Aug 17 2015
Aug 17

In the first article on Drupal 8 module development we looked a bit at the routing aspect of this process. We’ve seen that creating pages with paths is now a matter of declaring routes that match up with controllers. The latter, as we’ve seen, can return a render array that gets interpreted into markup and displayed in the main content area of that page. However, did you know that under the hood, Drupal actually transforms that array into a Response object according to the dictates of Symfony’s HTTPKernelInterface?

drupal8wide

In this article, I would like us to go deeper into the internals of Drupal 8 (and Symfony2) and look at what actually happens (and can happen) from the moment a request is made by a user to the one in which they see something returned in response. The example I mentioned above is just one direction this process can go in, and today we are also going to see other possibilities. The goal is to understand the flexibility of the system which in turn can help us build awesome applications.

Before going into it, I strongly recommend you check out this diagram which does an amazing job at synthesizing what is often referred to as the render pipeline. Though in my opinion it represents more than the name implies because the render system is only part of what’s depicted, albeit a big one.

Front controller (index.php)

It’s no secret that Symfony2 is now an important part of Drupal. The latter uses many of Symfony’s components, most importantly for this article the HTTPKernel and HTTPFoundation ones. Together they are responsible for encapsulating a user request, passing it to the application and then returning whatever comes back to the user in a consistent and OO way.

The HTTPKernelInterface (something you probably heard about also from other contexts) is what glues all of this together by taking in a Request object and always returning a Response one. A very simple but powerful concept.

This process is initiated inside the index.php file which starts by generating said Request object and passing it to the HTTPKernel::handle() method. The latter is then responsible for returning a Response object. At a high level, this is what happens both in a Drupal application as well as in a Symfony one (or any other that leverages the HTTPKernel component).

HTTPKernel and events

HTTPKernel is the heart of any Symfony based application. Its handle() method, as we saw, has a great deal of responsibility in preparing a response and it does so in a workflow driven by events. This makes for a very flexible application where the heavy lifting is always delegated to listeners of these events.

If you look at the diagram from earlier, you can see this workflow depicted in the second column, and it essentially represents the glue between Symfony and the Drupal side of things.

It starts with the first event called kernel.request. Subscribers to this event handle various tasks. But two very important ones in Drupal 8 are the format negotiation and routing. The first determines the type of response that needs to be returned (html, json, image, pdf, etc) while the second determines what the code responsible for handling this is (the _controller key of a route definition inside the routing.yml file). But like in most steps in this event workflow, if a listener returns a response object, the process skips most of the further steps (stops propagation) and goes straight to kernel.response.

The second event is kernel.controller which is called after the application knows which controller is responsible for handling the request. At this point, listeners can still perform some overriding operations on it. Closely following this step, the Kernel is responsible for resolving the arguments that get passed to the controller. One such operation in Drupal is loading objects based on IDs found in the request (for example nodes) and directly providing the controller with them. Then finally the controller gets called with the respective parameters.

The controller is responsible for returning a response of some kind. If it returns a Response object, the process skips to the kernel.response event. Listeners to the latter can perform last minute modifications on the object such as modifying headers or the content itself. And after getting it from the handle() method, the front controller uses the send() method on the Response object to send it back to the user and terminates the process.

symfony event workflow

Going deeper with render arrays

If the controller does not return a Response object, the Kernel fires one last event: kernel.view. Its subscribers are responsible for turning the result of the controller into an actual Response object. So this means that you have the option of returning from your controller any kind of object as long as you couple it with a VIEW event subscriber that turns that into a proper Response.

However, as we’ve seen in the example, most of the time controllers will return a render array. Usually this represents the page’s main content (similar to page callbacks in Drupal 7).

To handle this, Drupal 8 has a MainContentViewSubscriber responsible for transforming this array into proper Response objects. It does so by using a particular MainContentRenderer chosen during the format negotiation phase we’ve talked about before. And although there are a few such renderers already available, the default one used is the HtmlRenderer.

HTMLRenderer

Since this is the most commonly used type of main content renderer, let’s go in a bit deeper and see how this builds the page.

One of the cool things about this step in the process is the concept of page variants.
This means that HTMLRenderer dispatches an event responsible for finding out which type of page is to be used to wrap the main content render array: RenderEvents::SELECT_PAGE_DISPLAY_VARIANT. By default, the SimplePageVariant is used unless the Block module is enabled. In that case the BlockPageVariant kicks in and allows the placement of the blocks in the regions around the main content. If you want, you can subscribe to this event in your own module and provide your own variant.

All of this happens within the prepare() method of the HTMLRenderer which supplies the renderResponse() method with a #type => 'page' render array that wraps the main content one. The latter two get in turn wrapped into a #type => 'html' render array which gets finally rendered using the Renderer class (the equivalent of drupal_render() in Drupal 7). The resulting HTML string gets added to the Response object and gets returned to the front controller.

Although this is a very high level overview of the process, this is basically what happens. Now we have a Response object which means the Kernel can dispatch its kernel.response event. And right after this, the front controller can send the Response back to the user and terminate the process.

Conclusion

In this article we’ve taken a journey into Drupal 8 (and Symfony2) internals by following the pipeline from a user request to the response the server returns. We’ve seen how Drupal 8 leverages the HTTPKernel and HTTPFoundation Symfony2 components and how it basically lives on top of them. Additionally, we’ve seen how the glue between them is made up of the events the Kernel dispatches to which Drupal subscribes for all of its functionality. Finally, we’ve seen how HTML pages are built and returned to the user with the help of the render pipeline.

I believe that understanding what is going on under the hood in a Drupal 8 application will allow you to create awesome applications by knowing exactly which entry points you have into this flow. And I believe that if you take away only one thing from this article, it should be the word flexibility. Because the flexibility for building exactly what we need in Drupal 8 far surpasses anything in Drupal 7. It has truly become modern.

Oct 20 2014
Oct 20

How to Build a Drupal 8 Module

Please be aware that due to the development process Drupal 8 has been undergoing at the time of writing, some parts of the code might be outdated. Take a look at this repository in which I try to update the example code and make it work with the latest Drupal 8 release.

With the incorporation of many Symfony components into Drupal in its 8th version, we are seeing a shift away from many Drupalisms towards more modern PHP architectural decisions. For example, the both loved and hated hook system is getting slowly replaced. Plugins and annotations are taking away much of the need for info hooks and the Symfony Event Dispatcher component is replacing some of the invoked hooks. Although they remain strong in Drupal 8, it’s very possible that with Drupal 9 (or maybe 10) hooks will be completely removed.

In this article we are going to primarily look at how the Symfony Event Dispatcher component works in Drupal. Additionally, we will see also how to invoke and then implement a hook in Drupal 8 to achieve similar goals as with the former.

To follow along or to get quickly started, you can find all the code we work with here in this repository. You can just install the module and you are good to go. The version of Drupal 8 used is the first BETA release so it’s preferable to use that one to ensure compatibility. Alpha 15 should also work just fine. Let’s dive in.

What is the Event Dispatcher component?

A very good definition of the Event Dispatcher component can be found on the Symfony website:

The EventDispatcher component provides tools that allow your application components to communicate with each other by dispatching events and listening to them.

I recommend reading up on that documentation to better understand the principles behind the event dispatcher. You will get a good introduction to how it works in Symfony so we will not cover that here. Rather, we will see an example of how you can use it in Drupal 8.

Drupal 8 and the Event Dispatcher

For the better part of this article, we will focus on demonstrating the use of the Event Dispatcher in Drupal 8. To this end, we will create a simple demo module (event_dispatcher_demo) that has a configuration form which saves two values as configuration. Upon saving this form, we will dispatch an event that contains the config object and which will allow other parts of the application to intercept and modify it before being saved. Finally, we will do just that by demonstrating how to subscribe (or listen) to these events.

In Drupal 7, this type of modularity is only achieved with hooks. Hooks are being invoked and modules have the option to implement them and contribute with their own data. At the end of this article, we will see how to do that as well in Drupal 8. But first, let’s get on with our demo module.

If you don’t know the basics of Drupal 8 module development, I recommend checking out my previous articles in this series.

The form

The first thing we need is a simple config form with two fields. In a file called DemoForm.php located in the src/Form folder, we have the following:

<?php

/**
 * @file
 * Contains Drupal\event_dispatcher_demo\Form\DemoForm.
 */

namespace Drupal\event_dispatcher_demo\Form;

use Drupal\Core\Form\ConfigFormBase;
use Drupal\Core\Form\FormStateInterface;

class DemoForm extends ConfigFormBase {

  /**
   * {@inheritdoc}
   */
  public function getFormID() {
    return 'demo_form';
  }

  /**
   * {@inheritdoc}
   */
  public function buildForm(array $form, FormStateInterface $form_state) {
    $config = $this->config('event_dispatcher_demo.demo_form_config');
    $form['my_name'] = [
      '#type' => 'textfield',
      '#title' => $this->t('My name'),
      '#default_value' => $config->get('my_name'),
    ];
    $form['my_website'] = [
      '#type' => 'textfield',
      '#title' => $this->t('My website'),
      '#default_value' => $config->get('my_website'),
    ];
    return parent::buildForm($form, $form_state);
  }

  /**
   * {@inheritdoc}
   */
  public function submitForm(array &$form, FormStateInterface $form_state) {

    parent::submitForm($form, $form_state);

    $config = $this->config('event_dispatcher_demo.demo_form_config');

    $config->set('my_name', $form_state->getValue('my_name'))
      ->set('my_website', $form_state->getValue('my_website'));
      
    $config->save();
  }

}

Let’s also create a route for it (in the event_dispatcher_demo.routing.yml file) so we can access the form in the browser:

event_dispatcher_demo.demo_form:
  path: 'demo-form'
  defaults:
    _form: '\Drupal\event_dispatcher_demo\Form\DemoForm'
    _title: 'Demo form'
  requirements:
    _permission: 'access administration pages'

So now if you point your browser to example.com/demo-form, you should see the form. Submitting it will create and persist a configuration object called event_dispatcher_demo.demo_form_config that contains two fields: my_name and my_website .

The event dispatcher

Now it’s time to work on the form submit handler (the formSubmit() method) and dispatch an event when the form is saved. This is what the new method will look like:

public function submitForm(array &$form, FormStateInterface $form_state) {

  parent::submitForm($form, $form_state);

  $config = $this->config('event_dispatcher_demo.demo_form_config');

  $config->set('my_name', $form_state->getValue('my_name'))
    ->set('my_website', $form_state->getValue('my_website'));

  $dispatcher = \Drupal::service('event_dispatcher');

  $e = new DemoEvent($config);

  $event = $dispatcher->dispatch('demo_form.save', $e);

  $newData = $event->getConfig()->get();

  $config->merge($newData);

  $config->save();
}

So what happens here? After we take the submitted values and add them to the config object like before, we retrieve the event dispatcher object from the service container:

$dispatcher = \Drupal::service('event_dispatcher');

Please keep in mind that it’s recommended you inject this service into your class, but for brevity, we will retrieve it statically. You can read this article about dependency injection and the service container for more information.

Then we create a new DemoEvent object and pass it the $config through its constructor (we have not yet created the DemoEvent class, we will do that in a minute). Next, we use the dispatcher to dispatch an event of our type and assign this action the identifier demo_form.save. This will be used when subscribing to events (we’ll see this later). The dispatch() method returns the event object with modifications made to it so we can retrieve the config values that may or may not have been altered elsewhere and merge them into our original configuration. Finally, we save this object like we did initially.

Before moving onto the event subscription part of our application, let’s create the DemoEvent class we just instantiated above. In a file called DemoEvent.php located in the src/ folder of our module, we have the following:

<?php

/**
 * @file
 * Contains Drupal\event_dispatcher_demo\DemoEvent.
 */

namespace Drupal\event_dispatcher_demo;

use Symfony\Component\EventDispatcher\Event;
use Drupal\Core\Config\Config;

class DemoEvent extends Event {

  protected $config;

  /**
   * Constructor.
   *
   * @param Config $config
   */
  public function __construct(Config $config) {
    $this->config = $config;
  }

  /**
   * Getter for the config object.
   *
   * @return Config
   */
  public function getConfig() {
    return $this->config;
  }

  /**
   * Setter for the config object.
   *
   * @param $config
   */
  public function setConfig($config) {
    $this->config = $config;
  }

} 

As you can see, this is a simple class that extends the default Event class and which defines setters and getters for the config object we will be passing around using this event. And since we created it, let’s also make sure we use it in the file where we defined the form:

use Drupal\event_dispatcher_demo\DemoEvent;

The event subscriber

Now that our form is functioning normally and an event is being dispatched when the form is saved, we should take advantage of that and subscribe to it. Let’s start with the event subscriber class that implements the EventSubscriberInterface. Inside a file called ConfigSubscriber.php (name of your choice) located in the src/EventSubscriber/ folder, we have the following:

<?php

/**
 * @file
 * Contains Drupal\event_dispatcher_demo\EventSubscriber\ConfigSubscriber.
 */

namespace Drupal\event_dispatcher_demo\EventSubscriber;

use Symfony\Component\EventDispatcher\EventSubscriberInterface;

class ConfigSubscriber implements EventSubscriberInterface {

  static function getSubscribedEvents() {
    $events['demo_form.save'][] = array('onConfigSave', 0);
    return $events;
  }

  public function onConfigSave($event) {

    $config = $event->getConfig();

    $name_website = $config->get('my_name') . " / " . $config->get('my_website');
    $config->set('my_name_website', $name_website);
  }

}

So what happens here? The EventSubscriberInterface has only one required method called getSubscribedEvents(). This method is used to register events and callbacks to these events. So above we registered the callable onConfigSave() (found in the same class below) to the event dispatched with the identifier of demo_form.save. And in the callback method we simply add another value to the config object (based on a concatenation of the existing two values). The latter part is just for our demo purposes: here you can do what you want.

When we subscribed our onConfigSave() method to listen to the demo_form.save event, we passed a weight of 0. If you register multiple callbacks to the same event, this weight becomes important (the higher the number, the earlier it gets called). And if a callback alters the same values as one triggered before, they will get overridden. It’s good to keep this in mind.

Now in order for this event subscriber to work, we need to define it as a service and give it the event_subscriber tag. So in a file called event_dispatcher_demo.services.yml found in the root folder of our module, we will have this:

services:
  event_dispatcher_demo.config_subscriber:
    class: Drupal\event_dispatcher_demo\EventSubscriber\ConfigSubscriber
    tags:
      - { name: event_subscriber }

This is a simple service definition with the right tag that will make the container automatically instantiate an object of this class whenever the dispatcher is in play. And that is pretty much it. Clear the cache and if you now save the form again, the configuration object that gets saved will always contain a new value that is based on the first two.

Hooks

In the final part of this article we will demonstrate the use of hooks to achieve a similar goal.

First, let’s change the form submit handler and instead of dispatching events, we will invoke a hook and pass the config values to it. This is what the new submitForm() method will look like:

public function submitForm(array &$form, FormStateInterface $form_state) {

        parent::submitForm($form, $form_state);
        
        $config = $this->config('event_dispatcher_demo.demo_form_config');
        
        $config->set('my_name', $form_state->getValue('my_name'))
          ->set('my_website', $form_state->getValue('my_website'));
        
        $configData = $config->get();
        $newData = \Drupal::service('module_handler')->invokeAll('demo_config_save', array($configData));
        
        $config->merge($newData);
        
        $config->save();
}

We are not using any event objects nor the dispatcher service. Instead, we retrieve the Module Handler service that contains the invokeAll() method used to invoke hook implementations from all modules. This is essentially replacing the Drupal 7 module_invoke_all() helper. And again, it is recommended to inject this service, but for brevity, we’ll retrieve it statically.

The hook implementation invoked in our case is hook_demo_config_save and it gets one parameter, an array of values pulled from our config object. Inside $newData we will have an array of values merged from all the implementations of this hook. We then merge that into our config object and finally save it.

Let’s quickly see an example hook implementation. As with Drupal 7, these can only be in .module files:

/**
 * Implements hook_demo_config_save().
 */
function event_dispatcher_demo_demo_config_save($configValues) {

  $configValues['my_name_website'] = $configValues['my_name'] . " / " . $configValues['my_website'];

  return $configValues;

}

As you can see, we are adding a new value to the config array that will later be merged into the object getting persisted. And we have essentially the same thing as we did with the event dispatcher.

Conclusion

In this article we have taken a look at how the Symfony Event Dispatcher component works in Drupal 8. We’ve learned how flexible it makes our application when it comes to allowing others to extend functionality. Additionally, we’ve seen how the invoked hooks work in the new version of Drupal. Not much has changed since Drupal 7 in this respect apart from the frequency with which they are used. Many hooks have been replaced by plugins and annotations and the Event Dispatcher component has also taken on a big chunk of what was in D7 a hook responsibility.

Although the Event Dispatcher approach is more verbose, it is the recommended way to go forward. Where possible, we no longer use the old procedural approach characteristic to hooks but rather object oriented, decoupled and testable solutions. And Symfony helps greatly with that.

Jun 18 2014
Jun 18

How to Build a Drupal 8 Module

In the previous article on Drupal 8 module development, we’ve looked at creating block types and forms. We’ve seen that blocks are now reusable and how everything we need to do for defining block types happens in one single class. Similarly, form generation functions are also grouped under one class with specific methods performing tasks similar to what we are used to in Drupal 7.

In this tutorial, I will continue where we left off. I will illustrate how we can turn our DemoForm into a form used to store a value through the Drupal 8 configuration system. Following that, we will talk a bit about the service container and dependency injection by way of illustration.

Don’t forget that you can check out this repository if you want to get all the code we write in this tutorial series.

When we first defined our DemoForm, we extended the FormBase class which is the simplest implementation of the FormInterface. However, Drupal 8 also comes with a ConfigFormBase that provides some additional functionality which makes it very easy to interact with the configuration system.

What we will do now is transform DemoForm into one which will be used to store the email address the user enters. The first thing we should do is replace the extended class with ConfigFormBase (and of course use it):

use Drupal\Core\Form\ConfigFormBase;

class DemoForm extends ConfigFormBase {

Before we move on to changing other things in the form, let’s understand a bit how simple configuration works in Drupal 8. I say simple because there are also configuration entities that are more complex and that we will not cover today. As it stands now, configuration provided by modules (core or contrib) is stored in YAML files. On enabling a module, this data gets imported into the database (for better performance while working with it). Through the UI we can change this configuration which is then easily exportable to YAML files for deployment across different sites.

A module can provide default configuration in a YAML file located in the config/install folder in the module root directory. The convention for naming this file is to prefix it with the name of the module. So let’s create one called demo.settings.yml. Inside this file, let’s paste the following:

demo:
  email_address: [email protected]

This is a nested structure (like an associative array in PHP). Under the key demo, we have another key|value pair. And usually to access these nested values we use a dot(.). In our case demo.email_address.

Once we have this file in place, an important thing you need to remember is that this file gets imported only when the module is installed. So go ahead and reinstall it. And now we can turn back to our form and go through the methods that need adapting one by one.

This is how the buildForm() method should look like now:

public function buildForm(array $form, array &$form_state) {
  
  $form = parent::buildForm($form, $form_state);
  
  $config = $this->config('demo.settings');
  
  $form['email'] = array(
    '#type' => 'email',
    '#title' => $this->t('Your .com email address.'),
    '#default_value' => $config->get('demo.email_address')
  );
  
  return $form;
}

First of all, as opposed to FormBase, the ConfigFormBase class implements this method as well in order to add elements to the form array (a submit button). So we can use what the parent did before adding our own elements.

Now for the configuration part. Drupal 8 provides a Config object that we can use to interact with the configuration. Some classes already have it available through dependency injection. ConfigFormBase is one such class.

As you can see, we are using the config() method of the parent class to retrieve a Config object populated with our demo.settings simple configuration. Then, for the #default_value of the email form element, we use the get() method of the Config object to retrieve the value of the email address.

Next, we only need to change the submit handler because the validateForm() method can stay the same for now:

public function submitForm(array &$form, array &$form_state) {
  
  $config = $this->config('demo.settings');
  $config->set('demo.email_address', $form_state['values']['email']);
  $config->save();
  
  return parent::submitForm($form, $form_state);
}

In this method we first retrieve the Config object for our configuration (like we did before). Then, we use its set() method to change the value of the email_address to the value the user submitted. Then we use the save() method to save the configuration. Lastly, we extend the parent submit handler because it does contain some functionality (in this case it sets a Drupal message to the screen).

And that’s pretty much it. You can clear the cache and try it out. By submitting a new email address, you are storing it in the configuration. The module demo.settings.yml file won’t change of course, but you can go and export the demo.settings configuration and import it into another site.

The service container and dependency injection

The next thing we are going to look at is the service container. The idea behind services is to split functionality into reusable components. Therefore a service is a PHP class that performs some global operations and that is registered with the service container in order to be accessed.

Dependency injection is the way through which we pass objects to other objects in order to ensure decoupling. Each service needs to deal with one thing and if it needs another service, the latter can be injected into the former. But we’ll see how in a minute.

Going forward, we will create a very simple service and register it with the container. It will only have one real method that returns a simple value. Then, we will inject that service as a dependency to our DemoController and make use of the value provided by the service.

In order to register a service, we need to create a demo.services.yml file located in the root of our module, with the following contents:

services:
    demo.demo_service:
        class: Drupal\demo\DemoService

The file naming convention is module_name.services.yml.

The first line creates an array of services. The second line defines the first service (called demo_service, prefixed by the module name). The third line specifies the class that will be instantiated for this service. It follows to create the DemoService.php class file in the src/ folder of our module. This is what my service does (nothing really, it’s just to illustrate how to use it):

<?php

/**
 * @file
 * Contains Drupal\demo\DemoService.
 */

namespace Drupal\demo;

class DemoService {
  
  protected $demo_value;
  
  public function __construct() {
    $this->demo_value = 'Upchuk';
  }
  
  public function getDemoValue() {
    return $this->demo_value;
  }
  
}

No need to explain anything here as it’s very basic. Next, let’s turn to our DemoController and use this service. There are two ways we can do this: accessing the container globally through the \Drupal class or use dependency injection to pass an object of this class to our controller. Best practice says we should do it the second way, so that’s what we’ll do. But sometimes you will need to access a service globally. For that, you can do something like this:

$service = \Drupal::service('demo.demo_service');

And now $service is an object of the class DemoService we just created. But let’s see how to inject our service in the DemoController class as a dependency. I will explain first what needs to be done, then you’ll see the entire controller with all the changes made to it.

First, we need access to the service container. With controllers, this is really easy. We can extend the ControllerBase class which gives us that in addition to some other helpers. Alternatively, our Controller can implement the ContainerInjectionInterface that also gives us access to the container. But we’ll stick to ControllerBase so we’ll need to use that class.

Next, we need to also use the Symfony 2 ContainerInterface as a requirement of the create() method that instantiates another object of our controller class and passes to it the services we want.

Finally, we’ll need a constructor to get the passed service objects (the ones that create() returns) and assign them to properties for later use. The order in which the objects are returned by the create() method needs to be reflected in the order they are passed to the constructor.

So let’s see our revised DemoController:

<?php

/**
 * @file
 * Contains \Drupal\demo\Controller\DemoController.
 */

namespace Drupal\demo\Controller;

use Drupal\Core\Controller\ControllerBase;
use Symfony\Component\DependencyInjection\ContainerInterface;

/**
 * DemoController.
 */
class DemoController extends ControllerBase {
  
  protected $demoService;
  
  /**
   * Class constructor.
   */
  public function __construct($demoService) {
    $this->demoService = $demoService;
  }
  
  /**
   * {@inheritdoc}
   */
  public static function create(ContainerInterface $container) {
    return new static(
      $container->get('demo.demo_service')
    );
  }
  
  /**
   * Generates an example page.
   */
  public function demo() {
    return array(
      '#markup' => t('Hello @value!', array('@value' => $this->demoService->getDemoValue())),
    );
  }
}

As you can see, all the steps are there. The create() method creates a new instance of our controller class passing to it our service retrieved from the container. And in the end, an instance of the DemoService class gets stored in the $demoService property, and we can use it to call its getDemoValue() method. And this value is then used in the Hello message. Clear your cache and give it a try. Go to the demo/ path and you should see Hello Upchuk! printed on the page.

I’m sure you can see the power of the service container as we can now write decoupled functionality and pass it where it’s needed. I did not show you how, but you can also declare dependencies when you register services. This means that when Drupal instantiates a service object, it will do so for all its dependencies as well, and pass them to its constructor. You can read more about how to do that on this documentation page.

Conclusion

In this article we’ve looked at a lot of cool stuff. We’ve seen how the configuration system manages simple configuration and what we have available form-wise for this. I do encourage you to explore how the ConfigFormBase is implemented and what you have available if you extend it. Additionally, you should play around in the UI with importing/exporting configuration between sites. This will be a great improvement for the deployment process from now on.

Then, we looked at services, what they are and how they work. A great way of maintaining reusable and decoupled pieces of functionality accessible from anywhere. And I do hope the concept of dependency injection is no longer so scary (if it was for you). It is basically the equivalent of passing parameters to procedural functions, but done using constructor methods (or setters), under the hood, by Symfony and its great service container.

Jun 16 2014
Jun 16

How to Build a Drupal 8 Module

In the first installment of this article series on Drupal 8 module development we started with the basics. We’ve seen what files were needed to let Drupal know about our module, how the routing process works and how to create menu links programatically as configuration.

In this tutorial we are going to go a bit further with our sandbox module found in this repository and look at two new important pieces of functionality: blocks and forms. To this end, we will create a custom block that returns some configurable text. After that, we will create a simple form used to print out user submitted values to the screen.

Drupal 8 blocks

A cool new change to the block API in D8 has been a switch to making blocks more prominent, by making them plugins (a brand new concept). What this means is that they are reusable pieces of functionality (under the hood) as you can now create a block in the UI and reuse it across the site – you are no longer limited to using a block only one time.

Let’s go ahead and create a simple block type that prints to the screen Hello World! by default. All we need to work with is one class file located in the src/Plugin/Block folder of our module’s root directory. Let’s call our new block type DemoBlock, and naturally it needs to reside in a file called DemoBlock.php. Inside this file, we can start with the following:

<?php

namespace Drupal\demo\Plugin\Block;

use Drupal\block\BlockBase;
use Drupal\Core\Session\AccountInterface;

/**
 * Provides a 'Demo' block.
 *
 * @Block(
 *   id = "demo_block",
 *   admin_label = @Translation("Demo block"),
 * )
 */

class DemoBlock extends BlockBase {
  
  /**
   * {@inheritdoc}
   */
  public function build() {    
    return array(
      '#markup' => $this->t('Hello World!'),
    );
  }
  
  /**
   * {@inheritdoc}
   */
  public function access(AccountInterface $account) {
    return $account->hasPermission('access content');
  }  
  
}

Like with all other class files we start by namespacing our class. Then we use the BlockBase class so that we can extend it, as well as the AccountInterface class so that we can get access to the currently logged in user. Then follows something you definitely have not seen in Drupal 7: annotations.

Annotations are a PHP discovery tool located in the comment block of the same file as the class definition. Using these annotations we let Drupal know that we want to register a new block type (@Block) with the id of demo_block and the admin_label of Demo block (passed through the translation system).

Next, we extend the BlockBase class into our own DemoBlock, inside of which we implement two methods (the most common ones you’ll implement). The build() method is the most important as it returns a renderable array the block will print out. The access() method controls access rights for viewing this block. The parameter passed to it is an instance of the AccountInterface class which will be in this case the current user.

Another interesting thing to note is that we are no longer using the t() function globally for translation but we reference the t() method implemented in the class parent.

And that’s it, you can clear the caches and go to the Block layout configuration page. The cool thing is that you have the block types on the right (that you can filter through) and you can place one or more blocks of those types to various regions on the site.

Drupal 8 block configuration

Now that we’ve seen how to create a new block type to use from the UI, let’s tap further into the API and add a configuration form for it. We will make it so that you can edit the block, specify a name in a textfield and then the block will say hello to that name rather than the world.

First, we’ll need to define the form that contains our textfield. So inside our DemoBlock class we can add a new method called blockForm():

/**
 * {@inheritdoc}
 */
public function blockForm($form, &$form_state) {
  
  $form = parent::blockForm($form, $form_state);
  
  $config = $this->getConfiguration();

  $form['demo_block_settings'] = array(
    '#type' => 'textfield',
    '#title' => $this->t('Who'),
    '#description' => $this->t('Who do you want to say hello to?'),
    '#default_value' => isset($config['demo_block_settings']) ? $config['demo_block_settings'] : '',
  );
  
  return $form;
}

This form API implementation should look very familiar from Drupal 7. There are, however, some new things going on here. First, we retrieve the $form array from the parent class (so we are building on the existing form by adding our own field). Standard OOP stuff. Then, we retrieve and store the configuration for this block. The BlockBase class defines the getConfiguration() method that does this for us. And we place the demo_block_settings value as the #default_value in case it has been set already.

Next, it’s time for the submit handler of this form that will process the value of our field and store it in the block’s configuration:

/**
* {@inheritdoc}
*/
public function blockSubmit($form, &$form_state) {
 
 $this->setConfigurationValue('demo_block_settings', $form_state['values']['demo_block_settings']);
 
} 

This method also goes inside the DemoBlock class and all it does is save the value of the demo_block_settings field as a new item in the block’s configuration (keyed by the same name for consistency).

Lastly, we need to adapt our build() method to include the name to say hello to:

 /**
 * {@inheritdoc}
 */
public function build() {
  
  $config = $this->getConfiguration();
  
  if (isset($config['demo_block_settings']) && !empty($config['demo_block_settings'])) {
    $name = $config['demo_block_settings'];
  }
  else {
    $name = $this->t('to no one');
  }
  
  return array(
    '#markup' => $this->t('Hello @name!', array('@name' => $name)),
  );  
}

By now, this should look fairly easy. We are retrieving the block’s configuration and if the value of our field is set, we use it for the printed statement. If not, use use a generic one. You can clear the cache and test it out by editing the block you assigned to a region and add a name to say hello to. One thing to keep in mind is that you are still responsible for sanitizing user input upon printing to the screen. I have not included these steps for brevity.

Drupal 8 forms

The last thing we are going to explore in this tutorial is how to create a simple form. Due to space limitations, I will not cover the configuration management aspect of it (storing configuration values submitted through forms). Rather, I will illustrate a simple form definition, the values submitted being simply printed on the screen to show that it works.

In Drupal 8, form definition functions are all grouped together inside a class. So let’s define our simple DemoForm class inside src/Form/DemoForm.php:

<?php

/**
 * @file
 * Contains \Drupal\demo\Form\DemoForm.
 */

namespace Drupal\demo\Form;

use Drupal\Core\Form\FormBase;

class DemoForm extends FormBase {
  
  /**
   * {@inheritdoc}.
   */
  public function getFormId() {
    return 'demo_form';
  }
  
  /**
   * {@inheritdoc}.
   */
  public function buildForm(array $form, array &$form_state) {
    
    $form['email'] = array(
      '#type' => 'email',
      '#title' => $this->t('Your .com email address.')
    );
    $form['show'] = array(
      '#type' => 'submit',
      '#value' => $this->t('Submit'),
    );
    
    return $form;
  }
  
  /**
   * {@inheritdoc}
   */
  public function validateForm(array &$form, array &$form_state) {
    
    if (strpos($form_state['values']['email'], '.com') === FALSE ) {
      $this->setFormError('email', $form_state, $this->t('This is not a .com email address.'));
    } 
  }
  
  /**
   * {@inheritdoc}
   */
  public function submitForm(array &$form, array &$form_state) {
    
    drupal_set_message($this->t('Your email address is @email', array('@email' => $form_state['values']['email'])));
  }
  
}

Apart from the OOP side of it, everything should look very familiar to Drupal 7. The Form API has remained pretty much unchanged (except for the addition of some new form elements and this class encapsulation). So what happens above?

First, we namespace the class and use the core FormBase class so we can extend it with our own DemoForm class. Then we implement 4 methods, 3 of which should look very familiar. The getFormId() method is new and mandatory, used simply to return the machine name of the form. The buildForm() method is again mandatory and it builds up the form. How? Just like you are used to from Drupal 7. The validateForm() method is optional and its purpose should also be quite clear from D7. And finally, the submitForm() method does the submission handling. Very logical and organised.

So what are we trying to achieve with this form? We have an email field (a new form element in Drupal 8) we want users to fill out. By default, Drupal checks whether the value input is in fact an email address. But in our validation function we make sure it is a .com email address and if not, we set a form error on the field. Lastly, the submit handler just prints a message on the page.

One last thing we need to do in order to use this form is provide a route for it. So edit the demo.routing.yml file and add the following:

demo.form:
  path: '/demo/form'
  defaults:
    _form: '\Drupal\demo\Form\DemoForm'
    _title: 'Demo Form'
  requirements:
    _permission: 'access content'

This should look familiar from the previous article in which we routed a simple page. The only big difference is that instead of _content under defaults, we use _form to specify that the target is a form class. And the value is therefore the class name we just created.

Clear the caches and navigate to demo/form to see the form and test it out.

If you are familiar with drupal_get_form() and are wondering how to load a form like we used to in Drupal 7, the answer is in the global Drupal class. Thus to retrieve a form, you can use its formBuilder() method and do something like this:

$form = \Drupal::formBuilder()->getForm('Drupal\demo\Form\DemoForm');

Then you can return $form which will be the renderable array of the form.

Conclusion

In this article we’ve continued our exploration of Drupal 8 module development with two new topics: blocks and forms. We’ve seen how to create our own block type we can use to create blocks in the UI. We’ve also learned how to add a custom configuration to it and store the values for later use. On the topic of forms, we’ve seen a simple implementation of the FormBase class that we used to print out to the screen the value submitted by the user.

In the next tutorial we will take a quick look at configuration forms. We will save the values submitted by the user using the Drupal 8 configuration system. Additionally, we will look at the service container and dependency injection and how those work in Drupal 8. See you then.

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