When learning Drupal development, it won't be long before you encounter the word "entity" and the Entity API. But what are entities in Drupal? How can you use them to build your site? When should you use the Entity API?
This tutorial will explain Drupal's Entity system from a high level. We'll look at:
- The main problems the Entity system solves
- Key terms you should know
- Key concepts we'll explore as we dive into Drupal's Entity API
By the end of this tutorial you should be able to explain the problems that the Entity API solves, and when you should use it in your own code.
Provide an introduction to the Drupal Entity API.
What are entities?
Entities are the basic building blocks of Drupal's data model. They make up, in one way or another, all of the visible content a user interacts with on a Drupal-powered site. There are several types of entities included in Drupal core that make up both the configuration and content of a default installation. It's important to understand the basic differences between these two types of entities before we really dig in further.
Configuration entities are objects that allow us to store information (and default values) for configurable settings on our site. Examples of configuration entities in core include image styles, user roles and displays in views. Configuration entities can be exported via core's configuration management system. They can also be used to provide default configuration used during the installation process or when a new module is enabled. Configuration entities support translation but they cannot have user-configured fields attached to them. The data structure of a configuration entity is limited to what is provided by module code.
Content entities are configurable, support translation and revisions, and allow additional fields to be attached for more complex data modeling. Content entities included in core include nodes, taxonomy terms, blocks and users.
Often you will find entity variants that come in pairs. The Block module, for example, provides configuration entities to define custom block types and content entities to provide the actual content of custom blocks.
Key terms in Drupal's Entity API
Now that we have a little better idea of what Drupal means by the word entity, let's look at some other key terms that we'll need to know in order to understand Drupal's Entity API.
Bundles are another generic noun, used to describe containers for a sub-type of a particular entity. For example, nodes are a type of entity. The node entity has a bundle for each content type (ie: article, page, blog post, etc). Taxonomy is another entity type, and each individual vocabulary is its own bundle. Bundles provide an organizational abstraction layer that allows for differences in field definitions and configurations between entity sub-types. For a particular entity type (i.e. node) all bundles (article, page, etc) will have the same base fields (title, author) but will have different bundle fields (articles have tags).
Fields consist of individual (or compound) data elements that make up the details of the data model. If you're trying to build a photo gallery, your node type will need some method of collecting images. An image field would be handy in this case. Drupal core provides several different types of fields including boolean, decimal, float, integer, entity reference, link, image, email, telephone, and several text fields. Fields, in turn, are built on top of the actual data primitives in Drupal, Typed Data. Fields can be added to content entities and field configuration will vary between bundles of the same entity type.
In short, plugins provide developers an API to encapsulate re-useable behavior. Plugins are used throughout Drupal core and you'll be exposed to several of them while working with the Entity API. We have several tutorials that cover plugins in more depth, starting with What Are Plugins? in our Drupal Module Development Guide.
Annotations are another element of Entity API used throughout Drupal core. Annotations are specially formatted code comments that are parsed to provide metadata information about particular PHP classes to Drupal. The Entity API uses annotations to discover which classes to load for a particular entity type (among other things). You can learn more about how they work in our annotations tutorial.
If you've worked with the Entity API in previous versions of Drupal you're probably already familiar with controllers. Handlers are the Drupal 8+ equivalent of Drupal 7's controllers.
Handlers are responsible for acting on and with entities. They help manage things like storage, access control, building lists and views of entities, and the forms required for creating, viewing, updating and deleting entities.
Differences from Drupal 7's Entity API
If you already have experience with the Entity API in previous versions of Drupal and you're familiar with the Entity contrib module much of this probably seems quite familiar. The Entity API was introduced late in the development cycle for Drupal 7. As such it wasn't completely functional on its own. In practice, most implementations either required this contributed module or were left recreating much of its functionality. Drupal 7's version of the Entity API had to account for differences in accessing and working with entity properties (things like the node title and published status) and fields (things like images, reference fields, etc). This interface is unified in Drupal 8+ because everything is a field. Developers interact with fields using the same techniques regardless of whether they are base fields or bundle fields. Also the method used for querying entity information, the class, had limited functionality in core in Drupal 7. The method for querying entities has been simplified in Drupal 8+ yet is simultaneously more powerful through chaining.
Here are a few illustrative examples of these differences:
Printing a field value
...in Drupal 7
...in Drupal 8+
Getting a field definition
...in Drupal 7
... in Drupal 8+
Saving a field value
...in Drupal 7
...in Drupal 8+
What's New in Drupal 8: Entity Field API
The Entity API in Drupal provides the basic organizational mechanisms for creating the site's content model. Since everything in Drupal is an entity, it's important to understand the distinction between configuration and content entities. Likewise, since an entity's properties and values are all fields (base or bundle) we have a unified method of working with them. It's important to understand the relationship between entity types, bundles and fields and how each layer can be used in content modeling.
Further your understanding
- What criteria could you use to decide if you need to implement a configuration or a content entity?
- Can you identify the entity types included in a standard installation of Drupal?
- Can you identify the bundles of the node entity type? How about categorizing all of a node's data as either a base field or a bundle field?
Entity API in Drupal 8 is now baked into core and is now so well organised that there is almost no excuse for creating database tables, which are not entities at the same time. If you are serious about Drupal development, check this article below. Entities in Drupal really rock!
If you create an entity you get Views integration for free, you can allow the entity to be fieldable and this will out or the box allows you to add various fields to it. Also, you can search for the entity with Entity Drupal::EntityQuery and many more.
I recently had to create a simple entity of an online dictionary and think this is a great opportunity to share with you what I learned.
Dictionary term entity
The entity will store translations of words from English to Polish. It's a really simple entity with just 2 data fields:
- pl - field to store the Polish word
- en - field to store the English word
I will actually add some more fields which are worth adding to almost any entity:
- id - unique identifier
- uuid - Drupal 8 has native support now to create universally unique identifiers
- user_id - id of the creator of the entity (a reference to the Drupal user)
- created - a timestamp of when the entity was created
- changed - a timestamp of when the entity was last update
Let's create a 'dictionary' module
In /sites/modules/custom I created a 'dictionary' folder, with the following initial files:
You can see that entities Term class extends ContentEntityBase which is the base class used to create entities in Drupal. An important thing to note is the annotations in the comment block above the class. Many important definitions are set here. In particular note:
- id - unique identifier of the entity in the system
- handlers - links to all controllers
- base_table - the name of the table that will be used for this entity. You do not have to separately create schema, it is read from the field definitions
That is it. Your Entity is ready. All further work is devoted to getting all the View and Edit and list screens and forms to work.
Let's set up routing and permissions for these first.
Usually, entities also have helpful local links and tasks useful, like the local /edit task.
Add local tasks
Add an Add term to the list terms
Now when menus and tasks are created, let's create the page which lists our entities and the add/edit and delete forms
From all the controllers we will implement the controller for the list of entities. After all we would like to see the list in a meaningful fashion with both the English and Polish word side by side in a table
You can see the buildHeader and buildRow functions which set the columns for our table.
add/edit form - src/Form/TermForm.php
delete form - src/Form/TermForm.php
Last but not least is the Settings form which allows us to manage the entity settings. Our form here will remain empty. I don't need any settings here really but I could manage additional form settings here.
And this is is for now. Your entity is created. You can use it.
Complete code from this example is here
Nearly every major component that makes up a Drupal site is an entity of one type or another, e.g. users, nodes, and blocks are all types of entities. All entities can then be customized by adding fields to them. Understanding how Drupal's Entity system works is fundamental to understanding the similarities and differences between the main components that make up a Drupal site. You can alter existing entity types to make them work more efficiently for your site, and it's also possible to create your own entity types to encapsulate the behavior of specific data structures within your application.
From Overview: Relationships in Views:
In Drupal, entity is a general concept that represents a noun (person, place or thing). Out of the box, there are a number of different types of entities in Drupal, each meant to represent a specific type of data.
One type of entity is a user. A user entity contains information that is specific to people that visit our site, such as the user's email address and password. Within the concept that entities represent nouns, a user entity is a person.
Another entity type in Drupal is content (sometimes called a node) entity. Content entities contain data that is relevant for a something that is expected to be visited and consumed, such as a URL path, title, and body. Continuing with the concept that entities represent nouns, a content entity is a place. It has a URL and can be visited and it contains content that is meant to be consumed by a visitor.
Additionally, each content entity in Drupal has an owner. The owner (often referred to as the author) of a specific piece of content is a user entity. Most often the owner of some content is the user that created the content. Continuing with our analogy of a user representing a person and content representing a place, then it makes sense that a person would own a place. This concept of a user entity owning a content entity is a relationship. And that relationship is made practical in our site by the use of entity reference fields.
At this point the Entities are relatively stable. Any major changes to the API at this point are likely to be new features, or slight changes in best practices as they emerge. The fundamentals and main components of the system are unlikely to change rapidly.
Entities and fields are closely related and the boundaries between the two are often confused. It's generally a good idea to learn both in order to properly use either one.Sours: https://drupalize.me/topic/entities
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