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Updated: 13 hours 33 min ago

Drupalize.Me: Learning Drupal 8 from Boilerplate Code

9 July 2015 - 6:02am
Drupal 8 represents a lot of changes and a steep learning curve for many Drupal developers and themers. While many of these changes are exciting, there are many things to learn just to get started. One way to learn about the code involved with Drupal 8 modules and themes is to take a look at core's modules and themes for examples to follow. Another, is to use a code scaffolding tool like Drupal Console to generate boilerplate code and comments that you learn from and then customize.
Categories: Drupal

Drupal core announcements: Drupal 8's minimum PHP version increased to 5.5.9

8 July 2015 - 9:17pm

Pursuant to the discussion at [policy] Require PHP 5.5, the minimum PHP version of Drupal 8 has been raised to 5.5.9, and this change will be included in the next Drupal 8 beta (8.0.0-beta13).

(PHP 5.5.9 was chosen because it is also the same minimum version as Ubuntu's LTS, which in turn influenced Symfony 3.0, Travis CI, etc.)

This is a future-proofing move which buys us a few things:

  • Some nice language features and a built-in opcode cache.
  • Compatibility with the latest versions of various external dependencies, including Guzzle 6 and the upcoming Symfony 3.0
  • Better security for our end users, since PHP 5.4 will become end of life September 15, 2015 (most likely prior to Drupal 8's release).

We looked extensively into the adoption and hosting support of PHP 5.5 prior to making this move. While there is not widespread adoption of PHP 5.5 as of today, we nevertheless found that most hosts offer the option for PHP 5.5, due to PHP's security policy.

Categories: Drupal

Mediacurrent: Mediacurrent Dropcast: Episode 7

8 July 2015 - 7:39pm

In this episode we celebrate the founding of our country by talking up a few modules we have discovered and enjoy. Ryan talks about the Image Field Focus module and how it makes cropping a joy without the gamble of a cropping image style. Bob waxes poetic about the WYSIWYG Field module, which is very similar to his WysiField module. As always we keep you up to date about Drupal 8 and Ryan brings it home with The Final Bell. This was recorded on the day before all went out for the holiday weekend so there are times where we derail the train. At least this time we have an excuse.

Categories: Drupal

Drupal core announcements: API module seeking co-maintainer

8 July 2015 - 3:24pm

For the past 8+ years, Neil Drumm (drumm) has been maintaining the API module, and I've been co-maintaining it for the past 3+ years. (This is the module that builds and displays the Drupal API reference site Both of us have "some" other responsibilities in the Drupal ecosystem, and we'd like to find a new co-maintainer.

The ideal person would be:
- A good PHP coder familiar with and willing to follow the Drupal project's coding standards
- Familiar with the site and its features
- Familiar with the API docs standards
- Familiar with both Drupal 7 and Drupal 8 core code (or at least familiar with the kinds of code it contains and the Drupalisms that it has), since both are displayed on the site
Of course, all of these "ideals" are negotiable and/or learnable, and it could be that a few co-maintainers would be better than just one.

The next step would be for the person or people who are interested to start making patches for a few issues, and once a few of those have happened, we would consider making you an official co-maintainer. The project page has a link to documentation for how to get a local API site set up, and the module also has a robust set of tests. The code in the API module is somewhat obtuse, but I'd be happy to start anyone out with a quick tour (or help you find an issue to work on). The module runs on Drupal 7 only at this time, and this is unlikely to need to change anytime soon (it displays Drupal 8 code but runs on Drupal 7, like the other * sites).

So if you're interested, you can either jump in and find an API module issue to work on and make a patch, or use my contact form or IRC to contact me and discuss.

Sorry... by policy, comments on this post are disabled, since it is going into the Core group (as well as Documentation).

Categories: Drupal

DrupalCon News: Save 100€ on Barcelona Tickets: Buy by Friday

8 July 2015 - 11:32am

Are you planning on attending DrupalCon Barcelona? If you are, we hope you’ll get your tickets this week and save 100€ in the process.

Every DrupalCon has varied ticket pricing levels, and DrupalCon Barcelona is no different. We’re offering earlybird pricing so that frugal DrupalCon attendees can get their tickets for less, but that pricing expires on Friday at 23:59 Barcelona local time (UTC +2).

For those looking at purchasing tickets, be aware that prices are as follows as we lead up to the convention:

Categories: Drupal

Drupal Watchdog: Caffeinated Drupal

8 July 2015 - 7:34am

One of the signs that you’re in a good coffee shop is if they serve their milk-based espresso drinks with an artful rosetta (floral pattern) on top. This is referred to as Latte art. At first glance, it may appear to be an offhand flourish by the barista – similar to a bartender flipping a bottle in the air before pouring a drink – but it is actually much more than that.

Latte art is a representation of the care and expertise that went into creating your drink: a good quality coffee bean; the ideal grind in order to pull an espresso with the right amount of crema (the oily brownish foam that sits on top of a good shot of espresso); milk that has been steamed just right to have a micro-foam consistency (uniform small bubbles throughout); and, of course, the perfect pour to blend the milk and espresso just right until a flower, heart, or other artful creation emerges on top.

While we sit back and enjoy today’s coffee – a Brazil Yellow Bourbon Latte (amazing bitter cocoa flavors, is this a latte or a hot chocolate?!?) – let’s consider how an optimally performing Drupal site compares to the creation of latte art.

There are many factors that contribute to a high performance Drupal site. For starters, we can look at factors such as code quality, the use of caches where possible, database configuration, and front-end caching. For a Drupal site to perform at its best, all of these components must be done well. Even a small misconfiguration or a bit of buggy code can be enough to slow a site to a crawl, especially when serving a large amount of traffic. The same can be said for latte art: if the coffee beans aren’t fresh enough to produce crema, or the milk isn’t foamed properly, or the pour of the milk isn’t done with the correct technique, the result will be an ordinary-looking – and possibly poor-tasting – drink.

Categories: Drupal

Mpumelelo Msimanga: Drupal: Filters for External Data Views

8 July 2015 - 7:18am
Drupal: Filters for External Data Views

A Drupal View that uses Views Database Connector (VDC) to show external database tables will not have all features of a “normal” View. For example, select filters are only available for list fields, references and taxonomy terms. In this post I use two modules to improve the exposed filters in my external data View.

Categories: Drupal

Realityloop: Custom Formatters 7.x-2.4

7 July 2015 - 10:51pm
8 Jul Stuart Clark

Full disclaimer, I am saying this as the developer of the module, but it is definitely the module that I am the most proud of.

That’s Custom Formatters with a capital CF; custom formatters (with lower case characters) are a core part of Drupal, they are the layer that takes Field data from the database and presents it to the frontend of your website in a more visually appealing style.

The Custom Formatters module quite simply adds the ability for site builders and developers to create or tweak their own custom formatters from within the website, never needing to touch the site file system.

And now, with Custom Formatters 7.x-2.4, it’s even better.


What’s new in Custom Formatters 7.x-2.4?
  1. New Formatter format/engine; Formatter presets
    This is the big one, the catalyst for the new release; Formatter presets give you the ability to take complex Formatters with settings and turn them into new simplified, end-user approved formatters.

    More on this below.
  2. Support for Display Suite fields
    I’ve been a big fan of Display Suite (DS) since I first came across it years ago. Custom Formatters did have support for DS in the Drupal 6 version, but I had made the decision to not support it in Drupal 7 due to DS’s own Code fields. Due to popular demand (my self included), that decision has been reversed.
  3. Fixes to the HTML + Token format
    HTML + Tokens was always supposed to be the format that made this module site builder friendly, but to various issues with native Field tokens in Drupal 7 it has never worked overly well. I’m happy to say that this is no longer the case, and HTML + Tokens formatters work extremely well.

    More on this below.
  4. Miscellaneous bug fixes.


How to use Custom Formatters?

Using custom formatters is relatively straight forward, anyone who has used any CTools Export UI based module (Views, Context, etc) should be familiar with the user interface:

By default it comes with some example formatters, and you can import others from your own collection or from, but chances are you are most likely going to want to create your own Custom Formatters.

To do so, simply click the + Add button and you will be presented with the following interface:

You will need to provide the following information:

  1. Formatter name
    The human readable name of the formatter, what the site-builder, or possibly end user will see when choosing a formatter.

    Entering this value will auto-generate the Machine name, which can also be manually edited.
  2. Description
    Only used within the Custom Formatters interface, useful to explain what the purposes of the formatter are, where it’s to be used and what modules it requires.
  3. Format
    The format/engine of the formatter you are about to create. Out of the box there are three formats, but additional modules are able to provide additional formats. The format determines the method of how the Formatter is created, and as such I will go into more detail for each individual format below.
  4. Field type(s)
    Depending on the chosen format, you need to assign the formatter to one or many field types types (image, file, textfield, etc).
  5. Formatter
    The formatter interface itself is dependent on the chosen format, more details on each format below.

Once you have created your formatter, you can preview the formatter within the Preview interface. This allows you to apply the formatter to an existing field on an existing entity, or if the Devel generate module (provided by the Devel module) is present you can apply the formatter against a devel generated item.

Lastly, ensure you save your formatter, as you don’t want all your hard work to go down the drain. Alternatively, Save & Edit frequently during the creation of the formatter.


Format types

Out of the box there are three formats available with Custom Formatters, but the module is written in such a way that any 3rd part module could add an additional format.



The PHP format was the original format engine for the Custom Formatters module, it mimics as closely to writing a formatter within a Drupal custom module as feasible, and as such is only recommended for use by those with knowledge of PHP and the Drupal API.

The PHP format is provided with all required data for writing a formatter in the $variable array, as well as an individual variable per array key ($variable['#items'] is the same as $items):

  1. $obj_type: The entity type (node, taxonomy_term, etc)

  2. $object: The entity object.

  3. $field: The field definition.

  4. $instance; The field instance.

  5. $langcode; The language code.

  6. $items; An array of all field item data for formatting.

  7. $display; The formatter display settings and formatter settings.

With this data you are free to do with what you will. However, in general a standard pattern is to iterate over the $items array and populate an $elements array which is finally returned to Drupal:

  1. $elements = array();
  3. foreach ($items as $delta => $item) {
  4. $elements[$delta] = array(
  5. '#markup' => $item['value'],
  6. );
  7. }
  9. return $elements;

This pattern allows support for multiple items, as well as taking advantage of Drupal's Render Arrays system.


HTML + Tokens

The HTML + Tokens format allows you to create simple and easy Custom Formatters with no more than HTML and Tokens, as the name implies. While this has been available for a long time in Custom Formatters, in the latest release it has been vastly improved upon, primarily with improved support for the Entity tokens module (provided by the Entity API module).

Any entity type token can be used, as well as chained tokens specific to the field in use, but it is important to take into account where the formatter will be used when choosing the formatters. For instance, if you were to use a Taxonomy term token on an Image field formatter that is going to be displayed on a Node entity, the Taxonomy term token will not work.

The markup in your formatter is rendered per field item, so if you are using a multi-value field, each value will run through your formatter. This is where the improvements to the Entity tokens module support is important, as you can target the field values directly.

If you are formatting an Image field, you can target the URL using the Entity tokens chained token [file:url], which is unique to each item value.

In addition to the improvements with the Entity tokens module integration, I also released a new module, Field tokens, which adds two different type of tokens which are extremely useful with HTML + Tokens formatters:

  1. Formatted field tokens
    Tokens that allow you to pass the field through an existing Formatter with provided formatter settings.

    Example: [formatted_field-image:image:image_style-thumbnail] would pass the current image field value through the Drupal core Image formatter via the thumbnail image style.
  2. Field property tokens
    Tokens that provide you with the specific property of a field value.
    Example: [field_property:alt] would return the Alt value for the current image field value.


Formatter preset

A new addition to the Custom Formatters module, and while maybe not the most obvious, it is a great addition that was a direct response to the Wysiwyg Fields module.

The Formatter preset format allows you to replace formatters with complex formatter settings forms with simple preconfigured formatters with more user friendly names. Especially useful when the formatter choice is exposed to a non-technical user.

Below you can see an example of the Youtube field and formatter in use in Wysiwyg Fields with it’s abundance of formatter settings (on the left) and a Formatter preset of the same formatter preconfigured as desired (on the right).

It’s obvious a lot simpler, so simple in fact that there’s no evidence that a formatter or formatter settings are present, it will just work.

Creating a Formatter preset is quite different to the other Custom Formatter formats. There is no textarea field, instead you are presented with an interface similar to screenshot below:

Things to note are:

  1. Formatter
    The existing formatter which you are using as a source for this Formatter preset.

  2. Formatter settings
    Everything below the Formatter field are specific to the chosen Formatter, they are that Formatter’s settings.

Extremely simple, but a huge improvement to the user experience.



While not an out of the box Format for the Custom Formatters module, I think it’s important to mention this for two reasons:

  1. Drupal 8 is coming, and it’s bringing the Twig templating system with it.
  2. This is a great example of how other modules can create new Custom Formatters format types.

The Twig format requires the Twig filter module, which doesn’t yet have a stable release, but is still well worth a look.

The interface is much like the PHP and HTML + Tokens formats, with the difference of using the Twig templating language, which is said to be simpler for frontend developers.


Using a formatter

Once you’ve created your formatter, that formatter can be used in many different ways, as the the Formatter system is just the theme layer to Drupal’s field system, so in general a Formatter should be able to be used anywhere a Drupal field is used.

Examples of ways to use a Formatter include, but are not limited to:

  1. Drupal’s core Manage display interface

  2. Views using the Field style

  3. Wysiwyg Fields

  4. Formatted field tokens with the Field tokens and Token filter modules is a companion website for the CustomFormatters module.

It contains various Formatters which can be used as they are, or as examples of how to write your own formatters.

There are also plans to provide the ability for uses to share their own formatters with others.

The website is completely open source, and anyone wishing to steal the site or contribute to the site can do so at


Download Custom Formatters now

Head on over to the Custom Formatters project page and download Custom Formatters 7.x-2.3 now.

drupal planetdrupal 7custom formatters
Categories: Drupal

OpenConcept: The Drupal North Code Sprint

7 July 2015 - 2:40pm

The inaugral Drupal North Regional Summit was a blast!

The official Drupal North sprint was held on Sunday, June 28th, starting around 10am and ending at 4pm, in Ryerson University's Rogers Communication Centre Transmedia Zone. 21 attendees showed up from all over Canada, the United States, and even Costa Rica:

After everyone introduced themselves, Cottser and I gave an introduction to writing patches, and how issues move through the issue queue from "Active" to "Closed" (video to follow).

Then, we paired up to get Drupal 8, Drush, and Drupal Console working on our computers, and work on issues we were interested in. We worked on 9 issues:

At time-of-writing, 2 of these issues are fixed, and 5 more need review.

Also, congratulations to Jeremy Knab for his first commit mention in Drupal core (from #2501701)!

Overall, we had a great time and learned a lot! Thanks to everyone who came out, and to the DrupalNorth organizers for organizing everything!


AttachmentSize DrupalNorth 2015 sprinters sitting around a table, introducing themselves.167.46 KB DrupalNorth 2015 sprinters sitting around a table, listening to Cottser.189.44 KB DrupalNorth 2015 sprinters gathering around and setting up a television, about to set up Drupal Console.164.66 KB cyborg_572 and crasx setting up.177.64 KB Cottser demonstrating how to turn on the automated testing module in Drupal 8 to enzo, bohemier, adamwhite, and HelloNewman.142.43 KB bohemier and adamwhite working together on an issue and laughing.143.63 KB HelloNewman eating a Timbit while nafes & Cottser concentrate on their work. In the foreground is an iconic Tim Hortons coffee.93.58 KB Topic: Primary Image: 
Categories: Drupal

Darryl Norris's Blog: How To Request A Node via REST Using Web Services in Drupal 8

7 July 2015 - 1:05pm

Drupal 8 is going to be a central place to store data and can easily connect with different third-party applications. Dries Buytaert has talked about this idea multiple times in DrupalCon Austin and DrupalCon Bogota, where Drupal 8 is going to be an API to connect to other places. For this reason, Drupal 8 is now integrated with web services in core. In other words, this is an easy way to export data into Hal-JSON, JSON, and XML. I decided to start playing with web services in Drupal 8 to see how I can export my data in JSON format and connected with third party app. I found many tutorials that talks about Drupal how to export JSON data using the Views module, which for many use cases can be very good. I started to think, “What...Read more
Categories: Drupal

Acquia: How to Evaluate Drupal Modules for Performance Optimization

7 July 2015 - 10:58am

Drupal was designed from the ground-up to be modular. Once you install Drupal core, you can add any number of modules to enhance Drupal's basic functions.

Unfortunately, contributed modules can also impede performance. For example, it's common to find contributed third-party modules that are incompatible with newer versions of Drupal, or other modules. Besides being a security hassle, this can often curb performance.

Evaluating Drupal modules for such issues is thus essential for a smooth Drupal experience. As part of this ongoing blog series on ways to improve Drupal website performance, let’s review how you can evaluate modules.

General module evaluation

The first step in module evaluation is to consider general usage reports, statistics, and maintainer reputation. One by one, go through the following:

  • Does the module officially support your version of Drupal?
  • Good maintainers write good code. If you see the same maintainer's name crop up on a number of well-regarded modules, you know you will at least get quality code.
  • A high maintainer activity level (i.e. commits to a module) indicates a proactive maintainer who takes care of issues quickly.
  • Higher total module usage generally means it's a well-regarded module with fewer performance issues.
  • A large number of stagnant, open issues can point to poor code quality and maintenance.
  • Sudden changes in usage patterns over a short period of time can be indicative of performance issues. For example, if people suddenly stop using a popular module, it could mean that users encountered performance or security problems.

Once you've gone through these steps, you can undertake a performance evaluation.

Module performance evaluation

Now you need to analyze the module performance on your own site.

  • Record site performance before installing any modules. This should include page load time, server load, and user scenario completion time.
  • Record site performance immediately after installing the module.
  • Monitor memory usage continuously to correlate the performance before and after module installation.
  • Perform the same steps for every module individually over time.

These actions will give you quantifiable results on each module's performance as it relates to your site. You might find that highly rated, widely used modules sometimes don't play well with your version of Drupal, while less used modules work perfectly well.

Final questions

Besides evaluating performance, you also need to ask a few questions before using a module.

  • Does the module scale? A module that works perfectly well for a small enterprise website might break when used on a large community-powered platform. Scale is difficult to measure but it is one of the biggest performance bottlenecks in any website.
  • Is performance a top priority? While performance is important, it is by no means necessary for certain types of websites. For example, a small corporate website visited mostly by internal team members may not need top-notch performance.
  • What happens if the module fails? This is an important question. If your module stops working, does it break the site completely, or can the users at least access parts of the site? For example, if the module that controls the login system fails, your users won't be able to use their accounts at all.
  • Do I really need the module? Far too many websites use more modules than necessary. This leads to "module bloat." Ask yourself: “Do I really need this module? Is there a simple manual workaround to enable this function?” If "yes," try to avoid using a module. Keep in mind that the fewer modules you use, the smaller chance of failure.

Modules are crucial for running a Drupal website, but they are also one of the leading causes of website performance issues. Evaluating and understanding modules is essential for running a fast and secure Drupal website.

Tags:  acquia drupal planet
Categories: Drupal

Drupal core announcements: Drupal 8 core updates for July 7th, 2015

7 July 2015 - 10:40am

Since the last Drupal 8 Core Update, DrupalCon Los Angeles took place, the proposed organizational structure for the Drupal project was approved and MAINTAINERS.txt was updated to reflect this (although it still needs to be updated in the Drupal 7 branch), and the Drupal Association announced updates to their 2015 financial plan.

What's new with Drupal 8?

Drupal 8.0.0-beta11 and 8.0.0-beta12 were released, a new category for issues, plan, was added to categorize meta issues, the Drupal 8 Security bug bounty program was launched, Angie "webchick" Byron analyzed Drupal major version adoption and walked us through the new DrupalCI testing infrastructure, hook_update_N() became required for core patches that introduce data model changes, the number of outstanding criticals was reduced to a new all-time low of 15, and for a while, every single critical was RTBC or being addressed!

Some other highlights of the month were:

How can I help get Drupal 8 finished?

See Help get Drupal 8 released! for updated information on the current state of the software and more information on how you can help.

We're also looking for more contributors to help compile these posts. Contact mparker17 if you'd like to help!

Drupal 8 In Real Life Whew! That's a wrap!

Do you follow Drupal Planet with devotion, or keep a close eye on the Drupal event calendar, or git pull origin 8.0.x every morning without fail before your coffee? We're looking for more contributors to help compile these posts. You could either take a few hours once every six weeks or so to put together a whole post, or help with one section more regularly. If you'd like to volunteer for helping to draft these posts, please follow the steps here!

Categories: Drupal

Gábor Hojtsy: Win prizes by playing with Drupal 8's multilingual site building features!

7 July 2015 - 6:03am

Drupal 8 packs a historic amount of site building features which make producing websites easier than ever with core or just a couple contributed modules only. There are already various live Drupal 8 multilingual sites using little more but core.

It is hard to grasp the many things with useful levers and knobs in Drupal 8. Think about combining views with entity view modes and blocks; block language visibility with menus; user preferences with comment submission; language filtering and entity rendering; translatable fields with administration views; and so on and on.

Wouldn't it be fun to experiment with the possibilities and come up with clever ways to combine core features to solve common problems? You may be familiar with the name and format of O'Reilly's Hacks Series which reclaims the term "hacking" for the good guysfolks — innovators who explore and experiment, unearth shortcuts, create useful tools, and come up with fun things to try on their own.

Long story short, hereby, we announce the Drupal 8 multilingual site building hacks contest!

  1. Come up with clever ways to combine Drupal 8 core features (and if needed one or at most two contributed modules) to fulfill a multilingual site building need.
  2. Write up the steps taken. See an example in hack #1. (We'll do light editing of the post if needed, don't let perfection be the enemy of good).
  3. Register on to submit entries (requires approval for spam protection).
  4. Submit entries by end of day (CEST) July 31st.
  5. One person may submit as many entries as they wish.
  6. All entries will be published after review (and possible light editing).
What is in it for you?

The top 3 best hacks will receive unique presents from Hook42 and Amazee Labs! (Further sponsors welcome). You'll either receive the presents at DrupalCon Barcelona or we'll mail it to you if you are not coming to DrupalCon. This is of course additionally to the joy of getting to play with some of the less frequented but definitely no less fun features of Drupal 8.

What is in it for us?

All hacks will be published under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0, so the community will benefit. Additionally to that Gábor Hojtsy and Vijayachandran Mani are building an open source presentation with the best tips (same license). This will be presented at Drupalaton Hungary and DrupalCon Barcelona. Similar to our existing open source workshop, everyone will be able to present this at local meetups and camps or follow along at home at their own pace.

What kind of hacks are we looking for?

Hack #1 is hopefully a good example. Really the only common thread between the hacks would be to satisfy a multilingual site need or use multilingual features in some other clever way (even for features that are not necessarily multilingual). Some ideas for hacks that may help you start off experimenting:

  1. Swap textual site logo Need to swap a site logo with text on it for different languages? Use a translatable custom block with an image field. Configure the display mode and add some custom CSS if needed.
  2. Translator todo helper Create a views block for content translators to summarize the number of outdated translations they have to update (and link to content administration filtered to that language)
  3. Language dependent front page Use block visibility to display up to date content on a well maintained language while an About us / Contact us page on languages where resources are limited to maintain useful fresh content.

Of course these are just some things we made up (although still eligible for the contest). Looking for your creative ideas and solutions!

Questions, concerns? Contact us!

This is a crosspost from

Categories: Drupal

InternetDevels: 6 Reasons Why You Should Use Drupal For Website Development

7 July 2015 - 5:50am

Our guest blogger Jack Dawson, founder of Big Drop Inc, expains why he thinks Drupal is the best choice for website development services.

Read more
Categories: Drupal

ERPAL: Drop Guard vs. Drupalgeddon - The 1:0 knockout in just a few minutes

7 July 2015 - 2:00am

Get ready to rumble! Watch how Drop Guard won against Drupalgeddon on 15.10.2014 at 6:00 PM in this live webinar! We're going to run a live demo re-enacting the whole epic match, and you'll learn about the techniques and strategies that Drop Guard uses to sucker-punch any future Drupal security threats. Don't expect a second round: it'll be a technical KO within minutes!

This free, 45-minute webinar takes place via Google Hangout on 27.07.2015 at 4 PM GMT+2. You'll learn the following:


  1. How to set up an automated workflow to keep your Drupal site updated and secure
  2. Three simple prerequisites for starting with Drop Guard
  3. How Drop Guard integrates with your individual development and deployment workflows


We'll use a Drupalgeddon-infected Drupal installation including several other modules with security issues. This exclusive live demo shows the current status of Drop Guard. All attendees also get free Drop Guard access until the end of September 2015. All attendees get free Drop Guard access until the end of September 2015.


Sign up for free!


Categories: Drupal

Mpumelelo Msimanga: Drupal: Using Views Database Connector (VDC) To Display Data in External Database

6 July 2015 - 1:17pm
Drupal: Using Views Database Connector (VDC) To Display Data in External Database

Apart from Drupal most organisations may have many systems such as a CRM, HR and e-commerce system. The field of Business Intelligence (BI) deals with bringing disparate data sources into a single data warehouse(DW). If you wanted to display data from your DW using Drupal, the Views module is a good place to start. Before you can use the Views module you need to connect to the database and describe the tables to Views. I am a SQL developer so I am reluctant to write my own module.

Categories: Drupal

Klaus Harris: Some ways you could start using Drupal in your organisation

6 July 2015 - 12:56pm

Looking at my blog posts, you would be forgiven for thinking that I work with Drupal all day but actually I don't. I've used it for odd private and business projects over the years, built a startup (1) with it and run my sailing club's website on it.

Actually, my working day is spent on a mix of legacy and new Symfony 2 applications. In years gone past that included applications written in frameworks such Zend framework, SugarCRM and plenty of home grown ones from early PHP days.

Sure there are things I don’t like about Drupal 7 such as configuration management, deployment, lack of modern OOP and practices and the fairly blunt caching mechanism (2) but I think it is because of having seen so much legacy code and so much internally written software that I still like Drupal.

Starting from the assumption that you aren’t going to touch your main application which could be running on another framework or technology, I’m going to write about using Drupal in your organization in ways that you might not have considered.

We’re just not going to switch to Drupal!

I think the reality regards PHP applications is that most companies use their own legacy frameworks and/or something like Zend Framework or Symfony, or they are using a totally different stack and they certainly aren’t about to switch any time soon to something else. Which is fair enough.

However there are ways to get value from Drupal with low effort and risk alongside - and in some cases replacing - existing applications and other technologies.

1. Drupal for building intranet tools

In my current company we have a myriad of intranet tools built on different technologies, mostly home grown legacy PHP apps, but also ones built on other frameworks and some in .NET. Nothing is standard, every one is special and each demands developer ramp up time. One is even stuck on a dead framework on an early PHP version.

Each generation of developers had seemed to want to try out a new framework, different stack or just write something new. I think that is fairly common in old internet companies.

Drupal can be pretty good for building intranet tools. It has some nice APIs, you certainly aren’t limited to the Drupal data model, you get a lot for free (no custom coding needed) plus there are many good modules out there that expose APIs as well. It is a bit of a revelation to define your own DB table structures and then manipulate or expose them using standard Drupal modules like Views.

Also, if you have good developers to set things up correctly initially, management of the application can then be moved to non-technical staff. For example, it won’t then take a developer to alter a permission, set up a new data view, trigger an alert, turn off a functionality, set up a new workflow or add a new language and so on.

This is one of the things I really like about Drupal in that if done properly, it pushes more control to non-technical staff. Developers are expensive. And just using Drupal on an intranet simplifies things a lot in the sense of deployment, maintenance and possible custom coding / themeing.

I think this “myriad of unique applications” scenario should just end. It’s too expensive, complicated and risky and companies should choose standard solutions and stick with them. A number of open source PHP projects are now very established, not going away and 100% enterprise ready. In the PHP world Symfony 2 with its connected eco system is one, Drupal is another.

Take a look at intranet distributions like Open Atrium for intranets and also other disributions on the Acquia downloads page.

2. Drupal as a data source for other applications

In 2010, in one company we had a large Zend Framework application, a java powered auction system in the back end and we wanted to add multilingual news and help sections. I chose Drupal as the CMS as it had great multilingual functionality, rock solid content management and the possibility to build nice workflows for editors and managers.

There was however just no way that we were going to build a new Drupal application for news and faqs, theme it, deploy it and manage it in production alongside the existing frontend.

The solution for this was simple, use Drupal as an intranet CMS only and just pull the data where needed. I set up a multilingual content management application in Drupal to enable staff to add news and help pages, and we just pulled that data into the front facing Zend Framework application through the caching layer via some simple database views.

Note: this was how it looked in 2010, nowadays you would most likely use the services module to surface the data.

The Drupal application used only out of the box modules, needed no theming and had no special deployment , it was simple and with short development time. Everyone was happy.

I’ve seen plenty of home built CRUD applications for all sorts of things like FAQs, news and help pages, community announcements, landing pages, email templates, translation strings, configuration management. Why write and maintain that stuff yourself? Just use a CMS like Drupal.

Just on translation strings, it would be very easy to build a Drupal application to manage translation strings consumed by other applications. Just build the translations app in Drupal and then write a script to export them to a format that the external application needs, e.g. see here for Symfony translations.

And regards exposing Drupal data, Drupal does have an XML-RPC API and RSS but check out services. See the links below.

3. Drupal as a frontend for manipulating data on other applications

Let’s say you have a public site where users can add content. Rather than add more code to your public facing application, you could make a management frontend for that data in Drupal. Drupal has nice APIs for forms and data access, but you could even hook that data into Drupal APIs more fully, allowing you to use native drupal modules to manipulate the data.

4. Drupal for microsites

Drupal can be perfect for microsites such as News and FAQ sections or forums that work alongside your main application(s). Theming isn’t that difficult and if you don’t need to authenticate users, this is a very easy option.

5. Drupal for your corporate website

The corporate website is usually separate from the main application(s) and a good use case for Drupal. A corp site is usually content heavy, needs frequent updates and might need publishing workflow.

6. Drupal for rapid prototyping

Rocket Internet, the giant European incubator gets new minimum marketable websites out in under 100 days. I think this is a very good plan and Drupal is good for the rapid prototyping of ideas even if the data comes from other sources like search services.


If you are having to make long term decisions now, then with Drupal 8 just around the corner whether you choose Drupal 7 or 8 needs careful research.

Further reading, listening, watching (1) I ceased work on it in 2012
(2) Drupal 8 which is built using Symfony 2 components fixes these issues Blog tags: Link tags:
Categories: Drupal

Chapter Three: Goals First, Then Tactics

6 July 2015 - 11:24am

When I kick off a client project, two of my first questions are:

  • What are your project goals?

  • What are your project tactics?

Most of the time, my clients define their goals as tactics. For example, “I want a beautiful site with a great user experience.” While this is a useful thing to identify, it’s not a goal. It’s a tactic.

What purpose does a beautiful site serve? Does beauty drive revenue? Why improve the user experience? Doex UX cultivate positive emotions towards your business?

Asking the “why" behind the tactics can help reveal the true goals of the redesign. It’s easy to define the purpose of a project as “I need my site to look better” because it’s the most obvious thing to be improve. However, there is a missed opportunity in looking only skin deep. 

Categories: Drupal

Dcycle: Catching watchdog errors in your Simpletests

6 July 2015 - 11:04am

If you are using a site deployment module, and running simpletests against it in your continuous integration server using drush test-run, you might come across Simpletest output like this in your Jenkins console output:

Starting test MyModuleTestCase. [ok] ... WD rules: Unable to get variable some_variable, it is not [error] defined. ... MyModuleTestCase 9 passes, 0 fails, 0 exceptions, and 7 debug messages [ok] No leftover tables to remove. [status] No temporary directories to remove. [status] Removed 1 test result. [status] Group Class Name

In the above example, the Rules module is complaining that it is misconfigured. You will probably be able to confirm this by installing a local version of your site along with rules_ui and visiting the rules admin page.

Here, it is rules which is logging a watchdog error, but it could by any module.

However, this will not necessarily cause your test to fail (see 0 fails), and more importantly, your continuous integration script will not fail either.

At first you might find it strange that your console output shows [error], but that your script is still passing. You script probably looks something like this:

set -e drush test-run MyModuleTestCase

So: drush test-run outputs an [error] message, but is still exiting with the normal exit code of 0. How can that be?

Well, your test is doing exactly what you are asking of it: it is asserting that certain conditions are met, but you have never explicitly asked it to fail when a watchdog error is logged within the temporary testing environment. This is normal: consider a case where you want to assert that a given piece of code logs an error. In your test, you will create the necessary conditions for the error to be logged, and then you will assert that the error has in fact been logged. In this case your test will fail if the error has not been logged, but will succeed if the error has been logged. This is why the test script should not fail every time there is an error.

But in our above example, we have no way of knowing when such an error is introduced; to ensure more robust testing, let's add a teardown function to our test which asserts that no errors were logged during any of our tests. To make sure that the tests don't fail when errors are expected, we will allow for that as well.

Add the following code to your Simpletest (if you have several tests, consider creating a base test for all of them to avoid reusing code):

/** * {inheritdoc} */ function tearDown() { // See $num_errors = $this->getNumWatchdogEntries(WATCHDOG_ERROR); $expected_errors = isset($this->expected_errors) ? $this->expected_errors : 0; $this->assertTrue($num_errors == $expected_errors, 'Expected ' . $expected_errors . ' watchdog errors and got ' . $num_errors . '.'); parent::tearDown(); } /** * Get the number of watchdog entries for a given severity or worse * * See * * @param $severity = WATCHDOG_ERROR * Severity codes are listed at * Lower numbers are worse severity messages, for example an emergency is 0, and an * error is 3. * Specify a threshold here, for example for the default WATCHDOG_ERROR, this function * will return the number of watchdog entries which are 0, 1, 2, or 3. * * @return * The number of watchdog errors logged during this test. */ function getNumWatchdogEntries($severity = WATCHDOG_ERROR) { $results = db_select('watchdog') ->fields(NULL, array('wid')) ->condition('severity', $severity, '<=') ->execute() ->fetchAll(); return count($results); }

Now, all your tests which have this code will fail if there are any watchdog errors in it. If you are actually expecting there to be errors, then at some point in your test you could use this code:

$this->expected_errors = 1; // for example Tags: blogplanet
Categories: Drupal

A Small Web Firm: Connecting Tableau to Drupal on Pantheon

6 July 2015 - 10:29am
Data-driven content management Although creating, searching for, updating, and publishing content in Drupal is a snap, understanding and making decisions based on that content can be challenging. Questions like, "What are the most viewed, untranslated case studies?" or "Does an accelerated blogging cadence increase page views?" are difficult or impossible to answer within Drupal alone. Though the data that could help answer those questions may live in Drupal, content editors or administrators are unlikely to find answers on their own because the information is made available, if at all, through complex UIs only understood by Drupal site builders, developers, or power users. This problem--where those most knowledgeable about some dataset are only able to ask questions of that data by proxy through a specialist--extends far beyond just content management in Drupal. Tableau (my employer) takes pride in helping solve this type of problem for organizations the world over, and because Drupal runs on pervasive database technologies like MySQL and PostgreSQL, we also happen to work well with Drupal: just add database credentials, connect, and go. Container cloud complications If you run Drupal on Pantheon, you may be familiar with (and likely benefit from) their container-based architecture. The efficiency and agility that containers provide are what allow Pantheon to offer development and test environments at scale. Containers also enable Pantheon to offer you highly available (distributed) and horizontally elastic applications by default. Although these features are a Drupal developer's dream, the underlying technology complicates things for data-driven content managers. When Pantheon updates servers, migrates endpoints, or does other maintenance work transparent to end-users, database connection details change, breaking Tableau's connection to the Drupal database. There are a few options for working around this problem, each with its drawbacks:
  • Send out updated credentials whenever they break: just instruct every Tableau user to e-mail you when the dashboard they built stops updating; you can find the new credentials and send them back. Rinse and repeat for every user with access and every site: welcome to your new full-time job.
  • Give content editors access to the Pantheon dashboard: train them to navigate to the specific environment you want them to connect to, suss out the MySQL details, and be sure not to hit that "delete live site" button you just gave them access to...
  • Use Pantheon's CLI to replicate the DB locally on a schedule: on the whole, not a bad option, but what happens when the DB server goes offline or your replication script starts failing? Didn't you go with Pantheon to get out of the infrastructure management and monitoring game in the first place?
Introducing the Pantheon Switchboard We, being a data-driven marketing organization who coincidentally has a large Tableau installation base, and one that happens to host many Drupal sites on Pantheon, know the struggle well. To that end, we've developed and open sourced the Pantheon Switchboard, a Docker image that mashes up the Pantheon command line interface and MySQL proxy, allowing Tableau users (both those connecting ad-hoc using the desktop client as well as those scheduling extracts with our cloud or on-premise servers) to reliably and seamlessly connect to MySQL databases hosted on Pantheon, despite those periodic database connection detail changes. The Switchboard's container approach attempts to strike the right balance between infrastructure requirements and the type of self-service simplicity that Tableau users expect. Complete details on installation and usage are available on the project's README. Deploying to Google Compute Engine For production use, we're enamored with the simplicity of deploying containers on GCE using their Container-Optimized VM images; feel free to use this as a recipe to get started: # switchboard-manifest.yml version: v1 kind: Pod spec: containers: - name: my-drupal-site-proxy image: tableaumkt/pantheon-mysql-proxy imagePullPolicy: Always ports: - name: mysql containerPort: 3306 hostPort: 11337 protocol: TCP env: - name: PROXY_DB_UN value: un_to_connect_to_drupal_proxy - name: PROXY_DB_PW value: pw_to_connect_to_proxy_here - name: PANTHEON_SITE value: my-drupal-site - name: PANTHEON_ENV value: test - name: PANTHEON_EMAIL value: - name: PANTHEON_PASS value: password_for_email_here - name: my-wp-site-proxy image: tableaumkt/pantheon-mysql-proxy imagePullPolicy: Always ports: - name: mysql containerPort: 3306 hostPort: 11338 protocol: TCP env: - name: PROXY_DB_UN value: un_to_connect_to_wp_proxy_here - name: PROXY_DB_PW value: pw_to_connect_to_proxy_here - name: PANTHEON_SITE value: my-wp-site - name: PANTHEON_ENV value: dev - name: PANTHEON_EMAIL value: - name: PANTHEON_PASS value: password_for_email_here # - Additional containers/proxies here. restartPolicy: Always dnsPolicy: Default Then spin up a VM in Google's Cloud with their CLI, using the above manifest as a template: gcloud compute instances create pantheon-switchboard-test \ --image container-vm \ --metadata-from-file google-container-manifest=switchboard-manifest.yml \ --zone us-central1-a \ --machine-type f1-micro After which you should:
  1. Provision a permanent IP and assign it to the VM (or use the VM's ephemeral IP for testing)
  2. Set up network rules to only allow connections from a specific range of IPs (like your corporate network or if you use Tableau Online, its IP), and to the ports you specified in your manifest, and optionally,
  3. Route a domain to the VM's IP.
Once wired up, you should be able to connect to your Pantheon databases using the PROXY_DB_UN, PROXY_DB_PW, and host port specified in your manifest, along with the IP (or domain) you configured in your Google Cloud console. Get Started
Categories: Drupal

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