Working With Business Models


This documentation needs to be reworked to be easier to read!

class Model


Model class implements your Business Model - single entity of your business logic. When you plan your business application you should create classes for all your possible business entities by extending from “Model” class.


Method init() will automatically be called when your Model is associated with persistence driver. Use it to define fields of your model:

class Model_User extends atk4\data\Model
    function init() {

Model::addField($name, $defaults)

Creates a new field objects inside your model (by default the class is ‘Field’). The fields are implemented on top of Containers from Agile Core.

Second argument to addField() can supply field default properties:

$this->addField('surname', ['default'=>'Smith']);

Read more about Field

Populating Data


Inserts a new record into the database and returns $id. It does not affect currently loaded record and in practice would be similar to:

$m_x = $m;
return $m_x;

The main goal for insert() method is to be as fast as possible, while still performing data validation. After inserting method will return cloned model.


Similar to insert() however works across array of rows. This method will not return any IDs or models and is optimized for importing large amounts of data.

The method will still convert the data needed and operate with joined tables as needed. If you wish to access tables directly, you’ll have to look into Persistence::insert($m, $data, $table);

Associating Model with Database

Normally you should always associate your model with persistence layer (database) when you create the instance like this:

$m = new Model_User($db);
property Model::$persistence

Refers to the persistence driver in use by current model. Calling certain methods such as save(), addCondition() or action() will rely on this property.

property Model::$persistence_data

Array containing arbitrary data by a specific persistence layer.

property Model::$table

If $table property is set, then your persistence driver will use it as default table / collection when loading data. If you omit the table, you should specify it when associating model with database:

$m = new Model_User($db, 'user');
Model::withPersistence($persistence, $id = null, $class = null)

Creates a duplicate of a current model and associate new copy with a specified persistence. This method is useful for moving model data from one persistence to another.

Working with selective fields

When you normally work with your model then all fields are available and will be loaded / saved. You may, however, specify that you wish to load only a sub-set of fields.

(In ATK4.3 we call those fields “Actual Fields”)


Specify array of fields. Only those fields will be accessible and will be loaded / saved. Attempt to access any other field will result in exception.


Restore to full set of fields. This will also unload active record.

property Model::$only_fields

Contains list of fields to be loaded / accessed.

Setting and Getting active record data

When your record is loaded from database, record data is stored inside the $data property:

property Model::$data

Contains the data for an active record.

Model allows you to work with the data of single a record directly. You should use the following syntax when accessing fields of an active record:

$m['name'] = 'John';
$m['surname'] = 'Peter';

When you modify active record, it keeps the original value in the $dirty array:


Set field to a specified value. The original value will be stored in $dirty property. If you pass non-array, then the value will be assigned to the Title Field.


Restore field value to it’s original:

$m['name'] = 'John';
echo $m['name']; // John

echo $m['name']; // Original value is shown

This will restore original value of the field.


Returns one of the following:

  • If value was set() to the field, this value is returned
  • If field was loaded from database, return original value
  • if field had default set, returns default
  • returns null.

Return true if field contains unsaved changes (dirty):

isset($m['name']); // returns false
$m['name'] = 'Other Name';
isset($m['name']); // returns true

Return true if one or multiple fields contain unsaved changes (dirty):

if ($m->isDirty(['name','surname'])) {
   $m['full_name'] = $m['name'].' '.$m['surname'];

When the code above is placed in beforeSave hook, it will only be executed when certain fields have been changed. If your recalculations are expensive, it’s pretty handy to rely on “dirty” fields to avoid some complex logic.

property Model::$dirty

Contains list of modified fields since last loading and their original values.

Full example:

$m = new Model_User($db, 'user');

// Fields can be added after model is created
$m->addField('salary', ['default'=>1000]);

echo isset($m['salary']);   // false
echo $m['salary'];          // 1000

// Next we load record from $db

echo $m['salary'];          // 2000 (from db)
echo isset($m['salary']);   // false, was not changed

$m['salary'] = 3000;

echo $m['salary'];          // 3000 (changed)
echo isset($m['salary']);   // true

unset($m['salary']);        // return to original value

echo $m['salary'];          // 2000
echo isset($m['salary']);   // false

$m['salary'] = 3000;

echo $m['salary'];          // 3000 (now in db)
echo isset($m['salary']);   // false
protected normalizeFieldName

Verify and convert first argument got get / set;

Title Field and ID Field

Those are to properties that you can specify in the model or pass it through defaults:

class MyModel ..
    public $title_field = 'full_name';

or as defaults:

$m = new MyModel($db, ['title_field'=>'full_name']);

ID Field

property Model::$id_field

If your data storage uses field different than id to keep the ID of your records, then you can specify that in $id_field property.


You can change ID field of the current ID field by calling:

$m['id'] = $new_id;

This will update existing record with new $id. If you want to save your current field over another existing record then:

$m->id = $new_id;

You must remember that only dirty fields are saved, though. (We might add replace() function though).

Title Field

property Model::$title_field

This field by default is set to ‘name’ will act as a primary title field of your table. This is especially handy if you use model inside UI framework, which can automatically display value of your title field in the header, or inside drop-down.

If you don’t have field ‘name’ but you want some other field to be title, you can specify that in the property. If title_field is not needed, set it to false or point towards a non-existent field.

See: :php:meth::hasOne::addTitle() and :php:meth::hasOne::withTitle()


  • beforeSave [not currently working]
    • beforeInsert [only if insert] - beforeInsertQuery [sql only] (query) - afterInsertQuery (query, statement)
    • beforeUpdate [only if update] - beforeUpdateQuery [sql only] (query) - afterUpdateQuery (query, statement)
    • afterUpdate [only if existing record]
    • afterInsert [only if new record]
    • beforeUnload
    • afterUnload
  • afterSave

How to verify Updates

The model is only being saved if any fields have been changed (dirty). Sometimes it’s possible that the record in the database is no longer available and your update() may not actually update anything. This does not normally generate an error, however if you want to actually make sure that update() was effective, you can implement this through a hook:

$m->addHook('afterUpdateQuery',function($m, $update, $st) {
    if (!$st->rowCount()) {
        throw new \atk4\core\Exception([
            'Update didn\'t affect any records',
            'query'      => $update->getDebugQuery(false),
            'statement'  => $st,
            'model'      => $m,
            'conditions' => $m->conditions,

How to prevent actions

In some cases you want to prevent default actions from executing. Suppose you want to check ‘memcache’ before actually loading the record from the database. Here is how you can implement this functionality:

$m->addHook('beforeLoad',function($m, $id) {
    $data = $m->app->cacheFetch($m->table, $id);
    if ($data) {
        $m->data = $data;
        $m->id = $id;

$app property is injected through your $db object and is passed around to all the models. This hook, if successful, will prevent further execution of other beforeLoad hooks and by specifying argument as ‘false’ it will also prevent call to $persistence for actual loading of the data.

Similarly you can prevent deletion if you wish to implement soft-delete or stop insert/modify from occurring.