Programatically create attribute in Magento, useful for the “on the fly” import system

Sometimes when doing an import in Magento from old shop system you are faced with lot of issues related to attributes. For instance your old shop system might have several product attributes that simply do not fit into the default Magento attributes. In such cases you need to create these attributes manually in the Magento admin, assign them to the appropriate attribute set and then construct a valid CSV file with valid column names for these new attributes.

When you are dealing with large shop systems, with several thousands of products, then actions like these need to be handled programatically. Below is a just a fraction of the code from the full import script I have been working on last few days.

private function createAttribute($code, $label, $attribute_type, $product_type)
	$_attribute_data = array(
		'attribute_code' => 'old_site_attribute_'.(($product_type) ? $product_type : 'joint').'_'.$code,
		'is_global' => '1',
		'frontend_input' => $attribute_type, //'boolean',
		'default_value_text' => '',
		'default_value_yesno' => '0',
		'default_value_date' => '',
		'default_value_textarea' => '',
		'is_unique' => '0',
		'is_required' => '0',
		'apply_to' => array($product_type), //array('grouped')
		'is_configurable' => '0',
		'is_searchable' => '0',
		'is_visible_in_advanced_search' => '0',
		'is_comparable' => '0',
		'is_used_for_price_rules' => '0',
		'is_wysiwyg_enabled' => '0',
		'is_html_allowed_on_front' => '1',
		'is_visible_on_front' => '0',
		'used_in_product_listing' => '0',
		'used_for_sort_by' => '0',
		'frontend_label' => array('Old Site Attribute '.(($product_type) ? $product_type : 'joint').' '.$label)
	$model = Mage::getModel('catalog/resource_eav_attribute');
	if (!isset($_attribute_data['is_configurable'])) {
		$_attribute_data['is_configurable'] = 0;
	if (!isset($_attribute_data['is_filterable'])) {
		$_attribute_data['is_filterable'] = 0;
	if (!isset($_attribute_data['is_filterable_in_search'])) {
		$_attribute_data['is_filterable_in_search'] = 0;
	if (is_null($model->getIsUserDefined()) || $model->getIsUserDefined() != 0) {
		$_attribute_data['backend_type'] = $model->getBackendTypeByInput($_attribute_data['frontend_input']);
	$defaultValueField = $model->getDefaultValueByInput($_attribute_data['frontend_input']);
	if ($defaultValueField) {
		$_attribute_data['default_value'] = $this->getRequest()->getParam($defaultValueField);
	try {
	} catch (Exception $e) { echo '<p>Sorry, error occured while trying to save the attribute. Error: '.$e->getMessage().'</p>'; }

The import I was running had to deal with grouped and simple products (that go on that grouped products). Besides special attributes that only grouped products had, and some special attributes that only simple products have, system also had some “joint” attributes that both of the product types had. Examples below show how I called the above method to generate such specific or “joint” attributes.

//My "grouped product only" attribute
$this->createAttribute(strtolower("ShirtType"), "ShirtType", "select", "grouped");
//My "simple product only" attribute
$this->createAttribute(strtolower("Swatch"), "Swatch", "text", "simple");
//My "joint" attribute, the one that I had both on simple and on grouped products
$this->createAttribute(strtolower("InventoryMsg"), "InventoryMsg", "text", "");
$this->createAttribute(strtolower("Complete"), "Complete", "boolean", "");

Hope that above example help someone. Cheers.

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  1. Hello,

    I’ve found a small error which counts in case you are creating a multi select attribute.
    You need to specify the backend_model otherwise the attribute won’t save the value. Not even when it’s saved from the admin backend.

    ‘backend_model’ => ‘eav/entity_attribute_backend_array’

    Hope this helps.

    Have a nice day,

  2. I have add new image attribute with hover_image is it display in magento admin under image. But When I am unable to get it on magento front end.

    I have used this code to get my image attribute.

    $this->helper(‘catalog/image’)->init($product, ‘hover_image’)->resize(400,300);

  3. I have to create an attribute with image upload option to this options values how can this possible pls help me. thank you

  4. HI all,

    I have created custom attribute.Please let me know how can i get thew custom attribute and add how can i add it at time of adding product through pragmatically.

    Awaiting for your response.

    Umesh Chandra

  5. I found this post because I was searching for how to add an attribute to an attribute, i.e. how to add extra meta data to an attribute, for example the amount of decimals for a float value. Any advice how I could do this programmatically?

  6. Creating attribute is ok, but how do assign values to it. I am doing product import where there are large no. of options and has numerous values, so adding values manually to attributes is not possible. Also if you can write about adding configurable products on fly….

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