I am reading this theming article http://themery.com/dgd7/advanced-theming/render/manipulate and I have a question.

This article has the following code:

$page['highlighted']['new_stuff'] = array(
'#type' => 'container',
'#attributes' => array('class' => 'my-container'),
$page['highlighted']['new_stuff']['heading'] = array(
'#type' => 'html_tag',
'#tag' => 'h2',
'#value' => t('Heading'),
'#attributes' => array('id' => 'my-heading'),
$page['highlighted']['new_stuff']['list'] = array(
'#theme' => 'item_list',
'#items' => array(
  'First item',
  'Second item',
  'Third item',

I see that when you provide the #theme property you are telling the Render API to use the theme_item_list, and you pass it the #items variable. But isn't that exactly what you are doing when you set type to #html_tag, you're using the theme_html_tag and passing it variables?

1 Answer 1


The purpose is a little different:

  • '#type' is telling to the render API to merge what returned from hook_element_info()
  • '#theme' is saying to the render API which theme function to use

In the example you are making, the theme function used is theme_html_tag() because system_element_info() returns the following data.

  $types['html_tag'] = array(
    '#theme' => 'html_tag',
    '#pre_render' => array('drupal_pre_render_conditional_comments'),
    '#attributes' => array(),
    '#value' => NULL,

If '#theme' were set to 'tag_html', theme_tag_html() would be the theme used by the render API.

  • Thats very interesting. Is there a reason we'd use #type if we could just directly use the #theme? Dec 9, 2014 at 13:48
  • 1
    with '#type', you can set more than just '#theme'.
    – apaderno
    Dec 9, 2014 at 20:00
  • Can you elaborate a bit more? I see that both are setting properties which are really fields being passed to the template. Isn't this how it works? What can #type do more? Dec 9, 2014 at 21:55
  • 2
    The properties returned by hook_element_info() includes #pre_render, #process, #theme_wrappers; setting #type you can potentially set all those, not just #theme.
    – apaderno
    Dec 10, 2014 at 14:28
  • I asked their if really #type is necessary drupal.org/project/drupal/issues/3309942
    – gagarine
    Sep 15, 2022 at 20:32

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