Creating a new Admin menu item

Best practices for adding a link to a menu

Let’s say that you have a new tool (plugin, addon, etc) named new_tool.php that you want to plug into the Tools menu.

Most of the files that you distribute in the file are identical with previous Zen Cart versions:

  1. /YOUR_ADMIN/new_tool.php. Contains the code that implements your new tool.

  2. /YOUR_ADMIN/includes/extra_datafiles/new_tool_filenames.php. Contains the filename (without extension) definition for your new tool, e.g. define('FILENAME_NEW_TOOL', 'new_tool');.

    Be careful to leave off the .php extension when doing this.

  3. /YOUR_ADMIN/includes/languages/english/extra_definitions/new_tool_name.php. Contains the menu entry text definition for your new tool, e.g. define('BOX_TOOLS_NEW_TOOL', 'New Tool');. Can be repeated as multiple files for additional languages if needed.

  4. /YOUR_ADMIN/includes/languages/english/new_tool.php. Contains the language-specific defines for your new tool; the filename of the language file must be the same as the filename of the tool itself. Multiple language files may be used.

  5. To install the actual menu entry, you can use either one file to do the install without any messages being displayed, using /YOUR_ADMIN/includes/functions/extra_functions/init_new_tool.php, or if you want to display a message indicating that your tool has been installed, you’ll need two files (/YOUR_ADMIN/includes/auto_loaders/config.new_tool.php and /YOUR_ADMIN/includes/init_includes/init_new_tool.php instead of the extra_functions file):

The config.new_tool.php file will contain something similar to:

$autoLoadConfig[200][] = array(
    'autoType' => 'init_script',
    'loadFile' => 'init_new_tool.php'

In either case, the init_new_tool.php will contain something like:

if (!defined('IS_ADMIN_FLAG')) {
    die('Illegal Access');

// Register the New Tools tool into the admin menu structure.
// NOTES:  
// 1) Once this file has run once and you see the Tools > New Tool link in the admin
// menu structure, it is safe to delete this file (unless you have other functions that
// are initialized in the file).
// 2) If you have multiple items to add to the admin-level menus, then you should 
// register each of the pages here, just make sure that the "page key" is unique or 
// a debug-log will be generated!
if (function_exists('zen_register_admin_page')) {
    if (!zen_page_key_exists('toolsNewTool')) {
            '' , 

        // Optionally display a message here, using the $messageStack
        $messageStack->add_session(BOX_TOOLS_NEW_TOOL . ' installed', 'success');
  • The value toolsNewTool is a (hopefully) unique value that identifies your new tool.
  • The values BOX_TOOLS_NEW_TOOL and FILENAME_NEW_TOOL are defined within the other files within your toolset.
  • The fourth parameter (’’) has any parameters that your tool might require. Rarely used, except when you’re adding a configuration-page element.
  • The fifth parameter ('tools' in the example) identifies which of the high-level menu items your tool “attaches” to, one of: configuration, catalog, modules, customers, taxes, localization, reports, tools, gv, access, or extras.
  • The sixth parameter (‘Y’) identifies whether (‘Y’) or not (‘N’) to display the page on the admin menu.
  • The seventh (optional) parameter is the sort order for the page, i.e. where it lives on the drop-down menu in relation to the sort order of others. Leave this entry empty and the function will place new_tool at the bottom of the selected menu dropdown.

To remove your menu item, in the case a store-owner chooses to un-install your plugin, simply include a file in your distribution zip-file named /uninstall_new_page.sql that contains

DELETE FROM admin_pages WHERE page_key = 'toolsNewTool';


  • Instead of distributing the init_new_tool.php file, you could include instructions to install using the Admin Access Management > Admin Page Registration tool.

    1. Set Page Key to toolsNewTool
    2. Set Page Name to BOX_TOOLS_NEW_TOOL
    3. Set Page File Name to FILENAME_NEW_TOOL
    4. Leave Page Parameters blank
    5. Select “Tools” from the Menu dropdown
    6. Check the Show on Menu box
    7. (optional) Set the Sort Order value to position your new tool on the displayed menu dropdown.
  • If you don’t see your newly added item, it’s likely somewhere in the middle of the menu’s dropdown list.

  • Use 999 (or any other large number) for the sort order value if you want to ensure that your item is at the bottom of the menu’s list.

  • To reposition an item within one of the admin menus, use your cPanel’s phpMyAdmin tool and browse the admin_pages table to find the added menu item and adjust its sort_order value as desired.

One thing NOT to do!

Rather than simply using the call toolsNewTool to see if the menu entry has already been added, some developers will delete the registration file.

@unlink(DIR_WS_INCLUDES . 'functions/extra_functions/somescript_admin_page_reg.php');

PLEASE don’t do this. If you do, it becomes difficult to create copies of the site for testing. Instead, simply test the existence of whatever you’re trying not to re-do. For example, to see if an admin menu exists, use zen_page_key_exists.

Alternate Approaches to Menu Creation

Rather than write code as shown above, some developers prefer to provide a SQL file that can be run from Admin > Tools > Install SQL Patches.

INSERT INTO admin_pages (page_key, language_key, main_page, page_params, menu_key, display_on_menu, sort_order) VALUES ('mod_list', 'BOX_TOOLS_MOD_LIST', 'FILENAME_MOD_LIST', '', 'tools', 'Y', 999);

The advantage of this approach is that it’s a one time operation with no checking overhead in the future.

Still others simply point users to the Admin Page Registration page. Note that this approach is not encouraged.

Using the Encapsulated Plugin Manager

For developers targeting 1.5.7 and above, the encapsulated plugin architecture is the new standard. For details on SQL actions in encapsulated plugins, see Plugin SQL Installation.

Still have questions? Use the Search box in the upper right, or try the full list of FAQs. If you can't find it there, head over to the Zen Cart support forum and ask there in the appropriate subforum. In your post, please include your Zen Cart and PHP versions, and a link to your site.

Is there an error or omission on this page? Please post to General Questions on the support forum. Or, if you'd like to open a pull request, just review the guidelines and get started. You can even PR right here.
Last modified May 1, 2021 by Scott C Wilson (025401a).