Validator for Agile Toolkit

dev-master 2013-05-10 13:48 UTC

This package is auto-updated.

Last update: 2024-07-14 09:20:15 UTC


This is a powerful validation library for your Agile Toolkit applications and more.

Goals of Agile Validation

There are very few validation libraries with a simple and consise syntax, so I have made this Addon.

Agile Validation continues on the design principles of the framework, and is very similar in it's design to jQuery Chains or DQSL chaining. Here is a typical validation query:

$validator->is('name|len|<5?Name is too short');

The library allows us to create number of rules, which are sequentally checked in a consistent pattern. Here are some of my goals which I achieve with Agile Validation Library:

1. Minimalistic syntax

Developers avoid validation, because it requires them to write a lot of code. Validation should be easy to define and easy to update. Current libraries require the use of complex structures and require a lot of writing.

Agile Toolkit already provides exception-based validation, where your model can perform any validation you can think of inside beforeSave or afterLoad hooks. The mechanism of displaying errors, checking the fields is there, but this approach often requires developer to write many lines of code instead of short set of rules.

With Agile Validation Library you can define the rules in a short and smart way:

    'addr1_postcode|to_alpha|to_trim|uk_zip?Not a UK postcode',

It might seem that the above code is cryptic, but once you learn to read the rules, you will love using them in your application.

Let me quickly guide you through the example above.

  • the example features 3 rule-sets, each applied and checked individually.
  • the rules are applied on the fields of a $model object
  • rules are checked before model is saved
  • first rule-set applies to 2 fields - name and surname:
  • "!" will require both fields (??? or only last field ???) to be non-empty
  • "len" convertor will apply any further rules on the length of the field
  • 5..100 specifies allowed range of length of name and surname
  • if name or surname is missing or their length is outside of specified range, appropriate error message will be shown
  • second rule-set is applied on addr1_postcode field and it uses some "normalizers":
  • field will be filtered for alpha characters and trimmed down
  • after normalization it's checked against format of UK post code
  • "uk_zip" rule is using a custom error message, which will appear underneath a form's field
  • third rule is applied on addr2_postcode field (post code for 2nd address):
  • rule is applied only if field "has_addr1" is true
  • rule inherits all rules from the addr1_postcode field - therefore will be normalized too

2. Great Unique Concept

The validation is implemented as an add-on, therefore you don't have to use it if you don't like this approach. The concept of a validation engine is based on few key concepts which you must understand before using.

  • Field selector - specifying fields
  • Rule processing - how rules are applied
  • Rule types - filters, convertors and others
  • Using rules to normalize field value
  • Aliases and shorter syntax
  • Logical operations
  • Using closures/callbacks
  • Adding your own rules
  • Extending validator for special fields (e.g. upload image validation)

3. Integration

Validator can work on it's own but is neatly integrated with the rest of Agile Toolkit. You have control over when validator actions are performed. By default validation occurs before saving model, but this can be changed.

You can also use validator with a simple array (hash) or any other object which supports array-access, even objects from outside of Agile Toolkit. In such case, to specify where data is stored, you can use with() method.

4. Error Messages

Writing meaningful error-messages is a huge problem. That's why one of the goals of Agile Validator is to automatically generate reasonable error messages. (??? Localization of error messages ???)

Getting Started

To create your first validation, use the following inside your model's init method:


Next create a CRUD with your model and try adding values:

  • age as string
  • age value 10 or less
  • email in incorrect format

You should see a proper error message below the field when trying to save these incorrect values.

Understanding Rules Format

Ruleset is a set of rules and consists of 2 parts:

  • field selector
  • one or multiple rules

In the most basic form, rule-sets look like this:




While using pipes sometimes is easier to read especially if you know how pipes work in UNIX. You can also specify unlimited number of arguments to the is() method and this approach is slightly more flexible because in such case You can use pipe as part of the value too.

1. Rule Processing

Validator stores all the rules you have defined, but does not apply them until certain call-back occurs. If you have added validator inside Model then default call-back is beforeSave. If you have added validator inside Form then rules are checked during submit event.

You can manually process the rules too by calling now() method or specify a different hook with on().

Until rules are processed you can add as many rules as you like. You can also group rules inside an array and feed them inside the validator:


or if would like to avoid pipes:


2. Argument Consumption

Some rules take arguments. For example in rule is used to check if the value exists in an array. The next argument after in is considered to be list of possible values instead of a rule:




You must check documentation of a specific rule if you want to know how many arguments it takes.

3. Aliases

To make syntax shorter, a number of special rule formats are used. For instance:


is the same as


You must remember that every short syntax also have a long-syntax behind the scenes.

Field Definition

First argument always defines field or fields. The validators method expandField is responsible for converting the notation into list of fields.


  • including fields:
  • single field: "email"
  • multiple fields: "email,name,surname"
  • wildcards: "_date" or "user"
  • all fields: "*" (special case of wildcards)
  • excluding fields - starts with dash "-":
  • all fields except name and surname: "*,-name,-surname"
  • all fields matching "_date" exclude matching "accept": "_date,-accept"
  • excluding takes precedence

Validator will process this during the designated time (such as beforeSave). Use of asterisk or wildcard assumes that your data source is either extended from Model, has method getAllData() (??? what is getAllData()? maybe getRows() ???) or can be passed to array_keys().

NOTE: You can use only alpha-numeric and underscore symbols for field names!

Specifying array of fields

You may specify a list of fields using array. Next example will create one rule-set which will be applied on 2 fields and require both to be specified.


Next example is to remind you that is() may also take first argument as "multi-array" (??? is it really multi-array ???):


In this case two rules will be created, each on one field and they would require that field to be specified. Further on I will no longer point out different ways to specify rulesets except where it's important, so keep in mind all the possibilities.

Model field groups

Models supports field groups:


You may now specify fields by group:


You can use asterisk or wildcard symbol too:


Exclamation sign

NOTE: Validation rules are only there for validation. They will NOT affect presentation of the form. That's why you can still specify field types, display options and other flags inside field definition.

Exclamation sign may appear at the end of field or any rule:


The use of exclamation sign as shown above will convert into the following rules:


Trim will remove initial, trailing and duplicate space. If you don't wish to trim the value, then you should use full-formatted 'required' rule:

$validator->is('name','required'); // will allow you to use "  " as name

Field comparison

You may use equation sign inside field definition to compare two fields. Here is short example and resulting rule:

$validator->is('pass2=pass1');    // same as:

Question mark

If you finish the field with a question mark, then it's considered to be a mandatory field with a user-defined error message:

$validator->is('name?type your name here');   // same as:
$validator->is('name|trim|required?type your name here');

??? Localization ???

Use with Model's Fields

Agile Toolkit models can invoke your validator of choice if you:

  1. Define property $validator_class in your model. By default it's "Validator", but you may use your own class.
  2. Call ->validate() method on a field.

The following code:

$model->addField('age')->validate('int|>20?You must be over 20');

is identical to this code:

$model->add($model->validator_class)->is('age|int|>20?You must be over 20');

NOTE: validate() method return field object for chaining purposes and not Validator object.

Rule Definition

As you learn more about validator, you must understand one important concept about how it works:

  1. When new rule is processed, the value is copied from the data-source into a temporary variable, which I'll call accumulator.
  2. Rules have access to accumulator, and name of the field.
  3. Rules may "read" next ruleset arguments and use them as an arguments for validation.
  4. Rules may access other fields of current data-source record.

Filter rule

If rule looks at accumulator and then throws exception based on condition, then it's called a Filter Rule:

function rule_int($acc)
    $v = $acc;
    if (!is_int($v)) {
        throw $this->exception('Must be int');
    return $acc; // always return original value

Some of the filter rules are: int, regexp_match, email, alpha

NOTE: Filter rule don't change original and accumulator values.

Convertor rule

If rule looks at accumulator and returns non-null value, then this new value is stored inside accumulator for the next ruleset operation. Rule like that is called Convertor Rule:

function rule_len($acc)
    return strlen($acc); // return changed value

Some of convertor rules are: trim, len, date_diff

NOTE: Convertor rule don't change original value. It change only accumulator value if needed.

Normalization rule

Often neglected by developers, normalization makes sure your user-input looks nice and clean. For example, when users enter email addresses, they often leave spaces around it or when specifying number may accidentally paste some character, such as enter or tab along with the number.

It's better that those values are cleaned up before they are saved. Many of the rules can be used with the "to_" prefix. This will cause validator to update the data source with the value of accumulator after rule processing is complete.

For example (??? both work the same ???):




If you add a trailing pipe (??? I don't like trailing pipe idea. There should be another symbol used in this case. Pipe are for separating elements and let it be so ???) to your validation rule, then this will copy accumulator back into the data source:


I highly encourage you to use normalization in your software. But You must use it with caution, as use of normalization can sometimes cause undesired results:


This will replace email with it's length because of trailing pipe. Probably not what you wanted. The correct rule would be:


NOTE: Normalization rule can change original and accumulator values.

Multi-field operations, copy

Sometimes you would like to perform operation between multiple fields, such as storing length of one filed inside another or splitting a field into two fields. This can be done by applying convertors carefully and using rule copy. This rule will copy value of accumulator from the field you specify.

->is('name|copy|full_name|trim|s/.* //|')
->is('surname|copy|full_name|trim|s/ .*//|')

NOTE: Basically copy will change original field value to accumulator value which is passed as an infinitely long argument from sub-rule.


It's only safe to use alphanumeric characters, digits and underscores for rules and values when you use pipe-delimited rule format. Other characters are generally reserved for aliases. For rules that's OK, because rules are using PHP-method names anyway.

When rule contains any other characters, it is considered to be an alias and validator will try to convert it into a regular rule. Aliases below are listed in order in which they are verified:

  • a-z -> alpha
  • a-z0-9 -> alpha_num (??? case sensivity ???)
  • 0-9a-z -> alpha_num (??? case sensivity ???)
  • ! -> mandatory
  • 2..4 -> between|2|4
  • >4 -> gt|4
  • !=5 -> ne|5 (??? this can be hard to distinguish from required or mandatory rule ???)
  • b-z -> regexp_match|/^[b-z]*$/
  • /^a/ -> regexp_match|/^a/
  • s/a/z/ -> to_regexp|a|z (??? what is z and why we need trailing slash ???)

Error messages

Each rule have an appropriate error message defined. For example, rule ">20" produces message "{{caption}} must be more than {{arg1}}".

If you have used some convertors they may also alter error message: "length of {{caption}}"

"Length of Name must be more than 20"

You can specify a custom error message if you append it through question mark to a rule:

>20?Must be over 20

All error messages are passed through exceptions which also implies that error messages will be localized using $this->api->_($error). Refer to localization documentation for further information. (??? there are no fully working built-in localization support in ATK :) ???)

If you are willing to specify some fancy error message with dangerous characters you can use the following format:

$validtor->is('age','int?','Must be numeric');

When rule also expects an argument, then the argument for that rule must come first.

$validator->is('age','!=?','10','Age must be 10');

(??? I don't like !=? because ! and = are two different rules and should be separated with pipe ???)

Inside error-message you can also use some of the parameters:

  • {{name}} - actual name of the field (e.g. user_name)
  • {{caption}} - caption of the field (if model), label of form or otherwise same as {{name}}
  • {{arg1}} - first argument for a rule
  • {{arg2}} - second argument for a rule
  • {{arg3}} and so on.

Use of closures

Previously I have explained how rule_X methods are called and how they are being passed an accumulator. If you specify a closure as a rule, then this closure is called. The first argument is a validator object, second argument is accumulator and third is name of the field. You can interface with validator to perform more complex operations. See below "Validator's Methods". (??? There are no such chapter "Validator's Methods" ???)


    $d = new DateTime($acc);
    return $d->diff(new DateTime())->format('%y')
},'>=18?Must be at least {{arg1}} years old');


Naming of comparison rules are inspired by the UNIX bash comparison operations. >5, <5, >=5, <=5, =5, !=5 are changed into gt, lt, ge, le, eq, ne. All of the methods will consume next argument and use it as a value to compare with. If the argument is array, then the contents of this array is considered to be a sub-rule.


Frankly - with what have been done so far, sub-rules is a intuitive next step. Sub-rules will pause the processing of your rule to go through another rule and then substitute it with resulting accumulator.

    'eq?Password length must be the same',array('password2','len')

You can also call sub-rules explicitly by using as rule. While normally the argument for as is name of the field, from which rules are collected, it can also read rules from an array argument.

For example: (??? Need example here ???)

Macros / Use of non-existent fields

You can use rule system to create non-existent fields and then reference them:


Let's take this to another level as we usually can with Agile Toolkit:

class MyValidator extends Validator
    function init()

Next you can specify this validator for your model and rely on those nonexistent fields which can now be used as a macro:


If you specify error message to as, it will use it instead of the error message generated inside the sub-rule.

$validator->is('email|as?Does not match fancy email format|#myemail');

And and Or

You may rely on And / Or logic to define complex dependencies between multiple fields:

$validator->is(':or', rules1, rules2, rules3)
$validator->is(':and', rules1, rules2, rules3)


    ':or?Must be male over 10y or female over 12y',


  1. quite strange syntax.
  2. not sure which error message to show - the one set with "or" rule or the one generated in sub-rule. ???)

Unit conversion

There are few converor rules to convert your units into kb, mb or gb. Those convertors would divide accumulator by 1024 appropriate number of times.

Conditional rule - if (array)

By default if rule consumes next argument and uses it as to see if the other field is specified. What if you would like to use a more sophisticated check? If also supports sub-rules


You can also use a call-backs as an argument:

$validator->is('addr', 'if?Must specify address if you deliver',
    function($v, $addr, $addr_name, $data) {
        return $data['method'] == 'deliver';

Rule 'if' will consume up to 3 arguments if you specify them. You can skip argument by supplying null or just empty string. The first argument can be a call-back or sub-rule. If second argument is not specified, then the field will simply be validated as mandatory if call-back function or sub-rule in first argument will return "true". If second argument is specified it is then used as a rule, which will only apply when if is true. Third argument is "else"-rule.


The only way how you can omit arguments is by leaving if as a last rule. Having if in your rule-set will not bypass any rules prior to it.

Comparing fields

When you use comparison operatiors either by their alias ('=') or by using the rule name 'eq', you specify the value:


If you want to compare with other field you can either specify it inside the field or use one of the methods with "f" at the end: eqf, nef, ltf, gtf, lef, get:


Member of array

using "in" and "!in" (or not_in) you can verify if element is inside set of allowed values:


The second format allows you to use any value inside array, they can even contain commas or pipes.

Extension - Validator_Table

Agile Toolkit implements validator through a number of classes:

  • AbstractValidator - implements only rule logic, but no actual fields. Conditions, comparisons and sub-rule logic is implemented. Will also support Model data source.
  • Validator - adds rules which are commonly used for validation.
  • Validator_Table - assumes that you use Model_Table and introduce number of ORM-based extensions.

Validator rules have been explained above, however Validator_Table offers the following enhancements:

Avoiding duplicates (unique)

In some cases you would like to avoid to have multiple user accounts with same email. Rule 'unique' will attempt to find another record with same email and if it is found, will produce error.


Looking up inside DSQL

Using $dsql, you may specify a sub-query which can be used for lookup of valid elements:


Validator will perform a query such as: "select 1 if [field] in ($dsql)" (with proper quotes).

Verify other model

You may create a rule, which attempts to load a record from a separate model:


You may also avoid the model:


if you define the field through hasOne. With model integration this rule can be as simple as:


Extension - Validator_Image

When you use Filestore add-on, it also introduces additional validator class, which can be used to perform further checks on image field. Here is a syntax:


You can call validate() method several times or specify array with rules.

  • format - returns format of uploaded image
  • size - returns size of uploaded file in bytes
  • height - returns height in pixels
  • width - returns width in pixels

Validation defined on the image field by default will be using an upload hook, so that error will be displayed not during form submission, but when you are still uploading the image.

More Examples

 'email|to_email|!',           # convert to email and must not be empty
 'base_price|to_int|10..100',  # convert to int, and must be within range
                               # clean up postcode then validate
 'pass1=pass2',                # passwords should match
                               # uppercase for comparison only
 'addr2|asif|addr1',           # validate addr2 like addr1 if addr1 is present
 'hobby|s/[^,]//|len|>5?Max of 5 hobbies can be specified'

Changing hook

As I mentioned, by default validation is performed on beforeSave hook of the model. If used with form, the validation is performed during submit. It is possible to change the hook for a specific rule by using @hook. This is converted into "on" rule:


This will affect only a single rule and may result in creation of another copy of Controller_Validator, so use ->on method of a validator instead of using this for every single rule.

Further Ideas

Validator can normalize rule definitions as often explained above. Although this will not support all of the cases, normalization can be pretty awesome if you are willing to do client-based validation (in browser or mobile app)


This will return array of rule-sets like this:


Each rule name would be expressed using alpha-numeric and underscore. Argument can be value or array of values.