This is my first time doing any custom module work in Drupal and need some advice. I have a django background.

I am accessing data on an external non-Drupal server to display on the Drupal site. I think I want to create a custom field type that holds the unique integer mapped to the data's ID on the external site.

1) user visits /mymodule/1234 where 1234 maps to the external data source (not the drupal node)
2) module performs a kind of get_or_create and either gets the node that matches the unique ID or creates one
3) the user will see get a node returned to them (can handle comments, statistics, etc) that also displays the external data (which I will query via REST)

I'm basically asking for advice if this approach is tenable in Drupal and how to implement the get_or_create part of this if it is.

what I can imagine so far

First, custom module and a url handler:

function mymodule_menu() {
    $items['mymodule'] = array (
        'testing' => 'I am just testing',
        'page callback' => 'mymodule_view',
        'access callback' => TRUE,
    return $items;

Then a custom view function to do the heavy lifting when user visits /mymodule/1234:

function mymodule_view($data_id = 0) {

    // custom REST function to get the data via the $data_id
    $data = get_my_data_cleverly($data_id);

    if (!$data) {
        //return 404

    // not sure about this part

    // then return output to theme combining both node and $data
    // this is an oversimplified render array output that doesn't
    // work mostly because I don't understnand how Drupal does this yet
    $output =  array(
        'node' => $node,
        'data' +> $data,

    return $output;


The result would be a node, with additional non-node information passed to the template.


2 Answers 2


I would suggest using the entity method as opposed to the node class method:

$node = entity_create('node', array('type' => 'content_type'));
$entity = entity_metadata_wrapper('node',$node);

 //Set properties
 $entity->author = $user->uid; // Author
 $entity->title->set("String");  //Title
 $entity->field_name->set("String"); //Textfield
 $entity->body->set(array('value' => "String or HTML")); //Body   

Much cleaner and preferred way.

  • The "entity method" is from the Entity API correct? And - I'm not creating a new entity ... just adding a content type to the node ? All those nodes, entity types, entities, fields ... has my head spinning a little. Smile.
    – thornomad
    Commented Feb 4, 2014 at 23:27
  • Nodes are entities and you will need the entity api to do this. So in my example the "content_type" will be the machine name of the node you created, example "article" Commented Feb 5, 2014 at 17:03

Create or use an existing content type for your nodes. Add a field (field_ext_id) on the content type to track your external content id. When building your page, use EntityFieldQuery (note that it may have performance implications on very large sites) to look for a node with field_ext_id = your id. If no node found, create one:

$node = new stdClass;
$node->type = 'your_content_type';
$node->status = 1;
$node->uid = 1;
$node->title = 'my node';
$node->created = REQUEST_TIME;
$node->updated = REQUEST_TIME;

// set your other field values (including field_ext_id), as necessary


// your new node's id is now available as $node->nid

For working with fields, have a look at Rendering Drupal 7 Fields The Right Way and Entity Metadata Wrapper.

  • How does the $node->nid end up getting passed through the renderer so Drupal knows it's a node at output? Thanks for this.
    – thornomad
    Commented Feb 4, 2014 at 23:24

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