10 useful ways to harness correctly the possibilities of Magento

In the following paragraphs I will write about the errors that we may encounter in blocks, layout xmls, installer scripts and template files (.phtml) as well as code parts that still lack some structural or other improvements even though the code has already been delivered. The examples to be shown later are not the only ways for tackling these issues, they represent only one approach to each to solve a given problem. I will detail the following in this article:

  • Array key value pairs in Magento
  • Examining object values in a condition statement (informative values)
  • Using block types in Magento
  • Code repetition in phtml
  • Unavoidable queries (how to handle them)
  • Collection separation at display
  • Exceptions (erroneous runs) of Installer Scripts and how to handle them
  • Interrelated and sub collections
  • Preparation of Module for multi-language use
  • Using Helpers


Array key value pairs in Magento

Even if you are sure that an array needs a specific key, this may change over time, so it is better not to have such a defined reference in the code:

$value = $data['key'];

One of the most deeply set parent class of nearly all Magento objects is Varien_Object. Through its magic-methods you can easily check these values. The array values passed over in the constructor of this class can be obtained by calling the $obj->getData(‘key’) method or, staying with this example, calling the $obj->getKey() method, which returns with NULL if the value assigned to the key is missing.

$objData = new Varien_Object($data);
$value = $objData->getKey(); //same as $objData->getData('key');

Then you can enter the required fork with an if(!is_null($value)){…} or with an if(!empty($value)){…} analysis in which the value is not NULL.

Examining object values in a condition statement (informative value)

If ($objData->getFlag() == 1) {/*...*/}

The value is easily identified any time by the developer, but after a few months or when involving a new developer, it becomes just a number without meaning. In contrast to this, in the example below, it is clear what the informative variable/value and constant values refer to and you also see which module they are linked to.

If ($objData->getFlag() == Module_Helper_Data::FLAG_STATUS_ENABLED) {/*...*/}

It is even better if in such a case you store these elements, statuses in the example, in the Model and in the table that belongs to it. During the assessment/evaluation process you check these by the Module_Helper_Data::getEnabledStatusId() call using the helper. Both solutions are correct, the point is to get the source and meaning of the analysed value.

How to utilize Block types in Magento

Magento comprises far fewer Block types than html elements, but it is still worth utilizing them. It happens quite often that some code parts that were originally “meant to be present in one place only”, are placed at least in 3-4 locations in the end, and “locked” in a phtml, like this:

<select name="my_select" id="mySelect">
    <?php foreach ($items as $item): ?>
        <option value="<?php echo $item->getId() ?>"><?php echo $item->getName() ?></option>
    <?php endforeach; ?>

For example, such a Block is Select, to be found at app\code\core\Mage\Core\Block\Html\Select.php – With the help of its methods, a list can be parameterized, which can be displayed in several locations and shows better in the source:

    <reference name="content">
        <block type="aion_module/block_type" name="aion_module_block_type" as="blockalias">
            <block type="core/html_select" name="selectchild" />

You also have the possibility to set the parameters within the layout and also through the method call using the reference Block, within the method itself. We are looking at this option now. Create a getSomeSelectHtml method within the Block that you refer to as reference where you prepare Select for rendering/output:

public function getSomeSelectHtml()
    $select = $this->getChild('selectchild');
            'id' => 'frontend-id',
            'class' => 'frontend-class-one frontend-class-two',
    //select upload with options $select->setOptions() || $select->addOption()
    return $select->toHtml();

when finished, you only need to get the list displayed in the phtml file by calling echo $this->getSomeSelectHtml();

Code repetition in phtml

Sometimes you need to extend an existing function, which already has a template file. It is recommended to create a new template file, even if there is already an if-else, a switch-case or another template file.

Switch ($mode):
    Case 'list':
        Foreach ($entities as $entity): ?>
            <div class="dsadsa"><a href="..."></a><!--...--></div>
        <?php Endforeach;
    Case 'grid':
        Foreach ($entities as $entity): ?>
            <div class="dsadsa"><a href="..."></a><!--...--></div>
        <?php Endforeach;

These codes should be put in a higher-level/parent Block where you call the appropriate type based on the “if” or “switch” element. It is a simpler method because many times the same html elements are present at these forks, containing additional forks. Organizing these into lower-level Blocks, you get a nice structure where a display modification can be done in one location, but affects every related part of the page. Additionally, it is also useful for front-end developers and the code is clearer this way too.

<block type="something/list" name="something.list">
    <block type="list/grid" name="gridList">
        <block type="list/item" name="gridListItem"/>
    <block type="list/row" name="rowList">
        <block type="list/item" name="rowListItem"/>
If ($mode == Module_Helper_Data::MODE_LIST) {
    $block->getChildHtml('rowList'); //amin belül még az item-et is getChildHtml()-el kérjük le
} else if ($mode == Module_Helper_Data::MODE_GRID) {


Unavoidable queries (how to handle them)

In some non-ideal cases, it may happen that due to performance or other issues, under heavy pressure, you must run direct (not collection related) database queries. This is a “necessary crime” that has its own required form. Magento provides the possibility to modify an existing Collection Select and also to create a new, custom query. In both cases, the class to be returned will be Varien_Db_Select by default, which you can continue working on with further method calls.

[code]$results = $conn->fetchAll("SELECT *, DATE_ADD( tn.`created_at` , INTERVAL tn.`duration_days` * 0.9 * 24 * 60 MINUTE ) as end_date FROM `tablename` as tn INNER JOIN `anothertablename` as atn ON (tn.atn_id = atn.id) WHERE tn.`somecolumn` = 1 GROUP BY atn.`groupcolumn`");[/code]

The above example is a very short and simple query, still it is not really clear and thus needs more time to comprehend for a developer who sees it for the first time. So let’s change its form:

[code]//in the installer you can get the connection object like this $this>getConnection();
$conn = $collection->getConnection();
$select = $conn->select()
        array('tn' => 'tablename'),
            'end_date' => new Zend_Db_Expr('DATE_ADD( tn.`created_at` , INTERVAL tn.`duration_days` * 0.9 * 24 * 60 MINUTE )')
        array('atn' => 'anothertablename'),'tn.atn_id = atn.id','*'
        'tn.`somecolumn` = ?',1

It is now much clearer. Now you have Select, it is time to call the necessary records. The simplest way to do that is $results = $conn->fetchAll($select); which only needs to be iterated.

Collection separation at display

There can be elements with different statuses in a single table. This is nothing new, and it is also known that there are cases where either A-status elements or B-status elements are displayed only on a page. However, these should be filtered on a collection basis, and not in a cycle in the Block or in the template file.

$entities = Mage::getResourceModel('module/some_collection');
$typesA = array();
$typesB = array();
foreach ($entities as $entity):
    if ($entity->getStatus() == 1 || $entity->getStatus() == 2):
        $typesA[] = $entity;
        $typesB[] = $entity;

If you divide a collection in a cycle into different parts, the result (allocated to different pages) of the things that you display on a page, can be a first page where you tell the user that the B-status element is not available, and then there is a 2nd or 3rd page where you see N number of B-status elements. Additionally, the limit is calculated for the whole collection and not for statuses, so the distribution of the elements within the groups will not be even.

//filtered for status, both collections limited to 10
$A = $this->getItemsToStatusA(10); 
$B = $this->getItemsToStatusB(10); 

foreach ($A as $item) {/*...*/}
foreach ($B as $item) {/*...*/}


Exceptions (erroneous runs) of Installer Scripts and how to handle them

In the case of installers, you should always prepare the script for handling errors that may arise. There can only be a version upgrade if everything is solved which is defined in the present version. This is an important point because sometimes it is not possible with all the installers to check every single attribute or element that were added by the previous installer. And it is not your task to check the work of others.

    //do what you have to do
} catch(Exception $e){
$installer->endSetup(); //this method will upgrade the version number

In my opinion, the simplest way to inspect the run of the installer script presented above is to check the version number of the module. This naturally entails that the script upgrades the version of the module only after a totally successful run.

if(Mage::getConfig()->getModuleConfig("Package_MyModule")->version == '1.5.3'){
        //do what you have to do
        $installer->endSetup(); //this method will upgrade the version number
    } catch(Exception $e){

This method, namely letting the present version be upgraded only if there has been a flawless run, also helps you avoid upgrading the version unnecessarily if our installer has faults. Consequently, other installers, e.g. data installers, which do not inspect if a given cms/page or cms/block exists already or not, are not run repeatedly.

Interrelated and sub collections

In the case of sub collection (parent-child) relations, the database queries inside the cycle are much slower. If possible, try to use the resources with fewer queries and more targeted filtering.

$mainCollection = Mage::getModel('module/main')->getCollection()
    ->addFieldToFilter('field', array('in', array('value1', 'value2', 'valueN')));

foreach ($mainCollection as $mainCollectionItem) {
    $subCollection = Mage::getModel('module/sub')->getCollection()
        ->addFieldToFilter('parent', $mainCollectionItem->getSomeField());
    foreach ($subCollection as $subItem) {

The above example is more demanding in terms of time and performance, it is better to call the collection beforehand and iterating through the items. The collections offer the possibility to return such elements (they already hold) that are attached to a given field. It is also possible to get all the values of the given fields of a collection, with which you can get the second collection and so on, without using a cycle.

$mainCollection = Mage::getResourceModel('module/main_collection')
    ->addFieldToFilter('field', array('in', array('value1', 'value2', 'valueN')));

$subCollection = Mage::getResourceModel('module/sub_collection')
    ->addFieldToFilter('parent', array('in'=>$mainCollection->getColumnValues('some_field')));

foreach ($mainCollection as $mainCollectionItem) {
    $mainSubCollection = $subCollection->getItemsByColumnValue(
        'parent', $mainCollectionItem->getColumnValues('some_field')
    foreach ($mainSubCollection as $subItem) {

As you can see in this example, you should also pay attention to the fact that while in the first case you can save all the item changes with a $subCollection->save(); call at the end, in the second case you cannot call a method since $subCollection->getItemsByColumnValue(‘parent’, …) returns an array. So you need to call it in the cycle with the items one by one. $subItem->save();

Preparation of Module for multi-language use

There is no need for the module to handle all languages by default, it is enough to have the default language plus English if it is not your default language.

    <label class="main label" for="next_input">This is the label of the input</label>
        <input type="text" name="next_input" id="next_input" placeholder="Next input" />

It is just a minor extra effort to prepare your module for displaying texts in other languages, even if they are not yet available.

    <label class="main label" for="next_input"><?php echo $this->__('This is the label of the input'); ?></label>
    <input type="text" name="next_input" id="next_input" placeholder="<?php echo $this->__('Next input'); ?>" />

Besides, it is a plus that the texts linked to the module are prepared for additional languages, it is just a little work to make it possible for the users to rewrite the texts in their preferred language, so they can easily find the appropriate foreign expressions in the newly downloaded module.

Using Helpers

Helper calls can be included in Blocks, phtmls, Controllers or Models. The point is to put such data, constant values or methods in the Helper that are used frequently or do not belong to any specific category. Obtaining a config value can be such a call Mage::getStoreConfig(‘module_config_path’); or config flag Mage::getStoreConfigFlag(‘module_config_path’); Defining a value CONSTANT MODULE_ENABLED_STATUS = 2; (can also be placed in a module linked to it), or other minor modules to be used in several places can also be included here.


All in all, it can be said that if you thoughtfully make code developments, then you will get a fast, stable and clear code in which all other experts can find what they look for. Even if it is a more complex solution, it is still worth investing in in the long run. When the quality of the code is in question, just think about what you would say when you ask yourself the following questions like “What does the code look like at first sight?” or “Have I exploited all the possibilities that I knew about?” Thus you can make sure you will deliver a state-of-the-art code.



55 replies
  1. Alphonse Girona says:

    I’m truly enjoying the design and layout of your site. It’s a very easy on the eyes which makes it much more enjoyable for me to come here and visit more often. Did you hire out a designer to create your theme? Excellent work!

  2. what is trending now says:

    It?¦s really a nice and helpful piece of information. I am glad that you shared this helpful information with us. Please keep us up to date like this. Thank you for sharing.

  3. buy stock market says:

    A person essentially help to make seriously articles I would state. This is the first time I frequented your web page and thus far? I surprised with the research you made to make this particular publish extraordinary. Wonderful job!

  4. Fiat Money says:

    Aw, this was a really nice post. In idea I wish to put in writing like this moreover – taking time and actual effort to make a very good article… but what can I say… I procrastinate alot and certainly not seem to get something done.

  5. erjilo pterin says:

    I love your blog.. very nice colors & theme. Did you create this website yourself? Plz reply back as I’m looking to create my own blog and would like to know wheere u got this from. thanks

  6. Download VivoSlot says:

    There are some fascinating points in time in this article however I don’t know if I see all of them heart to heart. There’s some validity but I will take hold opinion until I look into it further. Good article , thanks and we wish more! Added to FeedBurner as nicely

  7. erjilo pterin says:

    wonderful post, very informative. I wonder why the other experts of this sector don’t notice this. You must continue your writing. I am confident, you have a great readers’ base already!

  8. SSD KVM VPS says:

    Oh my goodness! a tremendous article dude. Thanks However I’m experiencing challenge with ur rss . Don’t know why Unable to subscribe to it. Is there anybody getting similar rss downside? Anybody who knows kindly respond. Thnkx

  9. hospedagem de site says:

    Hey there, I think your website might be having browser compatibility issues. When I look at your website in Ie, it looks fine but when opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping. I just wanted to give you a quick heads up! Other then that, very good blog!

  10. dominoqq online says:

    I think this is among the such a lot significant info for me. And i am glad reading your article. But wanna statement on few normal issues, The website taste is ideal, the articles is truly excellent : D. Excellent activity, cheers

  11. casas santa catarina says:

    I’m not sure where you are getting your info, but great topic. I needs to spend some time learning more or understanding more. Thanks for excellent info I was looking for this info for my mission.

  12. สล็อต says:

    Wow that was strange. I just wrote an very long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t show up. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Anyways, just wanted to say fantastic blog!

  13. autolikes says:

    Have you ever considered writing an e-book or guest authoring on other sites? I have a blog centered on the same topics you discuss and would really like to have you share some stories/information. I know my audience would enjoy your work. If you’re even remotely interested, feel free to send me an email.

  14. melhor iptv says:

    I am not sure where you’re getting your info, but great topic. I needs to spend some time studying much more or working out more. Thanks for magnificent info I used to be looking for this info for my mission.

  15. P'tits Tutos says:

    Good post and right to the point. I am not sure if this is in fact the best place to ask but do you folks have any ideea where to get some professional writers? Thank you :)

  16. School says:

    I would like to thnkx for the efforts you have put in writing this blog. I am hoping the same high-grade blog post from you in the upcoming as well. In fact your creative writing abilities has inspired me to get my own blog now. Really the blogging is spreading its wings quickly. Your write up is a good example of it.

  17. move to germany says:

    Thanks for sharing superb informations. Your web site is so cool. I’m impressed by the details that you have on this website. It reveals how nicely you perceive this subject. Bookmarked this web page, will come back for extra articles. You, my pal, ROCK! I found just the info I already searched everywhere and just could not come across. What an ideal web-site.

  18. car lamp coating says:

    Good write-up, I am regular visitor of one’s web site, maintain up the excellent operate, and It is going to be a regular visitor for a lengthy time.

  19. luxury car hire wedding says:

    The next time I read a blog, I hope that it doesnt disappoint me as much as this one. I mean, I know it was my choice to read, but I actually thought youd have something interesting to say. All I hear is a bunch of whining about something that you could fix if you werent too busy looking for attention.

  20. web host uk says:

    I really appreciate this post. I have been looking all over for this! Thank goodness I found it on Bing. You’ve made my day! Thank you again

  21. check this says:

    I?¦ve recently started a website, the information you offer on this web site has helped me tremendously. Thank you for all of your time & work.

  22. Download Joker123 says:

    Hello! I could have sworn I’ve been to this blog before but after browsing through some of the post I realized it’s new to me. Anyways, I’m definitely happy I found it and I’ll be book-marking and checking back frequently!

  23. VivoSlot Gamming says:

    I’m still learning from you, but I’m trying to achieve my goals. I definitely enjoy reading all that is posted on your site.Keep the information coming. I enjoyed it!

  24. Download FafaSlot says:

    This is the right blog for anyone who wants to find out about this topic. You realize so much its almost hard to argue with you (not that I actually would want…HaHa). You definitely put a new spin on a topic thats been written about for years. Great stuff, just great!

  25. Situs Slot Online says:

    I have learn several good stuff here. Certainly price bookmarking for revisiting. I wonder how so much effort you set to make the sort of wonderful informative web site.

  26. hospedagem de site barata says:

    Hi , I do believe this is an excellent blog. I stumbled upon it on Yahoo , i will come back once again. Money and freedom is the best way to change, may you be rich and help other people.

  27. Kasi Sarwinski says:

    I simply want to tell you that I am just new to blogging and truly loved this web page. Likely I’m likely to bookmark your blog . You amazingly have really good articles and reviews. Bless you for revealing your webpage.

  28. Slot Game says:

    I keep listening to the news update talk about receiving free online grant applications so I have been looking around for the best site to get one. Could you advise me please, where could i acquire some?

  29. Daftar Joker388 says:

    naturally like your website but you need to test the spelling on quite a few of your posts. Many of them are rife with spelling issues and I in finding it very troublesome to inform the reality on the other hand I will surely come back again.

  30. Joker123.Net says:

    Pretty nice post. I simply stumbled upon your weblog and wished to say that I have truly enjoyed browsing your blog posts. In any case I’ll be subscribing on your rss feed and I hope you write again soon!

  31. um milhão says:

    It is really a nice and helpful piece of information. I am glad that you shared this useful info with us. Please keep us up to date like this. Thanks for sharing.

  32. Games podcasts says:

    Hi, I think your site might be having browser compatibility issues. When I look at your website in Safari, it looks fine but when opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping. I just wanted to give you a quick heads up! Other then that, fantastic blog!

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.