This documentation relates to CiviCRM version 3.3. It's not maintained anymore.
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Common terms used in CiviCRM and its documentation




An access control list (ACL) is a list of permissions attached to an object. The list specifies who or what is allowed to access the object and what operations are allowed to be performed on the object. Reference: Wikipedia , CiviCRM Access Control.


In CiviCRM, "activities" provide a way to record and track a variety of interactions with contacts, such as Meeting, Phone Call, or Email. Reference: Activity Types.


The open-source license currently used by CiviCRM. Affero General Public License .


Application Program Interface (API) is a set of tools for building software applications. Reference: CiviCRM Public APIs, Drupal's APIs .


Application Service Provider.


Business Access Object.


CiviCluster is a Drupal contributed module for CiviCRM that provides duplicate detection and merging. Reference: Drupal contributed modules .


CiviConference is a Drupal contributed module for CiviCRM that creates a product type "Conference Ticket" which allows attendees to register for related events in CiviEvent during the checkout process. Reference: Drupal contributed modules .


CiviContribute is an online fundraising and donor management component of CiviCRM which enables you to track and manage contributions to your organization. Reference: CiviCRM .


CiviCRM is an open source, web-based constituent relationship management system designed to meet the needs of advocacy and nonprofit groups.


CiviEvent is a component of CiviCRM to manage your events and their participants. Reference: CiviEvent Admin, CiviEvent - Phase 1 Specifications.


CiviMail is a mass-mailing component of CiviCRM which allows you to track open rates and click throughs. Reference: CiviCRM .


CiviMember is a component of CiviCRM which provides flexible membership management for your organization, along with convenient online signup and renewal. Reference: CiviCRM .


CiviNode is a Drupal contributed module for CiviCRM that exposes CiviCRM contacts, groups, and other CiviCRM object types to Drupal as nodes. Reference: Drupal Handbooks . (In development.)


CiviReports will be a component of CiviCRM to provide preconfigured reports on CiviCRM data. Reference: CiviReport Phase 1 Specifications. (In development.)

CiviVoter and Canvasser

CiviVoter and Canvasser will be Drupal contributed modules to manage a voter file and run phone banks and foot canvasses. Reference: CiviCRM developers list . (In development.)


Content Management System (CMS). The content of Web pages are stored in a database. Web pages are composed when requested by a user's browser.


Set up a application to be used in a particular way.


There are three types of CiviCRM contacts: Individual, Organization, and Household. See Creating New Contacts. CiviCRM creates a linked Individual Contact record for each Drupal (or Joomla) User, allowing the User to potentially access and update portions of their CiviCRM contact data. Reference: Linking Profiles, Synchronize Users-to-Contacts.


Customer Relationship Management (in the commercial world), or Constituent Relationship Management for civic sector organizations. CRM software (like CiviCRM) allows users to track information about people, organizations and their interactions.

cron or cron job

"cron" is a time-based scheduling service in Unix and Unix-like operating systems. It is driven by a configuration file (named crontab) that specifies commands to run periodically on a given schedule. Reference: Wikipedia . CiviMember requires that you setup a cron job if you want membership statuses to be updated automatically. Reference: CiviMember Admin


CivicSpace On Demand is an application service provider (ASP) that delivers a managed pre-configuration of Drupal/CiviCRM for a monthly subscription.


Comma-Separated-Values format.


cURL is the php extension that is used to communicate with PayPal. Reference: CiviCRM developers mailing list .


Concurrent Versions System (CVS) is a computer revision control system popular for Open Source software development


Data Access Object.


A user interface that resembles the dashboard of an automobile. It displays gauges and dials that are designed in a similar fashion. CiviCRM provides a Contact Dashboard that allows your constituents to display their contributions, group subscriptions, memberships and event registrations. Reference: .


Drupal is an open source modular content management system. It is particularly popular for building online communities. CiviCRM can be installed as a module running within a Drupal site. Drupal is an English transliteration of the Dutch word "druppel" which means "drop" (as in "a drop of water"). The author wanted to call the site "dorp" (Dutch for "village," referring to its community aspects), but made a typo when checking the domain name and thought it sounded better. The project was started in 2000. Reference: Wikipedia ,


CiviCRM Datasource. Reference civicrm.settings.php


Entity-Relationship Diagram, a data model or diagram for high-level descriptions of conceptual data models. Reference Wikipedia , CiviCRM ERD 2.0.


External ID

Most databases assign a unique Identifier (ID) to each record in the data base. When exporting records from a database for import in to CiviCRM, it can be useful to include this ID in your export file. With this ID in the file, when you are importing records in separate files (such as importing contacts and then importing their contributions), you can use this "external ID" to help identify records (i.e., which contributions go with which contact).


GNU General Public License.


(1) CiviCRM has two types of groups: Reference: Groups.
   1. "Groups" are used to organize people, for example, Board of Directors or Speakers Bureau. Groups have a fixed membership.
   2. "Smart group" membership is based on search criteria, so when you add new contacts which match the criteria they are automatically included in the smart group.
(2) Drupal has the "Organic Group" contributed module that facilitates collaboration among participants with a common interest, including a group home page and group forums. Reference: Drupal Handbook: Organic Groups .


"Internationalization" (the adaptation of products for potential use virtually everywhere) is often abbreviated as the numeronym i18n (or I18n or I18N) where the number 18 refers to the number of letters omitted (nternationalizatio). References: Wikipedia and L10N and I18N Project .

Internal ID

Internal ID is the unique integer "ID" that CiviCRM assigns to each contact record when it's created. It is displayed at the bottom of each contact summary screen and is included in default Exports. It's primary use is in mapping data you want to import back to existing contact records, since it is a unique "key" for matching. This value is the "primary key" for each record in the civicrm_contact table.


Joomla! is an open source modular content management system. It is known for it's ease of use and large vibrant international community of users and developers. CiviCRM can be installed as a component running within a Joomla! site.


The acronym LAMP refers to a set of open-source software programs used together to run dynamic Web sites or servers: Linux (the operating system), Apache (the Web server), MySQL (the database management system), and PHP (the programming language).


Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) is an application protocol for querying and modifying directory services running over TCP/IP. Reference: Wikipedia , CiviCRM LDAP Integration.

Legal name

In profile fields, this is the name used for incorporation and 501(c)(3) paperwork for an organization.


"Localization" (the addition of special features for use in a specific locale) is often abbreviated as the numeronym l10n (or L10n or L10N) where the number 10 refers to the number of letters omitted (ocalizatio). References: Wikipedia and L10N and I18N Project .


A "profile" is the personal information about, configuration settings for, and other data associated with an individual user. The only personal information Drupal collects is username and email address, though you can add custom fields. The CiviCRM data collection profiles provide fields for the information most organizations want to collect (contact's address, phone, 2nd address; contribution amount, type, and so on), and you can also collect custom data. A good approach for integration with Drupal users is to create a single CiviCRM contact profile with all the fields that you want to collect from your users. Then check the New User Registration and User Account checkboxes in the profile settings. This way, each registering Drupal user will be prompted to fill in the fields you want to collect from them — and they will be able to modify the information from the Drupal "My Account" link. For more information, see the email discussion . Besides their use as input forms, CiviCRM profiles allow you to combine groups of fields as contact display pages and search/listings pages. Reference: Profiles Admin.


A "record" is a collection of related items of data treated as a unit. There are many types of records in CiviCRM. Each record holds specific information about a contact, an action or an event. They include the three types of contact records (individual, organization, household), contribution records, event records, event participant records, activities records, relationships records, and membership records.


In CiviCRM, you can define types of relationships. For example, with an employee-employer relationship, one contact is the employee and another contact (often an Organization) is the employer. Reference: Relationship Types.

Resource URLs

Resource URLs are used to access CiviCRM resources (CSS files, Javascript files, images, etc.).


A "role" defines a group of users that have certain privileges. Administrators define roles, such as "staff, "webmaster" (at admin/user/roles) and then grant permissions to those roles (at user/access). Users assigned to a role are granted those permissions assigned to the role. This gives Administrators a lot of flexibility, as they can create as many roles as needed and users can be assigned to one or more roles. Reference: Access Control


Really Simple Syndication (RSS). An RSS feed contains summaries of the most recent posts to a Web site with links to the post. You don't have to go to the Web site to look for changes. Reference: Wikipedia .

SIC Code

says "Standard Industrial Classification" and lists the codes.


Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) is used for sending text commands across the Internet using HTTP. Reference: Wikipedia .


Short Message Service (SMS). Reference: Wikipedia . Some thoughts regarding CiviCRM Archive of Original CiviSMS Page).


Smarty is the templating engine used by CiviCRM. Reference: CiviCRM Architecture - Introduction .


Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) is a cryptographic protocol which provides secure communications on the Internet for such things as web browsing and other data transfers. Reference: Wikipedia , Using SSL with CiviContribute


Subversion (SVN) is a revision control system which allows computer software to be developed in an incremental and controlled fashion by a distributed group of programmers. Subversion is designed specifically to be a modern replacement for CVS. See Installing CiviCRM from subversion (SVN) repository.


(1) In CiviCRM, tags are used to categorize Individuals, Organizations, and/or Household contacts. Tags are first pre-defined through Administer CiviCRM and only then can they be applied to contacts. Reference: Tags Overview.
(2) The word "tag" is sometimes used in Drupal in connection with categories and taxonomy. For example, "free tagging" allows users creating new content to define their own vocabulary terms.


(1) Every CiviCRM screen is "composed" from one or more template files. These files contain a combination of HTML tags, text, variables and (often) some code to control presentation logic. Reference: CiviCRM Architecture - Templating System . You can create "custom templates" as a way to modify the standard CiviCRM screens. Reference: Directories. And you can modify CiviCRM templates. Reference: Customize Built-in, Profile, Contribution and Event Registration Screens
(2) CiviCRM "Message Templates" allows you to create and edit re-usable email message templates. Reference: Message Templates.


"User" is the name Drupal and Joomla use to describe either a person who has an account and can log into the website (authenticated/registered user) or a website visitor who has not logged in (anonymous/public user). In CiviCRM, "user" refers to anyone who has been assigned a role with specific permissions to take actions in CiviCRM. Reference .


UTF-8 stands for Unicode Transformation Format-8. It is an octet (8-bit) lossless encoding of Unicode characters. Reference: UTF-8 and Unicode Standards . Unicode is an industry standard designed to allow text and symbols from all of the writing systems of the world to be consistently represented and manipulated by computers. Reference .


The number assigned in the "weight" field determines where in a list the item will fall. Items with lower weight will float to the top of lists, while heavier items will sink.

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