Pages in Omeka S are made up of blocks. All content on a page, from attached items and media that embed content, to simple plain text, to more complex and dynamic things, is placed on the page as a block.

Every block has a layout, which controls both what the user creating or editing the page sees as a user interface and what visitors viewing the public page see.

Omeka S ships with several block layouts, and modules can also add their own blocks to give users more options for what kinds of content they can include on their pages.

What data is stored in blocks

Blocks, and therefore layouts, deal with two basic types of data that users can set when building a page.

Attachments allow a block to use existing items and/or media from the Omeka S installation. There's a standardized interface used across different layouts that allows users to search the item pool and select an item (and possibly a specific media from that item).

Beyond attachments, blocks can also store arbitrary data. Anything and everything a block needs to store that's not an attachment (like user-provided HTML, settings or options for the block, or any other kind of data that needs to get saved) is stored in a single "data" property. Behind the scenes, this data property is saved as JSON, so layouts can choose whatever keys or other structures they want to to store that data. Typically, layouts store this data as a simple string-keyed array.

Adding a new layout

A block layout takes the form of a single class, which must implement the BlockLayoutInterface. To make things simpler, most blocks will actually extend from the AbstractBlockLayout class instead, which allows you to more skip implementing some "optional" methods.

Required methods


getLabel() simply returns the human-readable name for the block; it's what will be shown to the user in the admin interface for a page. The string returned here gets automatically translated by Omeka S, so you should mark it with an // @translate comment.


form() returns the HTML markup for the admin-side form for a block.

Omeka S provides several helpers for common form tasks for attachments so each new layout doesn't have to reimplement things fron scratch:

  • blockAttachmentsForm is used to let users select media or items to attach. to the block. Layouts that display media content will almost always use this helper in their form() method. This helper is how a block can use the standard attachment UI.

  • blockShowTitleSelect presents a simple <select> control for users to choose what text should be displayed as a heading when displaying an attachment: the title of the item, the title of the media, or nothing. The value selected here is stored in the "data" property under the key 'show_title_option'.

  • blockThumbnailTypeSelect presents a <select> control for users to to choose what kind of thumbnail to use when embedding an image for an attached piece of media. The value selected here is stored in the "data" property under the key "thumbnail_type'.

Beyond the attachments, blocks can provide whatever other inputs they want in this method. Omeka S will automatically handle saving inputs into the "data" property for the block, as long as they have a name attribute that follows a particular pattern: o:block[__blockIndex__][o:data][KEY], where KEY is replaced with the desired key for the specific piece of data being saved.

Data saved in this way can be accessed from the block using the dataValue method, passing the name of the key to retrieve.

For example, the very simple form for the built-in HTML block layout saves just one piece of data: the markup input by the user, under the key html:

public function form(PhpRenderer $view, SiteRepresentation $site,
    SitePageRepresentation $page = null, SitePageBlockRepresentation $block = null
) {
    $textarea = new Textarea("o:block[__blockIndex__][o:data][html]");
    $textarea->setAttribute('class', 'block-html full wysiwyg');
    if ($block) {
        $textarea->setAttribute('value', $block->dataValue('html'));
    return $view->formRow($textarea);

Notice that the <textarea> input uses the name o:block[__blockIndex__][o:data][html], and it reads the data to populate the form from the block using $block->dataValue('html'). If you follow this pattern, no additional code is neccesary to save and retrieve any data value.


render() displays a block on the public page. The method recieves $view for accessing the view and using helpers, and the block representation $block for accessing the attachments and other data stored for the block.

Best practice is to write the actual code for displaying the HTML in a separate view partial, and use the $view->partial() helper to render it. This makes it easy for themes to override the markup for the layout. By convention, this partial file for a layout is stored at the path common/block-layouts/layout-name.phtml, where layout-name is the name of the layout, in lowercase with words separated by hyphens.

$block has two main methods useful for use in a render() method:

  • $block->attachments() returns an array of the attachments for the block
  • $block->dataValue($key, [$default]) returns a piece of arbitrary data with the given key. The optional parameter $default can be passed to provide a fallback value if the data key is not set.

The entire set of data can be also accessed all at once by calling $block->data().

Optional methods

Several less-commonly used methods are pre-implemented by the AbstractBlockLayout as blank methods. Layouts can provide these if their particular needs require them, but you can simply omit them if you're extending from the abstract class.


This method fires when rendering the page form, just once for each layout. The typical use for this method is to load assets onto the page, in particular Javascript files that are used by the layout's form.

Omeka S provides a client-side event to help run code when a form for a new block is added to the page form, o:block-added.

This method recieves a parameter $view to allow the code to easily call view helpers.


The equivalent to prepareForm() but for the public-side rendering, this method fires just once for each layout when rendering a page. Again, its typical use is for loading things like Javascript that's needed to display the block.

Like prepareForm(), this method recieves a $view parameter to allow use of view helpers.


This method is fired when saving the block, just after the data is set to the block object. onHydrate() can be used to validate or filter the data. For example, the HTML block uses this method to run the HTML Purifier filtering library agaisnt the user-provided markup.

When using the provided helpers and following the guidelines given in the discussion of the form() method above, the process of saving the data and attachments is handled automatically by Omeka S, so blocks don't need to use this method unless they have particular requirements for validation or filtering.

It recieves $block, the block Entity, to allow reading and setting of the block's data, and $errorStore, for setting errors.


Omeka S 2.0.0 added a new "fulltext" search index that includes content from pages. Since all page content is stored in blocks, the block layout must determine what data, if any, should be searchable.

Returning text from this method will include it in the index for any page that includes a block that uses the layout.

User-provided text is the usual type of data that should be returned from this method; for example, the HTML block returns the text input by the user:

public function getFulltextText(PhpRenderer $view, SitePageBlockRepresentation $block)
    return strip_tags($this->render($view, $block));


A block layout must be registered in the configuration to be available for use. The configuration is a standard service manager config section, under the key block_layouts. Most blocks don't have any dependencies on other services, so can simply be registered as invokables:

namespace MyModule;

use Omeka\Module\AbstractModule;

class Module extends AbstractModule
    public function getConfig()
        return [
            'block_layouts' => [
                'invokables' => [
                    'myModuleLayout' => Site\BlockLayout\MyModuleLayout::class,

The service name (myModuleLayout in this example) is used internally to connect blocks with the layouts they use, and it must be unique across the entire Omeka S installation and all modules. Best practice is to include the name of your module at the front of the service name, to avoid possible conflicts with other modules.