The role of the HtmlHelper in CakePHP is to make HTML-related options easier, faster, and more resilient to change. Using this helper will enable your application to be more light on its feet, and more flexible on where it is placed in relation to the root of a domain.

Before we look at HtmlHelper’s methods, you’ll need to know about a few configuration and usage situations that will help you use this class. First in an effort to assuage those who dislike short tags (<?= ?>) or many echo() calls in their view code all methods of HtmlHelper are passed to the output() method. If you wish to enable automatic output of the generated helper HTML you can simply implement output() in your AppHelper.

function output($str) {
    echo $str;

Doing this will remove the need to add echo statements to your view code.

Many HtmlHelper methods also include a $htmlAttributes parameter, that allow you to tack on any extra attributes on your tags. Here are a few examples of how to use the $htmlAttributes parameter:

Desired attributes: <tag class="someClass" />
Array parameter: array('class'=>'someClass')

Desired attributes: <tag name="foo" value="bar" />
Array parameter:  array('name' => 'foo', 'value' => 'bar')

The HtmlHelper is available in all views by default. If you’re getting an error informing you that it isn’t there, it’s usually due to its name being missing from a manually configured $helpers controller variable.

Inserting Well-Formatted elements

The most important task the HtmlHelper accomplishes is creating well formed markup. Don’t be afraid to use it often - you can cache views in CakePHP in order to save some CPU cycles when views are being rendered and delivered. This section will cover some of the methods of the HtmlHelper and how to use them.


charset(string $charset=null)

Used to create a meta tag specifying the document’s character. Defaults to UTF-8.

<?php echo $this->Html->charset(); ?>

Will output:

<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8" />


<?php echo $this->Html->charset('ISO-8859-1'); ?>

Will output:

<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=ISO-8859-1" />


css(mixed $path, string $rel = null, array $options = array())

Creates a link(s) to a CSS style-sheet. If key ‘inline’ is set to false in $options parameter, the link tags are added to the $scripts_for_layout variable which you can print inside the head tag of the document.

This method of CSS inclusion assumes that the CSS file specified resides inside the /app/webroot/css directory.

<?php echo $this->Html->css('forms'); ?>

Will output:

<link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="/css/forms.css" />

The first parameter can be an array to include multiple files.

<?php echo $this->Html->css(array('forms','tables','menu')); ?>

Will output:

<link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="/css/forms.css" />
<link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="/css/tables.css" />
<link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="/css/menu.css" />

This method included the CSS in the header.

<?php    $this->Html->css(array('forms','myplugin/css/forms'),'stylesheet', array('inline' => false ) ); ?>

Will output in header:

<link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="/css/forms.css" />
<link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="/myplugin/css/forms.css" />


meta(string $type, string $url = null, array $attributes = array())

This method is handy for linking to external resources like RSS/Atom feeds and favicons. Like css(), you can specify whether or not you’d like this tag to appear inline or in the head tag by setting the ‘inline’ key in the $attributes parameter to false, ie - array('inline' => false).

If you set the “type” attribute using the $attributes parameter, CakePHP contains a few shortcuts:

type translated value
html text/html
rss application/rss+xml
atom application/atom+xml
icon image/x-icon
  <?php echo $this->Html->meta(
    array('type' => 'icon')
);?> //Output (line breaks added) </p>
    title="favicon.ico" type="image/x-icon"

<?php echo $this->Html->meta(
    array('type' => 'rss'));

//Output (line breaks added)

This method can also be used to add the meta keywords and descriptions. Example:

<?php echo $this->Html->meta(
    'enter any meta keyword here'
//Output <meta name="keywords" content="enter any meta keyword here"/>

<?php echo $this->Html->meta(
    'enter any meta description here'

//Output <meta name="description" content="enter any meta description here"/>

If you want to add a custom meta tag then the first parameter should be set to an array. To output a robots noindex tag use the following code:

echo $this->Html->meta(array('name' => 'robots', 'content' => 'noindex'));


docType(string $type = 'xhtml-strict')

Returns a (X)HTML doctype tag. Supply the doctype according to the following table:

type translated value
html text/html
html4-strict HTML4 Strict
html4-trans HTML4 Transitional
html4-frame HTML4 Frameset
xhtml-strict XHTML1 Strict
xhtml-trans XHTML1 Transitional
xhtml-frame XHTML1 Frameset
xhtml11 XHTML 1.1
<?php echo $this->Html->docType(); ?>
<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "">

<?php echo $this->Html->docType('html4-trans'); ?>
<!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Transitional//EN" "">


style(array $data, boolean $oneline = true)

Builds CSS style definitions based on the keys and values of the array passed to the method. Especially handy if your CSS file is dynamic:

<?php echo $this->Html->style(array(
    'background'     => '#633',
    'border-bottom' => '1px solid #000',
    'padding' => '10px'
)); ?>

Will output:

background:#633; border-bottom:1px solid #000; padding:10px;


image(string $path, array $htmlAttributes = array())

Creates a formatted image tag. The path supplied should be relative to /app/webroot/img/.

<?php echo $this->Html->image('cake_logo.png', array('alt' => 'CakePHP'))?>

Will output:

<img src="/img/cake_logo.png" alt="CakePHP" />

To create an image link specify the link destination using the url option in $htmlAttributes.

<?php echo $this->Html->image("recipes/6.jpg", array(
    "alt" => "Brownies",
    'url' => array('controller' => 'recipes', 'action' => 'view', 6)
)); ?>

Will output:

<a href="/recipes/view/6">
    <img src="/img/recipes/6.jpg" alt="Brownies" />


tag(string $tag, string $text, array $htmlAttributes)

Returns text wrapped in a specified tag. If no text is specified then only the opening <tag> is returned.

<?php echo $this->Html->tag('span', 'Hello World.', array('class' => 'welcome'));?>

<span class="welcome">Hello World</span>

//No text specified.
<?php echo $this->Html->tag('span', null, array('class' => 'welcome'));?>

<span class="welcome">

Text is not escaped by default but you may use $htmlOptions['escape'] = true to escape your text. This replaces a fourth parameter boolean $escape = false that was available in previous versions.


div(string $class, string $text, array $options)

Used for creating div-wrapped sections of markup. The first parameter specifies a CSS class, and the second is used to supply the text to be wrapped by div tags. If the last parameter has been set to true, $text will be printed HTML-escaped.

<?php echo $this->Html->div('error', 'Please enter your credit card number.');?>

<div class="error">Please enter your credit card number.</div>

If $text is set to null, only an opening div tag is returned.

<?php echo $this->Html->div('', null, array('id' => 'register'));?>

<div id="register" class="register">


para(string $class, string $text, array $htmlAttributes, boolean $escape = false)

Returns a text wrapped in a CSS-classed <p> tag. If no text is supplied, only a starting <p> tag is returned.

<?php echo $this->Html->para(null, 'Hello World.');?>

<p>Hello World.</p>


script(mixed $url, mixed $options)

Creates link(s) to a javascript file. If key inline is set to false in $options, the link tags are added to the $scripts_for_layout variable which you can print inside the head tag of the document.

Include a script file into the page. $options['inline'] controls whether or not a script should be returned inline or added to $scripts_for_layout. $options['once'] controls, whether or not you want to include this script once per request or more than once.

You can also use $options to set additional properties to the generated script tag. If an array of script tags is used, the attributes will be applied to all of the generated script tags.

This method of javascript file inclusion assumes that the javascript file specified resides inside the /app/webroot/js directory.

<?php echo $this->Html->script('scripts'); ?>

Will output:

<script type="text/javascript" href="/js/scripts.js"></script>

You can link to files with absolute paths as well to link files that are not in app/webroot/js

<?php echo $this->Html->script('/otherdir/script_file'); ?>

The first parameter can be an array to include multiple files.

<?php echo $this->Html->script(array('jquery','wysiwyg','scripts')); ?>

Will output:

<script type="text/javascript" href="/js/jquery.js"></script>
<script type="text/javascript" href="/js/wysiwyg.js"></script>
<script type="text/javascript" href="/js/scripts.js"></script>


scriptBlock($code, $options = array())

Generate a code block containing $code set $options['inline'] to false to have the script block appear in $scripts_for_layout. Also new is the ability to add attributes to script tags. $this->Html->scriptBlock('stuff', array('defer' => true)); will create a script tag with defer="defer" attribute.


scriptStart($options = array())

Begin a buffering code block. This code block will capture all output between scriptStart() and scriptEnd() and create an script tag. Options are the same as scriptBlock()



End a buffering script block, returns the generated script element or null if the script block was opened with inline = false.

An example of using scriptStart() and scriptEnd() would be:

$this->Html->scriptStart(array('inline' => false));

echo $this->Js->alert('I am in the javascript');



tableHeaders(array $names, array $trOptions = null, array $thOptions = null)

Creates a row of table header cells to be placed inside of <table> tags.

<?php echo $this->Html->tableHeaders(array('Date','Title','Active'));?>


<?php echo $this->Html->tableHeaders(
    array('class' => 'status'),
    array('class' => 'product_table')

<tr class="status">
     <th class="product_table">Date</th>
     <th class="product_table">Title</th>
     <th class="product_table">Active</th>


tableCells(array $data, array $oddTrOptions = null, array $evenTrOptions = null, $useCount = false, $continueOddEven = true)

Creates table cells, in rows, assigning <tr> attributes differently for odd- and even-numbered rows. Wrap a single table cell within an array() for specific <td>-attributes.

<?php echo $this->Html->tableCells(array(
    array('Jul 7th, 2007', 'Best Brownies', 'Yes'),
    array('Jun 21st, 2007', 'Smart Cookies', 'Yes'),
    array('Aug 1st, 2006', 'Anti-Java Cake', 'No'),

<tr><td>Jul 7th, 2007</td><td>Best Brownies</td><td>Yes</td></tr>
<tr><td>Jun 21st, 2007</td><td>Smart Cookies</td><td>Yes</td></tr>
<tr><td>Aug 1st, 2006</td><td>Anti-Java Cake</td><td>No</td></tr>

<?php echo $this->Html->tableCells(array(
    array('Jul 7th, 2007', array('Best Brownies', array('class'=>'highlight')) , 'Yes'),
    array('Jun 21st, 2007', 'Smart Cookies', 'Yes'),
    array('Aug 1st, 2006', 'Anti-Java Cake', array('No', array('id'=>'special'))),

<tr><td>Jul 7th, 2007</td><td class="highlight">Best Brownies</td><td>Yes</td></tr>
<tr><td>Jun 21st, 2007</td><td>Smart Cookies</td><td>Yes</td></tr>
<tr><td>Aug 1st, 2006</td><td>Anti-Java Cake</td><td id="special">No</td></tr>

<?php echo $this->Html->tableCells(
        array('Red', 'Apple'),
        array('Orange', 'Orange'),
        array('Yellow', 'Banana'),
    array('class' => 'darker')

<tr class="darker"><td>Red</td><td>Apple</td></tr>
<tr class="darker"><td>Yellow</td><td>Banana</td></tr>

View more details about the tableCells function in the API


url(mixed $url = NULL, boolean $full = false)

Returns an URL pointing to a combination of controller and action. If $url is empty, it returns the REQUEST_URI, otherwise it generates the url for the controller and action combo. If full is true, the full base URL will be prepended to the result.

<?php echo $this->Html->url(array(
    "controller" => "posts",
    "action" => "view",

// Output

Here are a few more usage examples:

URL with named parameters

<?php echo $this->Html->url(array(
    "controller" => "posts",
    "action" => "view",
    "foo" => "bar"));

// Output

URL with extension

<?php echo $this->Html->url(array(
    "controller" => "posts",
    "action" => "list",
    "ext" => "rss"));

// Output

URL (starting with ‘/’) with the full base URL prepended.

<?php echo $this->Html->url('/posts', true); ?>


URL with GET params and named anchor

<?php echo $this->Html->url(array(
    "controller" => "posts",
    "action" => "search",
    "?" => array("foo" => "bar"),
    "#" => "first"));


For further information check Router::url in the API.

Changing the tags output by HtmlHelper

The built in tag sets for HtmlHelper are XHTML compliant, however if you need to generate HTML for HTML4 you will need to create and load a new tags config file containing the tags you’d like to use. To change the tags used create app/config/tags.php containing:

$tags = array(
    'metalink' => '<link href="%s"%s >',
    'input' => '<input name="%s" %s >',

You can then load this tag set by calling $this->Html->loadConfig('tags');

Creating breadcrumb trails with HtmlHelper

CakePHP has the built in ability to automatically create a breadcrumb trail in your app. To set this up, first add something similar to the following in your layout template.

echo $this->Html->getCrumbs(' > ','Home');

Now, in your view you’ll want to add the following to start the breadcrumb trails on each of the pages.

$this->Html->addCrumb('Users', '/users');
$this->Html->addCrumb('Add User', '/users/add');

This will add the output of “Home > Users > Add User” in your layout where getCrumbs was added.