In Views, a handler is an object that is part of the view and is part of the query building flow.

Handlers are objects; much of the time, the base handlers will work, but often you'll need to override the handler to achieve something meaningful. One typical handler override will be views_handler_filter_operator_in which allows you to have a filter select from a list of options; you'll need to override this to provide your list.

Handlers have two distinct code flows; the UI flow and the view building flow.

For the query flow:

  • handler->construct()

    • Create the initial handler; at this time it is not yet attached to a view. It is here that you can set basic defaults if needed, but there will be no knowledge of the environment yet.
  • handler->set_definition()
  • handler->init()
    • Attach the handler to a view, and usually provides the options from the display.
  • handler->pre_query()
    • Run prior to the query() stage to do early processing.
  • handler->query()
    • Do the bulk of the work this handler needs to do to add itself to the query.

Fields, being the only handlers concerned with output, also have an extended piece of the flow:

  • handler->pre_render(&$values)

    • Called prior to the actual rendering, this allows handlers to query for extra data; the entire resultset is available here, and this is where items that have "multiple values" per record can do their extra query for all of the records available. There are several examples of this at work in the code, see for example views_handler_field_user_roles.
  • handler->render()
    • This does the actual work of rendering the field.

Most handlers are just extensions of existing classes with a few tweaks that are specific to the field in question. For example, views_handler_filter_in_operator provides a simple mechanism to set a multiple-value list for setting filter values. Below, views_handler_filter_node_type overrides the list options, but inherits everything else.

class views_handler_filter_node_type extends views_handler_filter_in_operator {
  function get_value_options() {
    if (!isset($this->value_options)) {
      $this->value_title = t('Node type');
      $types = node_get_types();
      foreach ($types as $type => $info) {
        $options[$type] = $info->name;
      $this->value_options = $options;

Handlers are stored in their own files and loaded on demand. Like all other autoloaded files, they must first be registered via hook_autoload_info(). For example:

function example_autoload_info() {
return array(
  // Views handlers
  'example_handler_argument_string' => 'handlers/',

The best place to learn more about handlers and how they work is to explore Views' handlers and use existing handlers as a guide and a model. Understanding how views_handler and its child classes work is handy but you can do a lot just following these models. You can also explore the views module directory, particularly

Please note that while all handler names in views are prefixed with views_, you should use your own module's name to prefix your handler names in order to ensure namespace safety. Note that the basic pattern for handler naming goes like this:


Sometimes table and fieldname are not appropriate, but something that resembles what the table/field would be can be used.

See also:


core/modules/views/views.api.php, line 32
Describe hooks provided by the Views module.