data) {
if (empty($data->get_value())) {
$cat = $data->get_field()->get_category()->get('name');
$metadata[$data->get_field()->get('shortname')] = $cat . ': ' . $data->get_value();
return $metadata;

Privacy API

Custom fields API does not export or delete any data because it does not know how custom fields are used, what data is considered user data and if it is considered private or shared data.

Plugins that store user information in custom fields should link subsystem in their get_metadata
$collection->link_subsystem('core_customfield', 'privacy:metadata:customfieldpurpose');
They can use the following methods in the export/delete functions
use core_customfield\privacy\provider as customfield_provider;


In case when custom fields configuration is considered to be user data (configuration means the definition of the fields, not the instance data), there are also couple of methods to help with privacy API implementations:


Export of configuration was not yet implemented at the time of writing this because of difficult implementation and very unclear use case. If it is needed please feel free to contribute to Moodle.

Custom fields plugins

Custom fields plugin type was added to allow implement different types of custom fields (somehow similar to user profile fields plugin type). Plugins are located in /customfield/field/ and the full frankenstyle name of the plugins start with customfield_.

Except for common Plugin files and tests the following classes must be present in customfield plugins (in respective autoloaded locations):

namespace customfield_<PLUGINNAME>;
class field_controller extends \core_customfield\field_controller;
class data_controller extends \core_customfield\data_controller;

namespace customfield_<PLUGINNAME>\privacy;
class provider implements \core_privacy\local\metadata\null_provider, \core_customfield\privacy\customfield_provider;

See also

  • MDL-64626 - Custom fields API (Moodle 3.7+) implementations and improvements
  • MDL-57898 - Add custom field types plugin and course custom fields functionality