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Overview

When you happen to write twice the same method for two classes of the Propel object model, it is time to think about Behaviors. Behaviors offer a simple way to extend several model classes the same way, by altering existing methods or adding new ones. Using existing behaviors is quite simple: Read the related part in Chapter 8 of the book, and follow the instructions written in the README file bundled with each behavior. But if you want to create a new behavior, you need to understand how they work.

Base example

To illustrate the process of creating a behavior, let's start with an already extended model. For instance, let's imagine that for security reasons, the records of the article table must not be removed from the database. The $article->delete() method must still mark records so that they are not returned by a call to ArticlePeer::doSelect(), but the underlying data must not be erased. This is how you could extend the Propel model to implement this rule:

// in lib/model/Article.php
class Article extends BaseArticle()
{
  public function delete($con = null)
  {
    $this->setDeletedAt(time());
    $this->save($con);
  }
}
 
// in lib/model/ArticlePeer.php
class ArticlePeer extends BaseArticlePeer()
{
  public function doSelectStmt(Criteria $criteria, $con = null)
  {
    $criteria->add(self::DELETED_AT, null, Criteria::ISNULL);
 
    return parent::doSelectStmt($criteria, $con);
  }
}

Of course, that implies adding a new timestamp field called deleted_at to the article table.

note

The reason why the method extension applies to doSelectStmt() instead of doSelect() is because the former is used not only by doSelect(), but also by doCount().

The combination of a new field and altered methods gives to the Article object a "paranoid" behavior. For now, the word "behavior" just refers to a set of methods.

Enter Mixins

Now, imagine that you need to keep also the deleted records of the comment table. Instead of copying the two methods above in the Comment and CommentPeer classes, which would not be D.R.Y., you should refactor the code used more than once in a new class, and inject it via the Mixins system. You should be familiar with the concept of Mixins and the sfMixer class to understand the following, so refer to Chapter 17 of the symfony 1.0 book if you wonder what this is about.

The first step is to remove any code from the model classes, and to add hooks to allow them to be extended.

// Step 1
// in lib/model/Article.php
class Article extends BaseArticle()
{
  public function delete($con = null)
  {
    foreach (sfMixer::getCallables('Article:delete:pre') as $callable)
    {
      $ret = call_user_func($callable, $this, $con);
      if ($ret)
      {
        return;
      }
    }
 
    return parent::delete($con);
}
 
// in lib/model/ArticlePeer.php
class ArticlePeer extends BaseArticlePeer()
{
  public function doSelectStmt(Criteria $criteria, $con = null)
  {
    foreach (sfMixer::getCallables('ArticlePeer:doSelectStmt:doSelectStmt') as $callable)
    {
      call_user_func($callable, 'ArticlePeer', $criteria, $con);
    }
 
    return parent::doSelectStmt($criteria, $con);
  }
}
 
// in lib/model/Comment.php
class Comment extends BaseComment()
{
  public function delete($con = null)
  {
    foreach (sfMixer::getCallables('Comment:delete:pre') as $callable)
    {
      $ret = call_user_func($callable, $this, $con);
      if ($ret)
      {
        return;
      }
    }
 
    return parent::delete($con);
}
 
// in lib/model/CommentPeer.php
class CommentPeer extends BaseCommentPeer()
{
  public function doSelectStmt(Criteria $criteria, $con = null)
  {
    foreach (sfMixer::getCallables('CommentPeer:doSelectStmt:doSelectStmt') as $callable)
    {
      call_user_func($callable, 'CommentPeer', $criteria, $con);
    }
 
    return parent::doSelectStmt($criteria, $con);
  }
}

Next, you must put the behavior code in a new class, save this class in a directory where it can be autoloaded:

// Step 2
// In lib/ParanoidBehavior.php
class ParanoidBehavior
{
  public function preDelete($object, $con)
  {
    $object->setDeletedAt(time());
    $object->save($con);
 
    return true;
  }
 
  public function doSelectStmt($class, Criteria $criteria, $con = null)
  {
    $criteria->add(constant("$class::DELETED_AT"), null, Criteria::ISNULL);
  }
}

Finally, you must register the methods of the new ParanoidBehavior class on the hooks of the Article and Comment classes:

// Step 3
// in config/config.php
sfMixer::register('Article:delete:pre', array('ParanoidBehavior', 'preDelete'));
sfMixer::register('ArticlePeer:doSelectStmt:doSelectStmt', array('ParanoidBehavior', 'doSelectStmt'));
sfMixer::register('Comment:delete:pre', array('ParanoidBehavior', 'preDelete'));
sfMixer::register('CommentPeer:doSelectStmt:doSelectStmt', array('ParanoidBehavior', 'doSelectStmt'));

By the power of Mixins, the code of the behavior can be reused across several model objects.

But the task of adding hooks to the model classes and registering the methods make this process longer than a simple copy of the code... This is where the symfony Behaviors come as a great help.

Add model hooks automatically

Symfony can add hooks to the model automatically. To enable these hooks, set the AddBehaviors property to true in the propel.ini file, as follows:

propel.builder.AddBehaviors = true     // Default value is false

You need to rebuild the model for the hooks to be inserted in the generated model classes:

$ php symfony propel-build-model

The hooks are added to the Base classes, the ones under the lib/model/om/ directory. For instance, here is an extract of the generated BaseArticlePeer class with behaviors hooks enabled:

public static function doSelectStmt(Criteria $criteria, $con = null)
{
  foreach (sfMixer::getCallables('BaseArticlePeer:doSelectStmt:doSelectStmt') as $callable)
  {
    call_user_func($callable, 'BaseArticlePeer', $criteria, $con);
  }
 
  // Rest of the code
}

That's almost exactly the same hook as the one added by hand to the custom ArticlePeer during step 1. The difference is that the registered hook name is BaseArticlePeer:doSelectStmt:doSelectStmt instead of ArticlePeer:doSelectStmt:doSelectStmt. So you can remove the code added to the custom classes during Step 1. This means that when Behaviors are enabled in the propel.ini, you no longer need to add hooks manually inside your model classes.

As the name of the hooks changed (they are now all prefixed by Base), the way the methods of the Paranoid behavior were registered in Step 3 must be changed. But before doing so, have a look at the complete list of hooks added:

// Hooks added to the base object class
[className]:delete:pre     // before deletion
[className]:delete:post    // after deletion
[className]:save:pre       // before save
[className]:save:post      // after save
[className]:[methodName]   // inside __call() (allows for new methods)
// Hooks added to the base Peer class
[PeerClassName]:doSelectStmt:doSelectStmt
[PeerClassName]:doSelectJoin:doSelectJoin
[PeerClassName]:doSelectJoinAll:doSelectJoinAll
[PeerClassName]:doSelectJoinAllExcept:doSelectJoinAllExcept
[PeerClassName]:doUpdate:pre
[PeerClassName]:doUpdate:post
[PeerClassName]:doInsert:pre
[PeerClassName]:doInsert:post
[PeerClassName]:doCount:doCount

note

As of symfony 1.0, there is only one hook related to the doSelect methods, instead of the four hooks described above. This explains why some behaviors work only with symfony 1.1 and not with symfony 1.0, which has an incomplete support for behaviors.

Adding new methods

One of the hooks should get a closer look: the one allowing for new methods in the object class. When Behaviors are enables in propel.ini, all the generated base object classes contain a __call() method similar to this one:

// in lib/model/om/BaseArticle.php
public function __call($method, $arguments)
{
  if (!$callable = sfMixer::getCallable('BaseArticle:'.$method))
  {
    throw new sfException(sprintf('Call to undefined method BaseArticle::%s', $method));
  }
 
  array_unshift($arguments, $this);
 
  return call_user_func_array($callable, $arguments);
}

As explained in Chapter 17 of the symfony book, a hook placed in a __call() makes the addition of new methods at runtime possible. For instance, if you want to add an undelete() method to the Article class to allow to reset the deleted_at flag, start by adding it to the Behavior class:

// In lib/ParanoidBehavior.php
public function undelete($object, $con)
{
  $object->setDeletedAt(null);
  $object->save($con);
}

Then, register the new method as follows:

// in config/config.php
sfMixer::register('BaseArticle:undelete', array('ParanoidBehavior', 'undelete'));
// other hooks

Now, every call to $article->undelete() will make a call to ParanoidBehavior::undelete($article).

note

Unfortunately, as of PHP 5, static method calls cannot be caught by a __call(). This means that symfony behaviors are not able to add new methods to the Peer classes.

Register hooks in a single step

You still need to rewrite the other hook registrations to use the Base hook names, both for the Article and Comment classes. That would give something like:

// Step 3
// in config/config.php
sfMixer::register('BaseArticle:undelete', array('ParanoidBehavior', 'undelete'));
sfMixer::register('BaseArticle:delete:pre', array('ParanoidBehavior', 'preDelete'));
sfMixer::register('BaseArticlePeer:doSelectStmt:doSelectStmt', array('ParanoidBehavior', 'doSelectStmt'));
 
sfMixer::register('BaseComment:undelete', array('ParanoidBehavior', 'undelete'));
sfMixer::register('BaseComment:delete:pre', array('ParanoidBehavior', 'preDelete'));
sfMixer::register('BaseCommentPeer:doSelectStmt:doSelectStmt', array('ParanoidBehavior', 'doSelectStmt'));

But this code is not very D.R.Y., since you need to repeat the whole list of methods for each class. Imagine the pain if the behavior provided several dozens methods! It would be much more efficient if you could separate the registration process in two phases:

  1. Register methods of the behavior into a list of class-agnostic hooks.
  2. For each class, transform the class-agnostic hooks into real hooks and register them using the mixins system.

Symfony provides a utility class, called sfPropelBehavior, which does this job for you. Here is how the Step 3 can be rewritten to take advantage of this class:

// Phase 1
// in config/config.php
sfPropelBehavior::registerMethods('paranoid', array(
  array('ParanoidBehavior', 'undelete')
));
sfPropelBehavior::registerHooks('paranoid', array(
  ':delete:pre'                => array('ParanoidBehavior', 'preDelete'),
  'Peer:doSelectStmt:doSelectStmt' => array('ParanoidBehavior', 'doSelectStmt')
));
 
// Phase 2
// in lib/model/Article.php
sfPropelBehavior::add('Article', array('paranoid'));
 
// in lib/model/Comment.php
sfPropelBehavior::add('Comment', array('paranoid'));

Both the registerMethods and registerHooks methods expect a hook list name as first parameter. This name is then used as a shortcut when the behavior methods are added to the model classes. Notice how the hook names used when calling registerHooks don't contain any reference to a specific model class (the BaseArticle part of the hook name was removed).

Also, you don't need to specify a method name for the methods added by way of registerMethods. The name of the method in the behavior class is used by default.

It's only when the sfPropelBehavior::add() statement is executed that hooks are really registered against the sfMixer class... with a real hook name. As the first parameter of this call is a model class name, the sfPropelBehavior has all the elements to recreate the complete hook names (in this case, by concatenating the string Base with the model class name and the behavior hook name).

Packaging a behavior into a plug-in

To package the behavior into a truly reusable piece of code, the best is to create a plugin.

There is a non-written convention about behavior plugin names. They must be prefixed with 'Propel' since they work only for this ORM, and they must end with 'BehaviorPlugin'. So a good name for our Paranoid behavior could be 'myPropelParanoidBehaviorPlugin'.

As of now, there are only two files to put in the plugin: the ParanoidBehavior class, and the code written in config/config.php to register the behavior methods and hooks. Chapter 17 explains how to organize these files in a plugin tree structure:

plugins/
  myPropelParanoidBehaviorPlugin/
    lib/
      ParanoidBehavior.php    // the class containing methods to be mixed in
    config/
      config.php              // the registration of the behavior methods

The config.php file of every plugin installed in a project is executed at each request, so this is the perfect place to register behavior methods.

To complete the plugin, you must add a README file at the root of the plugin's directory, with installation and usage instructions. The best behaviors also bundle unit tests.

Eventually, add a package.xml (either manually or by way of sfPackageMakerPlugin), package the plugin with PEAR, and you are ready to reuse it. You can also post it in the symfony website.

Passing a parameter to a behavior

A well-designed behavior doesn't rely on hard coded values. In the example of the Paranoid behavior above, the deleted_at column name is hard coded and should be transformed into a parameter.

To pass a parameter to a behavior, use an associative array as the second parameter of the call to sfPropelBehavior::add() instead of a regular array, as follows:

sfPropelBehavior::add('Article', array('paranoid' => array(
  'column' => 'deleted_at'
)));

Then, to get the value of this parameter in the behavior class, you must use the sfConfig registry. The parameter is stored in a sfConfig key composed like this:

'propel_behavior_' . [BehaviorName] . '_' . [ClassName] . '_' . [ParameterName]
// in the example above, get the 'deleted_at' value by calling
sfConfig::get('propel_behavior_paranoid_Article_column')

The problem is that the behavior methods don't use only column names. They use the various versions of these names according to the operation to achieve:

Format name                 | Example       | Used in
----------------------------|---------------|-----------
`BasePeer::TYPE_FIELDNAME`  | `deleted_at`  | schema.yml
`BasePeer::TYPE_PHPNAME`    | `DeletedAt`   | Method names
`BasePeer::TYPE_COLNAME`    | `DELETED_AT`  | Criteria parameters

So the behavior class will need a way to translate a field name from one format to the other. Fortunately, the generated Base Peer class of every model provides a static translateFieldName() method. Its syntax is quite simple:

// translateFieldName($name, $origin_format, $dest_format) 
// for instance
$name = ArticlePeer::translateFieldName('deleted_at', BasePeer::TYPE_FIELDNAME, BasePeer::TYPE_COLNAME);

So you are now ready to rewrite the ParanoidBehavior class to take the column parameter into account:

class sfPropelParanoidBehavior
{
  public function preDelete($object, $con = null)
  {
    $class = get_class($object);
    $peerClass = get_class($object->getPeer());
 
    $columnName = sfConfig::get('propel_behavior_paranoid_'.$class.'_column', 'deleted_at');
    $method = 'set'.call_user_func(array($peerClass, 'translateFieldName'), $columnName, BasePeer::TYPE_FIELDNAME, BasePeer::TYPE_PHPNAME);
    $object->$method(time());
    $object->save();
 
    return true;
  }
 
  public function doSelectStmt($class, $criteria, $con = null)
  {
    $columnName = sfConfig::get('propel_behavior_paranoid_'.$class.'_column', 'deleted_at');
    $criteria->add(call_user_func(array($class, 'translateFieldName'), $columnName, BasePeer::TYPE_FIELDNAME, BasePeer::TYPE_COLNAME), null, Criteria::ISNULL);
  }
}

Conclusion

Propel Behaviors are nothing more than a set of predefined hooks, and a helper class designed to facilitate the registration of several hooks in a single statement. If you understand Mixins, it shouldn't be too hard to author your own behaviors. Make sure you check the existing behavior plugins before starting your own: they are practical examples of the behaviors syntax.