Typecasting is envoked when you are attempting to save or load the record. Unlike strict types and normalization, typecasting is a persistence-specific operation. Here is the sequence and sample:

$m->addField('birthday', ['type'=>'date']);
// type has a number of pre-defined values. Using 'date'
// instructs AD that we will be using it for staring dates
// through 'DateTime' class.

$m['birthday'] = 'Jan 1 1960';
// If non-compatible value is provided, it will be converted
// into a proper date through Normalization process. After
// this line value of 'birthday' field will be DateTime.

// At this point typecasting converts the "DateTime" value
// into UTC date-time representation for SQL or "MongoDate"
// type if you're persisting with MongoDB. This does not affect
// value of a model field.

Typecasting is necessary to save the values inside the database and restore them back just as they were before. When modifying a record, typecasting will only be invoked on the fields which were dirty.

The purpose of a flexible typecasting system is to allow you to store your date in a compatible format or even fine-tune it to match your database settings (e.g. timezone) without affecting your domain code.

You must remember that type-casting is a two-way operation. If you are introducing your own types, you will need to make sure they can be saved and loaded correctly.

Some formats such as date, time and datetime may have additional options to it:

$m->addField('registered', [

Here is another example with booleans:

$m->addField('is_married', [
    'type' => 'boolean',
    'enum' => ['No', 'Yes']

$m['is_married'] = 'Yes';  // normalizes into true
$m['is_married'] = true;   // better way because no need to normalize

$m->save();   // stores as "Yes" because of type-casting

Value types

Any type can have a value of null:

$m['is_married'] = null;
if (!$m['is_married']) {
    // either null or false

If value is passed which is not compatible with field type, Agile Data will try to normalize value:

$m->addField('age', ['type'=>'integer']);
$m->addField('name', ['type'=>'string']);

$m['age'] = '49.80';
$m['name'] = '       John';

echo $m['age']; // 49 - normalization cast value to integer
echo $m['name']; // 'John' - normalization trims value

Undefined type

If you do not set type for a field, Agile Data will not normalize and type-cast its value.

Because of the loose PHP types, you can encounter situations where undefined type is changed from ‘4’ to 4. This change is still considered “dirty”.

If you use numeric value with a type-less field, the response from SQL does not distinguish between integers and strings, so your value will be stored as “string” inside the model.

The same can be said about forms, which submit all their data through POST request that has no types, so undefined type fields should work relatively good with the standard setup of Agile Data + Agile Toolkit + SQL.

Type of IDs

Many databases will allow you to use different types for ID fields. In SQL the ‘id’ column will usually be “integer”, but sometimes it can be of a different type.

The same applies for references ($m->hasOne()).

Supported types

  • ‘string’ - for storing short strings, such as name of a person. Normalize will trim the value.
  • ‘boolean’ - normalize will cast value to boolean.
  • ‘integer’ - normalize will cast value to integer.
  • ‘money’ - normalize will round value with 4 digits after dot.
  • ‘float’ - normalize will cast value to float.
  • ‘date’ - normalize will convert value to DateTime object.
  • ‘datetime’ - normalize will convert value to DateTime object.
  • ‘time’ - normalize will convert value to DateTime object.
  • ‘array’ - no normalization by default
  • ‘object’ - no normalization by default

Types and UI

UI framework such as Agile Toolkit will typically rely on field type information to properly present data for views (forms and tables) without you having to explicitly specify the ui property.


Some types cannot be stored natively. For example, generic objects and arrays have no native type in SQL database. This is where serialization feature is used.

Field may use serialization to further encode field value for the storage purpose:

$this->addField('private_key', [

This is one way to store binary data. Type is unspecified but the binary value of a field will be encoded with base64 before storing and automatically decoded when you load this value back from persistence.

Supported algorithms

  • ‘serialize’ - for storing PHP objects, uses serialize, unserialize
  • ‘json’ - for storing objects and arrays, uses json_encode, json_decode
  • ‘base64’ - for storing encoded strings, uses base64_encode, base64_decode
  • [serialize_callback, unserialize_callback] - for custom serialization

Storing unsupported types

Here is another example defining the field that stores monetary value containing both the amount and the currency. The domain model will use an object and we are specifying our callbacks for converting:

$money_encode = function($x) {
    return $x->amount.' '.$x->currency;

$money_dencode = function($x) {
    list($amount, $currency) = explode(' ', $x);
    return new MyMoney($amount, $currency);

$this->addField('money', [
    'serialize' => [$money_encode, $money_decode],

Array and Object types

Some types may require serialisaion for some persistences, for instance types ‘array’ and ‘object’ cannot be stored in SQL natively. That’s why they will use json_encode and json_decode by default. If you specify a different serialisation technique, then it will be used instead of JSON.

This is handy when mapping JSON data into native PHP structures.