tbDuplicateKeyPlugin - 0.5.1

Converts MySQL duplicate key errors to Symfony validation messages

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This code allows you to easily extend admin generated modules to handle duplicate key errors gracefully, reporting them via the usual error handling mechanisms instead of an exception message. This implementation detects the native MySQL duplicate key error. This is a Good Thing because if we implemented this as a Symfony validator there would still be a race condition when two users insert an object by the same name (or other unique field) at the same time.


This code is Propel- and MySQL-specific. It wouldn't be MySQL-specific if Propel had portable detection of duplicate keys and it's really unfortunate that it doesn't. However this plugin also takes advantage of a MySQL-specific command to figure out which column caused the duplicate key error.


To use this plugin you must extend two methods in your admin-generated action class: validateEdit() and saveObject($object) (substitute the name of the class you're adminning for Object).

Here's an example implementation of validateEdit() for a class called 'Venue':

public function validateEdit()
  // We must pass the name of the model class we're editing
  // (NOT necessarily the same as the name of the admin module).
  if (!tbDuplicateKeyTools::validate('Venue'))
    return false;
  // Any other extra validation you want to do etc
  return true;

You must also extend saveObject() (replace Object with the model class you're adminning). Here is a sample implementation for a model class called Venue. Note the need to catch exceptions and pass them to tbDuplicateKeyTools::examine(), along with the name of your admin module (often, but NOT always, the same as the name of the model class but in LOWER CASE):

protected function saveVenue($venue)
  } catch Exception ($e)
    // OUR admin module for the venue class is called venue. 
    // But YOURS is called whatever you named it.
    tbDuplicateKeyTools::examine('venue', $e);

If the examine method recognizes a duplicate key exception, it will stop execution by calling the forward method to retry the edit action, after first setting a flash attribute that ensurs that your validator picks up on the fact that a duplicate key error exists.

That's it- you're good to go! With these two changes in place, any duplicate key errors caused by user input will automagically result in an understandable error message pointing to the offending field.

Note that if you have keys made up of multiple fields only the first field will be flagged. This is a limitation of MySQL's error reporting.


  1. Some future version of MySQL or Propel may report duplicate key errors in a radically different manner... though there is probably a lot of code out there by now detecting them this way. Just don't be shocked and amazed if Propel 2.0 or MySQL 7.0 breaks this code.

  2. Yes, the examine method will re-throw exceptions it doesn't recognize. This means that you can catch exceptions thrown by it if you wish. But it will also throw an sfStopException when it successfully detects a duplicate key error. So take care not to interfere with exceptions of the sfStopException class.

  3. tbDuplicateKeyPlugin outputs its error message by setting a flash attribute as a message to the next request, then invoking the sfRequest::forward method. Since forward() is implemented internally and does not result in a genuinely new browser request, my expectation is that flash attributes will work in this case even if the user is not accepting session cookies. So this implementation should be valid even with cookies turned off. But I have not rigorously tested that. Your input would be appreciated.

  4. The changes in the Symfony 1.1 and 1.2 admin generators don't look drastic enough to break this code, so I've enabled it for those versions as well. But I haven't tried it with those releases yet myself. Your input would be appreciated.


tom@punkave.com www.punkave.com www.boutell.com


0.5.1: markdown fixes, other documentation fixes. No code changes.

0.5.0: initial release.