Data Container Array

Data Container Arrays (DCAs) are used to describe a Data Container for holding any type of record. The meta data in these DCAs is used by the Contao core engine to determine how to list records, how to render back end forms for these records and how to edit and save each record.

The actual data container can be anything and is implemented using a data container Driver. The three drivers available in the Contao core are Table (used for any database records), File (used for the system configuration for example) and Folder (used for file listings). Each driver also offers specific configuration options, e.g. with the Table driver you are able to define relations to other database tables. All examples in the Contao documentation usually refer to the Table driver, as this is the most common use-case.

The DCA files of all active modules are loaded one after the other (according to the bundle configuration), so that every module can override the existing configuration.

Creating a DCA

To create a DCA you must first decide on a table name. This table name is then used throughout the configuration as well as within other places of the Contao framework (e.g. models).

All table names managed by a DCA always start with the prefix tl_ (which officially stands for tüdelü). The name of the file containing the DCA configuration needs to be the same name as the table and must be put in the contao/dca folder.

Within that file you configure your Data Container Array within the $GLOBALS['TL_DCA'] array. So if your table name is tl_example, then your DCA will be created like this:

// contao/dca/tl_example.php
$GLOBALS['TL_DCA']['tl_example'] = [
    'config' => […],
    'list' => […],
    'fields' => […],
    'palettes' => […],

See the DCA reference for all available configuration possibilities.

Registering callbacks

Registering DCA callbacks is similar to registering to hooks. See the callback reference for all available callbacks in the DCA. Depending on the callback you are subscribing to, your callback will receive a certain sets of arguments and is expected to return certain data - or void.

For a callback for example your callback might look like this:

// src/EventListener/Dca/ContentListener.php
namespace App\EventListener\Dca;

use Contao\DataContainer;

class ContentListener
    public function onGroupCallback(string $group, string $mode, string $field, array $record, DataContainer $dc): string
        // Custom logic

        return $group;

Using service tagging

This feature is only available in Contao 4.7 and later.

Since Contao 4.7 DCA callbacks can be registered using the contao.callback service tag. Each tag can have the following options:

Option Type Description
name string Must be contao.callback.
table string The target table of the DCA.
target string The target callback within the DCA with the array positions separated by periods. The last element is the callback name - however the _callback suffix is optional.
method string Optional: the method name in the service. Otherwise the method name will be onCallbacknameCallback automatically.
priority integer Optional: priority of the callback. By default it will be executed after all other callbacks according to the loading order of the bundles. Anything with higher than 0 will be executed before legacy callbacks. Anything with lower than 0 will be executed after legacy callbacks.

The callback reference lists the appropriate target names for the callbacks.

Callback listeners can be added to the service configuration in the following way:

        public: true
            - { name: 'contao.callback', table: 'tl_content', target: 'config.onload', priority: -1 }
            - { name: 'contao.callback', table: 'tl_content', target: 'fields.module.options' }

Using the PHP array configuration

This is the old way of using DCA callbacks prior to Contao 4.7. The table tl_content and target definition fields.module.options translates to a PHP array configuration in the following way for example:

// contao/dca/tl_content.php
$GLOBALS['TL_DCA']['tl_content']['fields']['module']['options_callback'] = [
    \App\DataContainer\ContentListener::class, 'onModuleOptionsCallback'

Note that you have to add the suffix _callback to the last key - except for these callbacks:

  • fields.field.wizard
  • fields.field.xlabel
  • list.sorting.panel_callback.subpanel

Also note that the above example is a singular callback, i.e. it only supports one subscriber. For callbacks that support multiple callback subscribers you’ll have to append the callable:

// contao/dca/tl_content.php
$GLOBALS['TL_DCA']['tl_content']['config']['onload_callback'][] = [
    \App\DataContainer\ContentListener::class, 'onLoadCallback'

See the reference for which callbacks support multiple subscribers and which do not.

Custom Drivers

It is possible to create custom DCA drivers by following these requirements:

  • The driver’s class must start with DC_.
  • The driver’s class must be available in the global namespace.
  • The driver must extend from \Contao\DataContainer.

The driver can implement any of the following interfaces:

  • \listable
  • \editable

When creating your own driver it is probably best to just have a look at the existing drivers in order to get an idea on what is possible and how it needs to be done: