What is the difference between Custom Setting Type "List" and "Hierachy"?

1 Answer 1


What's your use case? One will fit better than the other.

Hierarchy custom settings can be configured at varying user specificity levels under a single name; the platform will look for the most specific configuration first, then fall back / inherit to the least specific:

  • setting per user,
  • setting per profile,
  • setting for whole org,

Hierarchy custom settings are easily retrieved in Visualforce: {!$Setup.Setting__c.Field__c} and will be resolved according to the current user context.

hierarchy custom setting

List custom settings have user-independent values, retrieved under multiple names. For example, you could use several configs to hold the credentials for a web service callout so that you can swap the endpoints:

  • setting for development environment,
  • setting for volume testing environment,
  • setting for production environment,

List custom settings need to be accessed using a controller if you want to avail them on a page, for example return ListSetting__c.getInstance('dev').Field__c;

list custom setting

  • I might adjust the wording of the last statement, as you typically wouldn't want to "query" a custom setting in Apex, you use an accessor method to retrieve the cached setting values. But good answer otherwise.
    – pchittum
    Feb 25, 2013 at 9:51
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    At the moment I don't have complicated use cases, I have been working with List most of the time, I didn't have a clue what Hierarchy was, and wanted a clear explanation that showed the differences between List and Hierachy, thanks, i'll be checking that out!
    – pjcarly
    Feb 25, 2013 at 10:22
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    Great answer. I would suggest amending from "Sometimes one or the other is a more appropriate fit..." to "One or the other is always a more appropriate fit..." since they are so different in their usage. Lists are great for global registry-like settings, and hierarchy are great for settings that may need different values for different groups or individual users. I've never seen a requirement that could "correctly" be satisfied by either - one is always more appropriate than other, but both are very useful.
    – jkraybill
    Feb 25, 2013 at 11:36
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    thanks WesNolte and @jkraybill - I've differentiated 'org-wide under multiple names' vs 'user-specific under a singular name' Feb 25, 2013 at 12:03
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    Very nice answer buddy! Screenshots with drop-shadows - what the... ;-) I would perhaps suggest providing a different example use case for list settings - I think the docs use tax codes - to distinguish the types even more clearly Feb 26, 2013 at 20:51

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