Technical - Building help for your admin plugin

Creating easy-to-access help for your Zen Cart admin-side modification

Please note: This is technical content suitable only for individuals with software development skills; it is not intended for general Zen Cart users. Work with your developer if this is beyond your knowledge and capabilities.

Help for New Admin Pages

If your plugin creates a new page, the ability to provide help has been built-in since Zen Cart 1.5.8. If you are not yet using this version or higher, you can merge this PR into your cart.

Use the observer autoloading feature of Zen Cart admin observers (available since Zen Cart 1.5.7), and create a new file called admin/includes/classes/observers/auto.myplugin_help.php. (Be sure to follow the naming conventions for observer autoloading!)

As an example, here’s the observer that adds the help for POSM in Zen Cart 2.1.0. It’s in the encapsulated version of POSM under admin/includes/classes/observers/auto.posm_help.php.


class zcObserverPosmHelp extends base
    public function __construct()
        $this->attach($this, ['NOTIFIER_PLUGIN_HELP_PAGE_URL_LOOKUP']);

    protected function update(&$class, $eventID, $page, &$help_page)
        if ($page === FILENAME_PRODUCTS_OPTIONS_STOCK) {
            $help_page = ''; 
        } elseif ($page === FILENAME_PRODUCTS_OPTIONS_STOCK_VIEW_ALL) {
            $help_page = ''; 

If you are not running Zen Cart 1.5.7 or higher, you will need to pull in this PR to your cart to get admin observers to autoload.

Help for Modules (Shipping, Payment or Order Totals)

Module help is another feature which has been built-in since Zen Cart 1.5.8. If you are not yet using this version or higher, you can merge this PR into your cart.

The help function returns an array. If the array key link is set, then pressing the Help button will open a new tab for that link. If the key body is set, then the value data for body will be displayed in a modal dialog.

Examples of PHP Help Files

Quite often plain text help (i.e. a .html file) is perfectly adequate, but if you need to make reference to the values of settings, pull in files, or do other dynamic operations, you’ll want to use a .php help file.


To have access to database settings, functions, and everything else, you need to pull in the configure file. This is a two step process since you’re not at the top level of either admin or the storefront. First, chdir to the admin (or catalog) folder, then pull it in.

require 'includes/application_top.php';

You still have to account for being in a subfolder when building links - see examples below.

Displaying and Linking to Config values in Core menus

Suppose you created a database entry with configuration key SPECIAL_FEE in the Admin > Configuration > My Store section. Here’s how you could access it and reference it:

echo 'Current Special Fee is $' . SPECIAL_FEE . '.<br><br>';
echo 'To change this value, go to <a href="../configuration.php?gID=1" target="_blank">Admin > Configuration > My Store</a> <br>';

Displaying and Linking to Config values in Plugin menus

If you don’t know what the group id is, you have to query it. Rather than querying the group title (a text string that could change), query the configuration group of a specific key in that group.

$group = $db->Execute("SELECT * FROM " . TABLE_CONFIGURATION . " WHERE configuration_key = 'PO_SEND_PACKING_LISTS'");
$gID = $group->fields['configuration_group_id'];
echo 'Settings for this plugin are configured in <a href="'  . HTTPS_CATALOG_SERVER . DIR_WS_ADMIN . '../configuration.php?gID=' . $gID . '" target="_blank">Admin > Configuration > Dropship Purchase Orders</a> <br>';

Collaborating on Help

If you need to allow multiple people to update the help simultaneously, consider linking out to a collaboration tool such as Google Docs.

Pulling in a function

If you have created a function with a bunch of hardcoded cases that the storeowner needs to refer to (perhaps to tell you when to add a new one), you can use reflection to show the code.

$func = new ReflectionFunction('name-of-function');
$filename = $func->getFileName();
$start_line = $func->getStartLine() - 1;
$end_line = $func->getEndLine();
$length = $end_line - $start_line;

$source = file($filename);
$body = implode("", array_slice($source, $start_line, $length));
echo '<pre>';
echo '</pre>';

Putting help files on a server

If you are deploying help files to a newly created folder, be sure to follow the guidelines in Direct Access to Files.

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 July 13, 2024 by Scott C Wilson (da2d301).