About this document

This document describes the global array called $GLOBALS['TCA']. This array is a layer on top of the database tables that TYPO3 can operate on. It is a very central element of the TYPO3 architecture.

Almost all code examples used in this manual come either from the TYPO3 source code itself, from the extension examples, or from extension styleguide. Extension styleguide comes with a huge list of TCA examples and field combinations. Installing it locally in some test environment is a good idea since the extension is great as a "show-off" on what can be done with TCA. Even experienced developers will find things they did not know before.

What is $GLOBALS['TCA']?

The Table Configuration Array (or $GLOBALS['TCA'], TCA) is a global array in TYPO3 which extends the definition of database tables beyond what can be done strictly with SQL. First and foremost $GLOBALS['TCA'] defines which tables are editable in the TYPO3 backend. Database tables with no corresponding entry in $GLOBALS['TCA'] are "invisible" to the TYPO3 backend. The $GLOBALS['TCA'] definition of a table also covers the following:

  • Relations between that table and other tables
  • What fields should be displayed in the backend and with which layout
  • How should a field be validated (e.g. required, integer, etc.)
  • How a field is used in the frontend by Extbase and any extension that may refer to this information

TCA can be seen as the glue between the DataHandler which takes care of persisting data into the database, and the FormEngine which renders table rows in the Backend. TCA tells both of these main core constructs how they should behave for specific tables, fields and relations. Additionally, some parts of the Frontend rendering process also utilize TCA information, for instance the extbase MVC relies on it.

This array is highly extendable using extensions. Extensions can add fields to existing tables and add new tables. Several required extensions that are always loaded, already deliver some TCA files in their Configuration/TCA directories.

Most importantly, the extension "core" comes with a definition of pages, be_users and further tables needed by the whole system. The extension "frontend" comes with the tables tt_content, fe_users, sys_template and more. See the directories typo3/sysext/core/Configuration/TCA/ and typo3/sysext/frontend/Configuration/TCA/ for the complete list of the TYPO3 CMS tables.

The TCA definition of a new table with the name "database-table-name" must be done in the extension directory Configuration/TCA/ with database-table-name.php as filename. An example is EXT:sys_note/Configuration/TCA/sys_note.php for table "sys_note". This file will be found by the bootstrap code (if starting a TYPO3 request). It must return an array with the content of the TCA setting or NULL if the table should not be defined (depending on the extension's internal logic). The return value of any loaded file will be cached, so there must either be no dynamic PHP code in it or care must be taken to clear the system cache after each change in such files. See the t3api docs for more information on how extensions can add and change TCA.

The TYPO3 core bootstrap compiles the final TCA on first call by loading all files from the different locations, and caches the result. On subsequent calls this relatively huge array is then rather quickly loaded from cache and is made available as $GLOBALS['TCA'] in almost all normal access patterns like Frontend, Backend and CLI requests.

TCA main array structure

Table entries (first level)

The "first level" of the $GLOBALS['TCA'] array is made of the table names (as they appear in the database):

Here three tables, pages, tt_content and tx_examples_haiku are shown as examples.

Inside tables (second level)

Each table is further defined by an array which configures how the system handles the table, both for the display and the processing in the backend. The various parts on this second level are called "sections".

The general structure (looking at a single table) is as follows:

The following table provides a brief description of the various sections of $GLOBALS['TCA']['some_table']. Each section is covered in more details in its own chapter.

['ctrl'] The table

The "ctrl" section contains properties for the table in general.

These are basically divided in two main categories:

  • properties which affect how the table is displayed and handled in the backend interface . This includes which icon, what name, which columns contains the title value, which column defines the type value etc.
  • properties which determine how it is processed by the system (TCE). This includes publishing control, "deleted" flag, whether the table can only be edited by admin-users, may only exist in the tree root etc.

For all tables configured in $GLOBALS['TCA'] this section must exist.

Full reference

['interface'] Backend interface handling

The "interface" section contains properties related to the tables display in the backend, mostly the Web > List module.

Full reference

['columns'] Individual fields

The "columns" section contains configuration for each table field (also called "column") which can be edited in the backend.

The configuration includes both properties for the display in the backend as well as the processing of the submitted data.

Each field can be configured as a certain "type" (e.g. checkbox, selector, input field, text area, file or db-relation field, user defined etc.) and for each type a separate set of additional properties applies. These properties are clearly explained for each type.

Full reference and ['config'] section.

['types'] Form layout for editing

The "types" section defines how the fields in the table (configured in the "columns" section) should be arranged inside the editing form; in which order, with which "palettes" (see below) and with which possible additional features applied.

Full reference

['palettes'] Palette fields order

A palette is just a list of fields which will be arranged horizontally side-by-side.

Full reference

Deeper levels

All properties on the second level either have their own properties or contain a further hierarchy.

In the case of the [columns] section, this will be the fields themselves. For the [types] and [palettes] section this will be the list of all possible types and palettes.

Properties scope

In the detail reference one or more scopes are given for each property. They indicate which area is affected by a given property. The various scopes are explained below:

A "display" property will only affect the backend forms themselves. They have no impact on the values, nor on the database.
This stands for "processing". Such properties have an impact on the values entered (for example, filtering them) or how they are written to the database (for example, dates transformed to time stamps).
Such a property influences only the data type with regards to the database structure (for example, dates kept as datetime fields).
Search properties are related to the general search feature provided by the TYPO3 backend.

Because some things never fit in precise categories, there may be properties with a special scope. The meaning will be explained in the description of the property itself.


Before you read on, let's just refresh the meaning of a few concepts mentioned on the next pages:

Short for TYPO3 Core Engine. Also referred to as "DataHandler". The corresponding class TYPO3\CMS\Core\DataHandling\DataHandler should ideally handle all updates to records made in the backend of TYPO3. The class will handle all the rules which may be applied to each table correctly. It will also handle logging, versioning, history and undo features, and copying, moving, deleting etc.
"list of"
Typically used like "list of field names". Whenever "list of" is used it means a list of strings separated by comma and with NO space between the values.
field name
The name of a field from a database table. Another word for the same is "column" but it is used more rarely, however the meaning is exactly the same.
record type
A record can have different types, determined by the value of a certain field in the record. This field is defined by the type property of the [ctrl] section. It affects which fields are displayed in backend form (see the "types" configuration). The record type can be considered as a switch in the interpretation of the whole record.
LLL reference
A localized string fetched from a locallang file by prefixing the string with LLL:.