when you set the privilege level on a user, what fields does it set in the database. I see administrator and global admin both set the isglobaladministrator field to 1. What else is set that distinguishes between the 2?
Changing the privilege level sets the value in the UserPrivilegeLevel column in the CMS_User table. Possible values can be found in the API documentation.
Is this the best way to set the privilege level for a user? I've been looking for an API method but haven't found one.
Check the API example for creating a new user. There is a line of code which sets the privilege level for the newly created user:
// Sets the user's privilege level to 'Editor'
newUser.SiteIndependentPrivilegeLevel = UserPrivilegeLevelEnum.Editor;
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