I'm in my final semester for my degree in Computer Science, and we've been tasked with creating a project management system using Drupal. I thought this was great at first, we easily created a proof of concept using already built modules. And then I attempted to code.

Basic Idea: We thought about defining our own schema for entities, but the company needs a dynamic way of defining and sharing fields (like the entity / field API already does), so we decided to stick with the built in Entity / Field API.

Entity types would be things like request, project, task, etc...

Fields would be things like select lists, questions for the request form (that could be transferred over to a project once the request was approved), and other text fields needed for the project.

I was thinking that using the field API to start with some of the needed select lists (that the admin can add/update/delete default values to) would work fine - because I defined these with the UI thinking man this is easy. Select lists such as legacy company, products, and other short lists related to telecom. But I cannot programmatically define a select list field with predefined values. How can I do this? I've googled, and searched, and followed this great article, but it does not delve much into select lists, and how to define default values, or any of the $options available for a select list [and neither do the API docs, they do not tell what values should be used, or even the default widget types].

Am I going about this all wrong? Maybe I should just create some good old crud classes and be done with it. The only problem with this is that it would be extremely difficult to make the system as dynamic as they want, or would it?

1 Answer 1


Personally I wouldn't bother doing it yourself, Drupal has it all set up for you and it's just a matter of working out the format it wants data in and you can use all the goodness of the entity/field system.

The following function is one I use all the time. Given an existing entity type, field name and bundle it will produce the code you need to run to create said field instance:

function __export_field($entity_type, $field_name, $bundle_name) {
  $info_config = field_info_field($field_name);
  $info_instance = field_info_instance($entity_type, $field_name, $bundle_name);
  unset($info_instance['id'], $info_instance['field_id']);
  include_once DRUPAL_ROOT . '/includes/utility.inc';
  $output = "field_create_field(" . drupal_var_export($info_config) . ");\n";
  $output .= "field_create_instance(" . drupal_var_export($info_instance) . ");";
  drupal_set_message("<textarea rows=30 style=\"width: 100%;\">". $output .'</textarea>');

For example, if you have a field called field_image attached to the standard article content type, you would export both the field creation code, and field instance creation code with this:

__export_field('node', 'field_image', 'article');

The code prints out to the standard drupal message area and can just be copied and pasted to wherever you need it.

For your specific needs, the value list for a select widget is added in the settings part of the field array, under allowed_values:

$field = array(
  'translatable' => '0',
  'entity_types' => array(),
  'settings' => array(
    'allowed_values' => array(
      1 => 'First Choice',
      2 => 'Second Choice'
  // etc...

If you haven't seen it already check out the Examples module, there's loads of example code in there to help with entity/field manipulation.

  • 1
    Last time I checked the Examples module didn't have a lot of info on Entities (I may very well be wrong now though, so apologies if I am). Definitely check out the Model Entities module for some Entity examples as well.
    – Chapabu
    Commented Feb 10, 2012 at 9:48
  • @Chapabu You're right I was thinking more along the lines of the field_example module which has some useful example code. I wasn't aware of Model entities so thanks for the heads-up, it looks like a great resource
    – Clive
    Commented Feb 10, 2012 at 10:08
  • Thanks for the response, it shouldn't be so hard to find that the settings value 'allowed_values' must be used to store the values. Where did you find this info (is there something I am missing in the API docs)? Also, thanks for the export_field snippet, where might I call this from?
    – Jack
    Commented Feb 10, 2012 at 13:44
  • To be honest I had the same problem as you a while ago and dug into the field module and field_config table in the database to find out where the allowed values were stored; the documentation seems to be scarce/non-existant so that was a last resort. To run this code I would personally install the Devel module and then visit mysite.com/devel/php...it's a page where you can run arbitrary PHP against the site and is very helpful for development in general
    – Clive
    Commented Feb 10, 2012 at 13:58
  • 1
    In the internal Form API when you give a default value for an element that doesn't exist it normally just reverts to either the default shown (if one has been set on the field level) or to no option chosen...I imagine the same thing will happen on the node edit page. As for node display I think the value simply wouldn't come out until it had been edited and updated with a currently allowed value. I think ;)
    – Clive
    Commented Feb 10, 2012 at 14:23

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