Oct 02 2015
Oct 02

cTools is one of those critical Drupal 7 modules many others depend on. It provides a lot of APIs and functionality that makes life easier when developing modules. Views and Panels are just two examples of such powerhouses that depend on it.

cTools makes available different kinds of functionality. Object caching, configuration exportability, form wizards, dialogs and plugins are but a few. A lot of the credit you would normally attribute to Views or Panels is actually owed to cTools.

Drupal logo

In this article, we are going to take a look at cTools plugins, especially how we can create our very own. After a brief introduction, we will immediately go hands on with a custom module that will use the cTools plugins to make defining Drupal blocks nicer (more in tune to how we define them in Drupal 8).

Introduction

cTools plugins in Drupal 7 (conceptually not so dissimilar to the plugin system in Drupal 8) are meant for easily defining reusable bits of functionality. That is to say, for the ability to define isolated business logic that is used in some context. The goal is to set up that context and plugin type once, and allow other modules to then define plugins that can be used in that context automatically.

If you’ve been developing Drupal sites for more than a year you’ve probably encountered cTools plugins in one shape or form. I think the first plugin type we usually deal with is the content_type plugin which allows us to create our own custom panel panes that display dynamic content. And that is awesome. Some of the others you may have encountered in the same realm of Panels are probably context and access (visibility rules). Maybe even relationships and arguments. These are all provided by cTools. Panels adds to this list by introducing layouts and styles that we normally use for creating Panels layouts and individual pane styles. These are I think the more common ones.

However, all of the above are to a certain extent a black box to many. All we know is that we need to define a hook to specify a directory and then provide an include file with some definition and logic code and the rest happens by magic. Going forward, I would like us to look into how a plugin type is defined so that if the case arises, we can create our own plugins to represent some reusable bits of functionality. To demonstrate this, we will create a module that turns the pesky hook system of defining custom Drupal blocks into a plugin based approach similar to what Drupal 8 is using.

The final code (+ a bit more) can be found in this repository if you want to follow along. And I do expect you are familiar with the steps necessary for defining custom Drupal blocks.

The block_plugin module

As I mentioned, I would like to illustrate the power of cTools plugins with a custom plugin type that makes defining Drupal 7 blocks saner. Instead of implementing the 2 main hooks (hook_block_info() and hook_block_view()) necessary to define a block, we’ll be able to have separate plugin files each responsible for all the logic related to their own block. No more switch cases and changing the hook implementation every time we need a new block. So how do we do this?

First, let’s create our block_plugin.info file to get started with our module:

name = Block Plugin
description = Using cTools plugins to define Drupal core blocks
core = 7.x
dependencies[] = ctools

Simple enough.

The plugin type

In order to define our news plugin type, inside the block_plugin.module file we need to implement hook_ctools_plugin_type() which is responsible for defining new plugin types cTools will recognize:

function block_plugin_ctools_plugin_type() {
  return array(
    'block' => array(
      'label' => 'Block',
      'use hooks' => FALSE,
      'process' => 'block_plugin_process_plugin'
    )
  );
}

In this hook we need to return an associative array of all the plugin type definitions we need keyed by the machine name of the plugin type name. Today we are only creating one called block. For more information on all the options available here, feel free to consult the plugins-creating.html help file within the cTools module. No use repeating all that information here.

The process key defines a function name that gets triggered every time cTools loads for us a plugin and is responsible for shaping or massaging the plugin data before we use it. It’s sort of a helper function that prepares the plugin for us each time so we don’t have to bother. So let’s see what we can do inside that function:

function block_plugin_process_plugin(&$plugin, $info) {
  // Add a block admin title
  if (!isset($plugin['admin title'])) {
    $exploded = explode('_', $plugin['name']);
    $name = '';
    foreach ($exploded as $part) {
      $name .= ucfirst($part) . ' ';
    }
    $plugin['admin title'] = $name;
  }

  // By default we also show a block title but this can be overwritten
  if (!isset($plugin['show title'])) {
    $plugin['show title'] = TRUE;
  }

  // Add a block view function
  if (!isset($plugin['view'])) {
    $plugin['view'] = $plugin['module'] . '_' . $plugin['name'] . '_view';
  }

  // Add a block form function
  if (!isset($plugin['configure'])) {
    $plugin['configure'] = $plugin['module'] . '_' . $plugin['name'] . '_configure';
  }

  // Add a block save function
  if (!isset($plugin['save'])) {
    $plugin['save'] = $plugin['module'] . '_' . $plugin['name'] . '_save';
  }
}

This callback receives the plugin array as a reference and some information about the plugin type. The task at hand is to either change or add data to the plugin dynamically. So what do we achieve above?

First, if the developer hasn’t defined an admin title for the block plugin, we generate one automatically based on the machine name of the plugin. This is so that we always have an admin title in the Drupal block interface.

Second, we choose to always display the title of the block so we mark the show title key of the plugin array as TRUE. When defining the block plugin, the developer has the option of setting this to FALSE in which case we won’t show a block title (subject).

Third, fourth and fifth, we generate a callback function for the block view, save and configure actions (if they haven’t already been set by the developer for a given plugin). These callbacks will be used when implementing hook_block_view(), hook_block_configure() and hook_block_save(), respectively. We won’t be covering the latter two in this article but feel free to check out the repository to see what these can look like.

And that’s pretty much all we need for defining our custom plugin type. We should, however, also implement hook_ctools_plugin_directory() which, as you may know, is responsible for telling cTools where a plugin of a certain type can be found in the current module:

function block_plugin_ctools_plugin_directory($module, $plugin) {
  if ($module == 'block_plugin' && in_array($plugin, array_keys(block_plugin_ctools_plugin_type())) ) {
    return 'plugins/' . $plugin;
  }
}

This will need to be implemented also by any other module that wants to define block plugins.

Drupal blocks

Now that we have the plugin type, let’s write the code which turns any defined block plugin into a Drupal block. Will start with the hook_block_info() implementation:

function block_plugin_block_info() {
  $blocks = array();

  $plugins = block_plugin_get_all_plugins();
  foreach ($plugins as $plugin) {
    $blocks[DELTA_PREFIX . $plugin['name']] = array(
      'info' => $plugin['admin title'],
    );
  }

  return $blocks;
}

Here we load all of the plugins using a helper function and define the minimum required information for the block. Here you can add also more information but we are keeping it simple for brevity.

We know each plugin will have a machine name (the name of the include file basically) and an admin title because we generate one in the processing phase if one doesn’t exist. The DELTA_PREFIX is a simple constant in which we define the prefix we want for the block machine name because we need to reuse it and should be able to easily change it if we want to:

define('DELTA_PREFIX', 'block_plugin_');

Our helper function we saw earlier looks like this:

function block_plugin_get_all_plugins() {
  return ctools_get_plugins('block_plugin', 'block');
}

It’s a simple wrapper around the respective cTools function. And for that matter, we also have the following function responsible for loading a single plugin by its machine name:

function block_plugin_get_plugin($name) {
  return ctools_get_plugins('block_plugin', 'block', $name);
}

This is very similar to the one before.

In order to make our Drupal block definitions complete, we need to implement hook_block_view():

function block_plugin_block_view($delta = '') {
  $plugin = block_plugin_plugin_from_delta($delta);
  if (!$plugin) {
    return;
  }

  $block = array();

  // Optional title
  if (isset($plugin['title']) && $plugin['show title'] !== FALSE) {
    $block['subject'] = $plugin['title'];
  }

  // Block content
  $block['content'] = $plugin['view']($delta);

  return $block;
}

So what’s happening here?

First, we use another helper function to try to load a plugin based on the delta of the current block and do nothing if we are not dealing with a plugin block.

Second, we build the block. If the user specified a title key on the plugin and the show title key is not false, we set the subject of the block (its title basically) as the former’s value. As for the actual block content, we simply call the view callback defined in the plugin. And that’s it.

Let us quickly see also the helper function responsible for loading a plugin based on a block delta:

function block_plugin_plugin_from_delta($delta) {
  $prefix_length = strlen(DELTA_PREFIX);
  $name = substr($delta, $prefix_length);
  $plugin = block_plugin_get_plugin($name);
  return $plugin ? $plugin : FALSE;
}

Nothing complicated going on here.

Defining block plugins

Since we told cTools that it can find block plugins inside the plugins/block folder of our module, let’s go ahead and create that folder. In it, we can add our first block inside a file with the .inc extension, for example my_block.inc:

<?php

$plugin = array(
  'title' => t('This is my block'),
);

/**
 * Returns a renderable array that represents the block content
 */
function block_plugin_my_block_view($delta) {
  return array(
    '#type' => 'markup',
    '#markup' => 'Yo block!'
  );
}

Like we do with all other plugins (content_type, context, etc), the plugin definition is in the form of an array inside a variable called $plugin. And for our case all we need at this point is a title (and not even that since without it the block simply won’t show a title).

Below it, we defined our callback function to display the block. The naming of this function is important. It matches the pattern we used for it during the processing phase (module_name_plugin_name_view). If we want to name it differently, all we have to do is reference the function name in the view key of the $plugin and it will use that one instead.

And that is basically it. We can now clear our caches and go to the Block administration screen where we can find our block and add it to a region. Showing that block on the page should trigger the view callback for that block plugin and render the contents.

Conclusion

In this article we’ve talked a bit about cTools plugins and saw how we can define our own type of plugin. We used the latter for transforming the Drupal block system into a rudimentary plugin system. This can be extended further to allow also for the block related configuration hooks to be replaced by callbacks inside the plugin include file. Additionally, as mentioned earlier, you can also make sure all the data available in hook_block_info() can be defined inside the plugin. I leave these tasks up to you.

Daniel Sipos

Meet the author

Daniel Sipos is a Drupal developer who lives in Brussels, Belgium. He works professionally with Drupal but likes to use other PHP frameworks and technologies as well. He runs webomelette.com, a Drupal blog where he writes articles and tutorials about Drupal development, theming and site building.
Jun 10 2015
Jun 10

One of the things that makes Drupal great is its flexible user permission system. The out of the box permissions grid we are all familiar with covers most uses cases of controlling what users can and cannot do. It is also very easy for module developers to create new permissions and roles that restrict the logic they implement.

Drupal logo

Nevertheless, I have encountered a practical use case where the default configuration options are not enough. Namely, if you need to have multiple users with access to edit a particular node of a given type but without them necessarily having access to edit others of the same type. In other words, the next great article should be editable by Laura and Glenn but not by their colleagues. However, out of the box, users of a particular role can be masters either of their own content or of all content of a certain type. So this is not immediately possible.

In this article I am going to show you my solution to this problem in the form of a simple custom module called editor_list. Article nodes will have a field where you can select users and only these users (or those who have full access) will be able to edit that particular node. You can find the module already in this git repository and you can install it on your site for a quick start. Do keep in mind that it has a dependency on the Entity Reference module as we will see in a minute.

I will keep the code comments to a minimum to save space but you can find them in the repository if you want. Basic knowledge of Drupal 7 is assumed in the remainder of this tutorial.

Scaffolding

We first need the editor_list.info file for our module to get us going:

name = Editor List
description = Module illustrating a custom solution for having multiple editors on a node.
core = 7.x
dependencies[] = entityreference

Next, we need our editor_list.module file where most of our business logic will be located. So go ahead and create it and we will populate it as we go on.

Finally, though not covered here, we can have an editor_list.install file where we can implement hook_install() and hook_update hooks to create fields and/or deploy configuration. In the repository, you’ll find that I provided an install hook that already creates an entity reference field called field_editors and attaches it to the Article content type. If you are following along but not using the code in the repository, you should go ahead and create the field manually through the UI. It’s a simple field that references User entities and allows for unlimited selections. Nothing major.

Node access

Going back to our .module file, it’s time to implement our access logic. First though, to make things as flexible and reusable as possible, let’s have a simple function that returns an array of node types to which we apply our access logic:

function editor_list_node_types() {
  return array('article');
}

Since we are only targeting articles, this will suffice. But we will use this function in multiple places so in case we need to target other types as well, we just have to update this array.

Next, let’s write another helpful function that returns all the user IDs set in the editors field of a given node. We will also use this in multiple places:

function editor_list_uids_from_list($node) {
  $users = field_get_items('node', $node, 'field_editors');

  $allowed_uids = array();
  if ($users) {
    $allowed_uids = array_map(function($user) {
      return $user['target_id'];
    }, $users);
  }

  return $allowed_uids;
}

I believe the function is quite self explanatory so I won’t go into details here. Instead, we can turn to our hook_node_access() implementation that gets called by Drupal whenever a user tries to do something with a node (view, edit or delete):

/**
 * Implements hook_node_access().
 */
function editor_list_node_access($node, $op, $account) {
  $node_types = editor_list_node_types();

  if ( ! is_object($node) || ! in_array($node->type, $node_types) || $op !== 'update') {
    return NODE_ACCESS_IGNORE;
  }

  $allowed_uids = editor_list_uids_from_list($node);

  if (empty($allowed_uids)) {
    return NODE_ACCESS_IGNORE;
  }

  if (in_array($account->uid, $allowed_uids)) {
    return NODE_ACCESS_ALLOW;
  }
}

So what’s happening here?

First, we use our previously declared helper function to get the list of node types we want to target, and we basically ignore the situation and return if the node type of the currently accessed node is not within our list or if the operation the user is attempting is not of the type “update”. Then we use our other helper function to check if there are any users in the editor list for this node and again ignore the situation if there aren’t. However, if there are, and our accessing user is among them, we return the NODE_ACCESS_ALLOW constant which basically gives the user access to perform the attempted operation. And that’s it.

You can check out the documentation for more information about how this hook works.

Let’s say you have admin users who can create and edit any type of content and regular authenticated users who cannot edit articles (apart from maybe the ones they created themselves). Adding one of these latter users to a node’s editor list would give them access to that particular node. And another great thing is that since this is all nicely integrated, contextual filters and tabs also take these dynamic permissions into account.

Field access

We now have a working module that does what I initially set out for it to do. But let’s say that your admin users are the only ones responsible for adding users to the editor lists. In other words, you are afraid that if your editors can edit their nodes and remove themselves from the list, they’ll get locked out of the node they are supposed to work on.

To account for this situation, we need to implement a field access check and remove the possibility that editors tamper with that field. Implementing hook_field_access should do the trick nicely. And if you are wondering, this hook is similar to hook_node_access() but is responsible for individual fields rather than the entire node (+ a couple of other small differences).

/**
 * Implements hook_field_access().
 */
function editor_list_field_access($op, $field, $entity_type, $entity, $account) {
  $node_types = editor_list_node_types();
  if ($entity_type === 'node' && is_object($entity) && in_array($entity->type, $node_types)) {
    return editor_list_control_field_access($op, $field, $entity_type, $entity, $account);
  }
}

And here we have it. There are a few more parameters because this hook gets called for all entities, not just nodes. But again, we check if the currently accessed node is one of those we defined earlier (and that the entity is in fact a node) and this time delegate to another function to keep things tidier:

function editor_list_control_field_access($op, $field, $entity_type, $entity, $account) {
  if ($op !== 'edit') {
    return;
  }

  $uids = editor_list_uids_from_list($entity);
  if (!in_array($account->uid, $uids)) {
    return;
  }

  $deny = array('field_editors');
  if (in_array($field['field_name'], $deny)) {
    return false;
  }
}}

Since we only care if the user is trying to update a particular field, we return nothing if this is not the case. Keep in mind that the op string here is edit and not update as it was in the other hook. This is just one of those Drupal quirks of inconsistency we all came to love so much. And like before, we ignore the situation if the current user is not part of the editor list.

Then, we define an array of field names we want to deny access to (in our case only one but we can add to it depending on the use case). Finally, we return false if the currently accessed field is part of our $deny array. Yet another difference here in that we have to return a boolean instead of a constant like we did before.

Now the editors in the list of a given node cannot remove themselves or add anybody else to the list. But then again, in some cases you may want this functionality and in others not. It’s up to you.

Tidying up

The last thing I am going to show you here relates to organization and maybe a bit of user experience. With our current implementation, the editor list field on the Article nodes is present somewhere on the form (wherever you dragged-and-dropped it when editing the field settings). However, wouldn’t it be nice if it were automatically part of the Authoring information group at the bottom of the page? Something like this:

Drupal 7 multiple editors per node

I think so. Let’s see how we can do that.

First, we need to implement hook_form_alter or one of its variations. I prefer the most targeted one to avoid unnecessary calls to it and a bunch of conditional checks:

/**
 * Implements hook_form_BASE_FORM_ID_alter().
 */
function editor_list_form_article_node_form_alter(&$form, &$form_state, $form_id) {
  $form['#after_build'][] = 'editor_list_node_form_after_build';
}

We went with the BASE_FORM_ID of the article nodes here so if we extend our application to other types we would do the same for those as well. Inside, we just define an #after_build function to be triggered when the form has finished building. This is to ensure all the form alterations have been already done by contributed modules. All that is left to be done is to write the function responsible for making changes to the form:

function editor_list_node_form_after_build($form, &$form_state) {
  $field = field_info_field('field_editors');
  if ( ! field_access('edit', $field, 'node', $form['#entity'])) {
    return $form;
  }

  if ($form['author']['#access'] === 0) {
    return $form;
  }

  $field_editors = $form['field_editors'];
  $field_editors['#weight'] = 0;
  $form['author']['additional_authors'] = $field_editors;
  $form['field_editors'] = array();

  return $form;
}

This looks complicated but it really isn’t. We begin by loading the field definition of our editor list field. This is so that we can run the field_access check on it and just return the form array unchanged if the current user doesn’t have access to the field. Next, we do the same if the current user does not have access to the author group on the form (this is the Authoring information group we want to place the field into). And lastly, we make a copy of the field definition, change its weight and place it into the group, followed by unsetting the original definition to avoid having duplicates.

And that is pretty much it. Now the editors list field should be tucked in with the rest of the information related to authorship.

Conclusion

In this article, we created a solution to a content editing problem that Drupal 7 could not fix out of the box. However, it did provide us with the development tools necessary to make this an easy task inside of a custom module.

We now have an editor list field on the article node form by which we can specify exactly which users have access to that particular node. Though do keep in mind that in order for this to be of any use, the users you add to these lists must not have a role that allows them to edit all article nodes. Otherwise you won’t see much of a difference.

Apr 10 2015
Apr 10

A Silex and Elasticsearch app powered by Drupal 7 for content management

In the previous article I started exploring the integration between Drupal 7 and the Elasticsearch engine. The goal was to see how we can combine these open source technologies to achieve a high performance application that uses the best of both worlds. If you’re just now joining us, you should check out this repository which contains relevant code for these articles.

esdrupalsilex

We’ll now create a small Silex application that reads data straight from Elasticsearch and returns it to the user.

Silex app

Silex is a great PHP micro framework developed by the same people that are behind the Symfony project. It is in fact using mainly Symfony components but at a more simplified level. Let’s see how we can get started really quickly with a Silex app.

There is more than one way. You can add it as a dependency to an existent composer based project:

"silex/silex": "~1.2",

Or you can even create a new project using a nice little skeleton provided by the creator:

composer.phar create-project fabpot/silex-skeleton

Regardless of how your project is set up, in order to access Elasticsearch we’ll need to use its PHP SDK. That needs to be added to Composer:

"elasticsearch/elasticsearch": "~1.0",

And if we want to use Twig to output data, we’ll need this as well (if not already there of course):

"symfony/twig-bridge": "~2.3"

In order to use the SDK, we can expose it as a service to Pimple, the tiny Silex dependency injection container (much easier than it sounds). Depending on how our project is set up, we can do this in a number of places (see the repository for an example). But basically, after we instantiate the new Silex application, we can add the following:

$app['elasticsearch'] = function() {
  return new Client(array());
};

This creates a new service called elasticsearch on our app that instantiates an object of the Elasticsearch Client class. And don’t forget we need to use that class at the top:

use Elasticsearch\Client;

Now, wherever we want, we can get the Elasticsearch client by simply referring to that property in the $app object:

$client = $app['elasticsearch'];

Connecting to Elasticsearch

In the previous article we’ve managed to get our node data into the node index with each node type giving the name of an Elasticsearch document type. So for instance, this will return all the article node types:

http://localhost:9200/node/article/_search

We’ve also seen how to instantiate a client for our Elasticsearch SDK. Now it’s time to use it somehow. One way is to create a controller:

<?php

namespace Controller;

use Silex\Application;
use Symfony\Component\HttpFoundation\Response;

class NodeController {

  /**
   * Shows a listing of nodes.
   *
   * @return \Symfony\Component\HttpFoundation\Response
   */
  public function index() {
    return new Response('Here there should be a listing of nodes...');
  }
  
  /**
   * Shows one node
   *
   * @param $nid
   * @param \Silex\Application $app
   * @return mixed
   */
  public function show($nid, Application $app) {
    $client = $app['elasticsearch'];
    $params = array(
      'index' => 'node',
      'body' => array(
        'query' => array(
          'match' => array(
            'nid' => $nid,
          ),
        ),
      )
    );
    
    $result = $client->search($params);
    if ($result && $result['hits']['total'] === 0) {
      $app->abort(404, sprintf('Node %s does not exist.', $nid));
    }
    
    if ($result['hits']['total'] === 1) {
      $node = $result['hits']['hits'];
      return $app['twig']->render('node.html.twig', array('node' => reset($node)));
    }
  }
}

Depending on how you organise your Silex application, there are a number of places this controller class can go. In my case it resides inside the src/Controller folder and it’s autoloaded by Composer.

We also need to create a route that maps to this Controller though. Again, there are a couple of different ways to handle this but in my example I have a routes.php file located inside the src/ folder and required inside index.php:

<?php

use Symfony\Component\HttpFoundation\Response;

/**
 * Error handler
 */
$app->error(function (\Exception $e, $code) {
  switch ($code) {
    case 404:
      $message = $e->getMessage();
      break;
    default:
      $message = 'We are sorry, but something went terribly wrong. ' . $e->getMessage();
  }

  return new Response($message);
});

/**
 * Route for /node
 */
$app->get("/node", "Controller\\NodeController::index");

/**
 * Route /node/{nid} where {nid} is a node id
 */
$app->get("/node/{nid}", "Controller\\NodeController::show");

So what happens in my example above? First, I defined an error handler for the application, just so I can see the exceptions being caught and print them on the screen. Not a big deal. Next, I defined two routes that map to my two controller methods defined before. But for the sake of brevity, I only exemplified what the prospective show() method might do:

  • Get the Elasticsearch client
  • Build the Elasticsearch query parameters (similar to what we did in the Drupal environment)
  • Perform the query
  • Check for the results and if a node was found, render it with a Twig template and pass the node data to it.
  • If no results are found, abort the process with a 404 that calls our error handler for this HTTP code declared above.

If you want to follow this example, keep in mind that to use Twig you’ll need to register it with your application. It’s not so difficult if you have it already in your vendor folder through composer.

After you instantiate the Silex app, you can register the provider:

$app->register(new TwigServiceProvider());

Make sure you use the class at the top:

use Silex\Provider\TwigServiceProvider;

And add it as a service with some basic configuration:

$app['twig'] = $app->share($app->extend('twig', function ($twig, $app) {
  return $twig;
}));
$app['twig.path'] = array(__DIR__.'/../templates');

Now you can create template files inside the templates/ folder of your application. For learning more about setting up a Silex application, I do encourage you to read this introduction to the framework.

To continue with our controller example though, here we have a couple of template files that output the node data.

Inside a page.html.twig file:

        <!DOCTYPE html>
        <html>
        <head>
            {% block head %}
                <title>{% block title %}{% endblock %} - My Elasticsearch Site</title>
            {% endblock %}
        </head>
        <body>
        <div id="content">{% block content %}{% endblock %}</div>
        </body>
        </html>

And inside the node.html.twig file we used in the controller for rendering:

{% extends "page.html.twig" %}

{% block title %}{{ node._source.title }}{% endblock %}

{% block content %}

    <article>
        <h1>{{ node._source.title }}</h1>

        <div id="content">

            {% if node._source.field_image %}
                <div class="field-image">
                    {% for image in node._source.field_image %}
                        <img src="http://www.sitepoint.com/integrate-elasticsearch-silex//{{ image.url }}" alt="img.alt"/>
                    {% endfor %}
                </div>
            {% endif %}

            {% if node._source.body %}
                <div class="field-body">
                    {% for body in node._source.body %}
                        {{ body.value|striptags('<p><div><br><img><a>')|raw }}
                    {% endfor %}
                </div>
            {% endif %}
        </div>
    </article>


{% endblock %}

This is just some basic templating for getting our node data printed in the browser (not so fun otherwise). We have a base file and one that extends it and outputs the node title, images and body text to the screen.

Alternatively, you can also return a JSON response from your controller with the help of the JsonResponse class:

use Symfony\Component\HttpFoundation\JsonResponse;

And from your controller simply return a new instance with the values passed to it:

return new JsonResponse($node);

You can easily build an API like this. But for now, this should already work. By pointing your browser to http://localhost/node/5 you should see data from Drupal’s node 5 (if you have it). With one big difference: it is much much faster. There is no bootstrapping, theming layer, database query etc. On the other hand, you don’t have anything useful either out of the box except for what you build yourself using Silex/Symfony components. This can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on the type of project you are working on. But the point is you have the option of drawing some lines for this integration and decide its extent.

One end of the spectrum could be building your entire front end with Twig or even Angular.js with Silex as the API backend. The other would be to use Silex/Elasticsearch for one Drupal page and use it only for better content search. Somewhere in the middle would probably be using such a solution for an entire section of a Drupal site that is dedicated to interacting with heavy data (like a video store or something). It’s up to you.

Conclusion

We’ve seen in this article how we can quickly set up a Silex app and use it to return some data from Elasticsearch. The goal was not so much to learn how any of these technologies work, but more of exploring the options for integrating them. The starting point was the Drupal website which can act as a perfect content management system that scales highly if built properly. Data managed there can be dumped into a high performance data store powered by Elasticsearch and retrieved again for the end users with the help of Silex, a lean and fast PHP framework.

Apr 03 2015
Apr 03

A Silex and Elasticsearch app powered by Drupal 7 for content management

In this tutorial I am going to look at the possibility of using Drupal 7 as a content management system that powers another high performance application. To illustrate the latter, I will use the Silex PHP microframework and Elasticsearch as the data source. The goal is to create a proof of concept, demonstrating using these three technologies together.

esdrupalsilex

The article comes with a git repository that you should check out, which contains more complete code than can be presented in the tutorial itself. Additionally, if you are unfamiliar with either of the three open source projects being used, I recommend following the links above and also checking out the documentation on their respective websites.

The tutorial will be split into two pieces, because there is quite a lot of ground to cover.

In this part, we’ll set up Elasticsearch on the server and integrate it with Drupal by creating a small, custom module that will insert, update, and delete Drupal nodes into Elasticsearch.

In the second part, we’ll create a small Silex app that fetches and displays the node data directly from Elasticsearch, completely bypassing the Drupal installation.

Elasticsearch

The first step is to install Elasticsearch on the server. Assuming you are using Linux, you can follow this guide and set it up to run when the server starts. There are a number of configuration options you can set here.

A very important thing to remember is that Elasticsearch has no access control so, once it is running on your server, it is publicly accessible through the (default) 9200 port. To avoid having problems, make sure that in the configuration file you uncomment this line:

network.bind_host: localhost

And add the following one:

script.disable_dynamic: true

These options make sure that Elasticsearch is not accessible from the outside, nor are dynamic scripts allowed. These are recommended security measures you need to take.

Drupal

The next step is to set up the Drupal site on the same server. Using the Elasticsearch Connector Drupal module, you can get some integration with the Elasticsearch instance: it comes with the PHP SDK for Elasticsearch, some statistics about the Elasticsearch instance and some other helpful submodules. I’ll leave it up to you to explore those at your leisure.

Once the connector module is enabled, in your custom module you can retrieve the Elasticsearch client object wrapper to access data:

$client = elastic_connector_get_client_by_id('my_cluster_id');

Here, my_cluster_id is the Drupal machine name that you gave to the Elasticsearch cluster (at admin/config/elasticsearch-connector/clusters). The $client object will now allow you to perform all sorts of operations, as illustrated in the docs I referenced above.

Inserting data

The first thing we need to do is make sure we insert some Drupal data into Elasticsearch. Sticking to nodes for now, we can write a hook_node_insert() implementation that will save every new node to Elasticsearch. Here’s an example, inside a custom module called elastic:

/**
 * Implements hook_node_insert().
 */
function elastic_node_insert($node) {
  $client = elasticsearch_connector_get_client_by_id('my_cluster_id');
  $params = _elastic_prepare_node($node);

  if ( ! $params) {
    drupal_set_message(t('There was a problem saving this node to Elasticsearch.'));
    return;
  }

  $result = $client->index($params);
  if ($result && $result['created'] === false) {
    drupal_set_message(t('There was a problem saving this node to Elasticsearch.'));
    return;
  }

  drupal_set_message(t('The node has been saved to Elasticsearch.'));
}

As you can see, we instantiate a client object that we use to index the data from the node. You may be wondering what _elastic_prepare_node() is:

/**
 * Prepares a node to be added to Elasticsearch
 *
 * @param $node
 * @return array
 */
function _elastic_prepare_node($node) {

  if ( ! is_object($node)) {
    return;
  }

  $params = array(
    'index' => 'node',
    'type' => $node->type,
    'body' => array(),
  );

  // Add the simple properties
  $wanted = array('vid', 'uid', 'title', 'log', 'status', 'comment', 'promote', 'sticky', 'nid', 'type', 'language', 'created', 'changed', 'revision_timestamp', 'revision_uid');
  $exist = array_filter($wanted, function($property) use($node) {
    return property_exists($node, $property);
  });
  foreach ($exist as $field) {
    $params['body'][$field] = $node->{$field};
  }

  // Add the body field if exists
  $body_field = isset($node->body) ? field_get_items('node', $node, 'body') : false;
  if ($body_field) {
    $params['body']['body'] = $body_field;
  }

  // Add the image field if exists
  $image_field = isset($node->field_image) ? field_get_items('node', $node, 'field_image') : false;
  if ($image_field) {
    $params['body']['field_image'] = array_map(function($img) {
      $img = file_load($img['fid']);
      $img->url = file_create_url($img->uri);
      return $img;
    }, $image_field);
  }

  return $params;
}

It is just a helper function I wrote, which is responsible for “serializing” the node data and getting it ready for insertion into Elasticsearch. This is just an example and definitely not a complete or fully scalable one. It is also assuming that the respective image field name is field_image. An important point to note is that we are inserting the nodes into the node index with a type = $node->type.

Updating data

Inserting is not enough, we need to make sure that node changes get reflected in Elasticsearch as well. We can do this with a hook_node_update() implementation:

/**
 * Implements hook_node_update().
 */
function elastic_node_update($node) {
  if ($node->is_new !== false) {
    return;
  }

  $client = elasticsearch_connector_get_client_by_id('my_cluster_id');
  $params = _elastic_prepare_node($node);

  if ( ! $params) {
    drupal_set_message(t('There was a problem updating this node in Elasticsearch.'));
    return;
  }

  $result = _elastic_perform_node_search_by_id($client, $node);
  if ($result && $result['hits']['total'] !== 1) {
    drupal_set_message(t('There was a problem updating this node in Elasticsearch.'));
    return;
  }

  $params['id'] = $result['hits']['hits'][0]['_id'];
  $version = $result['hits']['hits'][0]['_version'];
  $index = $client->index($params);

  if ($index['_version'] !== $version + 1) {
    drupal_set_message(t('There was a problem updating this node in Elasticsearch.'));
    return;
  }
  
  drupal_set_message(t('The node has been updated in Elasticsearch.'));
}

We again use the helper function to prepare our node for insertion, but this time we also search for the node in Elasticsearch to make sure we are updating and not creating a new one. This happens using another helper function I wrote as an example:

/**
 * Helper function that returns a node from Elasticsearch by its nid.
 *
 * @param $client
 * @param $node
 * @return mixed
 */
function _elastic_perform_node_search_by_id($client, $node) {
  $search = array(
    'index' => 'node',
    'type' => $node->type,
    'version' => true,
    'body' => array(
      'query' => array(
        'match' => array(
          'nid' => $node->nid,
        ),
      ),
    ),
  );

  return $client->search($search);
}

You’ll notice that I am asking Elasticsearch to return the document version as well. This is so that I can check if a document has been updated with my request.

Deleting data

The last (for now) feature we need is the ability to remove the data from Elasticsearch when a node gets deleted. hook_node_delete() can help us with that:

/**
 * Implements hook_node_delete().
 */
function elastic_node_delete($node) {
  $client = elasticsearch_connector_get_client_by_id('my_cluster_id');

  // If the node is in Elasticsearch, remove it
  $result = _elastic_perform_node_search_by_id($client, $node);
  if ($result && $result['hits']['total'] !== 1) {
    drupal_set_message(t('There was a problem deleting this node in Elasticsearch.'));
    return;
  }

  $params = array(
    'index' => 'node',
    'type' => $node->type,
    'id' => $result['hits']['hits'][0]['_id'],
  );

  $result = $client->delete($params);
  if ($result && $result['found'] !== true) {
    drupal_set_message(t('There was a problem deleting this node in Elasticsearch.'));
    return;
  }

  drupal_set_message(t('The node has been deleted in Elasticsearch.'));
}

Again, we search for the node in Elasticsearch and use the returned ID as a marker to delete the document.

Please keep in mind though that using early returns such as illustrated above is not ideal inside Drupal hook implementations unless this is more or less all the functionality that needs to go in them. I recommend splitting the logic into helper functions if you need to perform other unrelated tasks inside these hooks.

This is enough to get us started using Elasticsearch as a very simple data source on top of Drupal. With this basic code in place, you can navigate to your Drupal site and start creating some nodes, updating them and deleting them.

One way to check if Elasticsearch actually gets populated, is to disable the remote access restriction I mentioned above you need to enable. Make sure you only do this on your local, development, environment. This way, you can perform HTTP requests directly from the browser and get JSON data back from Elasticsearch.

You can do a quick search for all the nodes in Elasticsearch by navigating to this URL:

http://localhost:9200/node/_search

…where localhost points to your local server and 9200 is the default Elasticsearch port.

For article nodes only:

http://localhost:9200/node/article/_search

And for individual articles, by the auto generated Elasticsearch ids:

http://localhost:9200/node/article/AUnJgdPGGE7A1g9FtqdV

Go ahead and check out the Elasticsearch documentation for all the amazing ways you can interact with it.

Conclusion

We’ve seen in this article how we can start working to integrate Elasticsearch with Drupal. Obviously, there is far more we can do based on even the small things we’ve accomplished. We can extend the integration to other entities and even Drupal configuration if needed. In any case, we now have some Drupal data in Elasticsearch, ready to be used from an external application.

That external application will be the task for the second part of this tutorial. We’ll be setting up a small Silex app that, using the Elasticsearch PHP SDK, will read the Drupal data directly from Elasticsearch. As with part 1, above, we won’t be going through a step-by-step tutorial on accomplishing a given task, but instead will explore one of the ways that you can start building this integration. See you there.

Jul 05 2014
Jul 05

How to Build a Drupal 8 Module

Even though Drupal 7 core fell short of a proper way of handling its brand new entity system (we currently rely on the great Entity module for that), it did give us EntityFieldQuery. For those of you who don’t know, EntityFieldQuery is a very powerful querying class used to search Drupal entities programatically (nodes, users, etc).

It provides a number of methods that make it easy to query entities based on conditions such as field values or class properties. If you don’t know how it works, feel free to check out this documentation page or this great tutorial on the subject.

In this article I am going to talk about what we have in Drupal 8 for querying entities. There is no more EntityFieldQuery, but there’s an entity.query service that will instantiate a query object for a given entity type (and that implements the \Drupal\Core\Entity\Query\QueryInterface). We can access this service statically through the \Drupal namespace or using dependency injection.

First up, we’ll look at querying node entities and then we’ll see how to load them. The same techniques will work with other content entities as well (users, comments etc), but also with configuration entities, and that’s really cool.

The entity query service

As mentioned, there are two ways we can access the entity.query service that we use for querying entities. Statically, we can do this:

$query = \Drupal::entityQuery('node');

Instead of node, we can specify any other entity type machine name and what we get inside the $query variable is the query object for our entity type. The entityQuery() static method on the \Drupal namespace is a shortcut for doing so using the entity.query service.

Alternatively (and the highly recommended approach) is to use dependency injection.

If you have access to the container, you can load the service from there and then get the right query object:

$entity_query_service = $container->get('entity.query');
$query = $entity_query_service->get('node');

As you can see, we use the get() method on the entity_query service to instantiate a query object for the entity type with the machine name passed as a parameter.

Querying entities

Let’s illustrate a couple of examples of querying for node entities using this object.

A very simple query that returns the published nodes:

$query = \Drupal::entityQuery('node')
    ->condition('status', 1);
    
$nids = $query->execute();

$nids will be an array of entity ids (in our case node ids) keyed by the revision ids (if there is revisioning enabled for the entity type) or the entity ids if not. Let’s see an example in which we add more property conditions as well as field conditions:

$query = \Drupal::entityQuery('node')
    ->condition('status', 1)
    ->condition('changed', REQUEST_TIME, 'condition('title', 'cat', 'CONTAINS')
    ->condition('field_tags.entity.name', 'cats');

$nids = $query->execute();

In this query, we retrieve the node ids of all the published nodes that have been last updated before the current time, that have the word cat inside their title and that have a taxonomy term called cats as a reference in the field_tags.

As you can see, there is no more distinction between propertyCondition and fieldCondition (as there is in D7 with EntityFieldQuery). Additionally, we can include conditions based on referenced entities tacking on the entity.(column) to the entity reference field name.

An important thing to note is that we also have the langcode parameter in the condition() method by which we can specify what translation of the node should be included in the query. For instance, we can retrieve node IDs that contain a specific value inside of a field in one language but another value inside the same field for another language.

For more information on the condition() method you should consult the API documentation.

The next thing we are going to look at is using condition groups (both AND and OR) for more powerful queries:

$query = \Drupal::entityQuery('node')
    ->condition('status', 1)
    ->condition('changed', REQUEST_TIME, 'orConditionGroup()
    ->condition('title', 'cat', 'CONTAINS')
    ->condition('field_tags.entity.name', 'cats');

$nids = $query->condition($group)->execute();

Above, we altered our previous query so as to retrieve nodes that either have the cat string in their title or have a reference to the term called cats in their field_tags field. And we did so by creating an orConditionGroup object that we then pass to the query as a condition. And we can group together multiple conditions within a andConditionGroup as well.

There are many other methods on the QueryInterface that can extend the query (such as for sorting, range, etc). I encourage you to check them out in the documentation and experiment with them. For now, though, let’s take a quick look at what to do with the result set.

Loading entities

As I mentioned above, the execute() method on the query object we’ve been working with returns an array of entity IDs. Supposedly we now have to load those entity objects and work with them. How do we do that?

In Drupal 7 we had the entity_load() function to which we passed an array of IDs and that would return an array of objects. In Drupal 8, this helper function is maintained and you can use it pretty much in the same way, except only for one entity at a time:

$node = entity_load('node', $nids[1]);

And the return value is a node object. To load multiple nodes, you can use the entity_load_multiple() function:

$nodes = entity_load_multiple('node', $nids);

Which then returns an array of entity objects keyed by their ids.

A bonus nugget of information is that both of these functions are wrappers for the storage manager of the entities in question. They basically retrieve the storage manager statically and then call the load() and loadMultiple() methods, respectively, on it:

Statically, you could do similarly:

$node_storage = \Drupal::entityManager()->getStorage('node');

// Load multiple nodes
$node_storage->loadMultiple($ids);
// Load a single node
$node_storage->load($id);

But better yet, you could use dependency injection and retrieve the storage class from the container:

$node_storage = $container->get('entity.manager')->getStorage('node');

And then proceed with the loading. Using dependency injection is usually the recommended way to go when it’s possible, i.e. when working within a class. This makes it easier to test your class and better decouples it from the rest of the application.

Conclusion

In this article we’ve seen how to work with querying and loading entities in Drupal 8. There has been an overhaul of the D7 EntityFieldQuery class that turned into a robust API for querying both content and configuration entities. We’ve looked at querying content entities but the system works just the same with config entities. And that is a bit of a win for the new Drupal 8 entity system.

We’ve also seen how to load entities based on the IDs resulted in these queries and what is actually behind the wrapper functions that perform these operations. Next up, we are going to look at defining our own content entity type in Drupal 8. For a refresher on how we do it in Drupal 7, you can check out these Sitepoint articles on the subject.

About Drupal Sun

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  • Do full-text search on all the articles in Drupal Planet (thanks to Apache Solr)
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