I have built a custom form (in a module) that creates several related nodes in the database when submitted. Now, I need to create a module so that a user can update his/her submitted form data at a later date. Here's my rough plan:

(1) Determine the nodes that the user wants to update via a wildcard in a requested url; (2) retrieve the required data from the database; (3) build a form and insert the retrieved database values via the #value property; (4) bulid a submit function that uses db_update to update the node

Is this the right approach for updating a node via a custom form? Here's my (not working) module code so far:

// Implements hook_menu().
function update_card_menu() {
    $items['update-card/%update_card'] = array(
        'page callback' => 'update_card_form',
        'page arguments' => array(1),
        'access callback' => TRUE,
    return $items;

// Database query function.
function update_card_load($nid) {
    $query = db_select('node', 'n');
    $query -> condition('nid', $nid);
    $query -> join('card_number', 'cn', 'n.nid = cn.entity_id');
    $nodes = $query
    -> fields('n', array('nid', 'title'))
    -> fields('cn', array('field_card_name_nid'))
    // This query will get more complex - I need more nodes and more fields
    -> execute();
    foreach ($nodes as $field) {
        $card['nid'] = $field -> nid;
        $card['card number'] = $field -> field_card_number_nid;
    return $card;

$card now contains some values I want to populate my update form:

Array ( [nid] => 123 [card number] => 456 )

But how do I get $card into my form builder function, so that I can populate my #value properties from this array? My code does not work.

 * Renderable form array return function.
function update_card_form() {
    return drupal_render(drupal_get_form('update_card_capture'));

 * Form builder function.
function update_card_capture($form, &$form_state, $card) {
    $form['nid'] = array(
        '#title' => t('nid'),
        '#type' => 'textfield',
        '#value' => $card->nid
        $form['card number'] = array(
        '#title' => t('Card number'),
        '#type' => 'textfield',
        '#value' => $card->card_number
  • Try using #default_value instead of #value...
    – Clive
    Apr 15, 2013 at 15:25
  • I'll give it a go. It's my page callback in hook_menu that concerns me most. I feel like I'm mixing two separate things together: (1) trying to load values from my db into an array according to a url wildcard value; and (2) trying to render a form. Something is not right with that.
    – dbj44
    Apr 15, 2013 at 15:36
  • Oh, didn't realise it was a form - you want Charlie S's answer in that case
    – Clive
    Apr 15, 2013 at 15:36

2 Answers 2


You need to use hook_menu() to register the path and callback function, like so:

function hook_menu() {
  $items['some-path/%node'] = array( // %node will use the node_load() function that's already provided by node.module.
    'type' => MENU_CALLBACK // This is just a callback item, it will not appear in any "menus"
    'page callback' => 'drupal_get_form'
    'page arguments' => array('the_form_function_name', 1) // Where 1 = the %node wildcard
    'access callback' => 'node_access',
    'access arguments' => array('update', 1), // The user must be able to update the node
  return $items;

Then build a simple form that provides fields to alter on the node, and run node_save() in the submit handler to save any modifications you make to the node.

function the_form_function_name($form, &$form_state, $node) {
  drupal_set_title('Now editing node ' . check_plain($node->title));

  // Just store the entire $node object in a custom form property. Easy.
  $form['#node'] = $node;

  // An example form field that we'll use to update the node's title.
  $form['new_title'] = array(
    '#title' => 'Title',
    '#type' => 'textfield',
    '#default_value' => $node->title,

  $form['submit'] = array(
    '#type' => 'submit',
    '#value' => 'Save Node',

  return $form;

function the_form_function_name_submit(&$form, &$form_state) {
  $form['#node']->title = $form_state['values']['new_title'];
  // Save the modified node object (http://api.drupal.org/node_save)
  if (node_save($form['#node'])) {
    drupal_set_message('Updated the node.');
  } else {
    drupal_set_message('Could not update the node.', 'error');

This is just sample code – I have not tested, but it should work barring any typos.

You would hit this via: http://example.com/some-path/123 where 123 is the node ID of the node you want to edit.

  • Thanks. This is a simpler approach. However, I need values from many fields and nodes to populate my update form. This is why I think I need to do a database query. I've put the code I have so far in my question.
    – dbj44
    Apr 15, 2013 at 15:24
  • So you need additional fields from additional nodes beyond the node specified in the URL? Apr 15, 2013 at 20:52
  • Yes - but the other nodes each have a field which contains the nid of their 'root' node, so one wildcard integer is all I need to query the db for all the fields I need. But, I don't think I can use the existing node_load function. I need to write my own load function to do this db query. Your method looks right: page callback drupal_get_form and supply, as arguments, the built form and the values from a load function - if that's what you're suggesting?
    – dbj44
    Apr 15, 2013 at 21:57
  • Just do it at the top of the form function, not in a custom wildcard loader. Here's a loose example: $other_nodes = db_query("SELECT f.field_value FROM field_my_field_name f LEFT JOIN field_node_reference r ON r.entity_id = f.entity_id WHERE r.field_node_reference_id = :primary_node_id", array(':primary_node_id' => $node->nid))->fetchAll(); Apr 16, 2013 at 15:02
  • I had the same thought today. No need for the load function.
    – dbj44
    Apr 16, 2013 at 21:23

Solution for point 1: Implement hook_menu()

The code should be something like this:

$items['my-view/%'] = array(
  'page callback' => 'mymodule_create_form', // Function name that create the form
  'page arguments' => array(1), // You pass the wildcard(%) value, in this case, the id of the node that you will use to load with node load()

Point 2 : Always node_load(). It will give you the chance to act with hooks and you will can add or delete fields without touch the querys.

Point 3: I would reuse the form that you`ve created when a node is added. You will have to fill the fields in form using #value property.

Point 4: node_save(). Updated the node object that you loaded in point 2.

  • I've hesitated to use hook_menu, because 'Update form' won't be a menu item on my site - so I assume hook_menu is used for non-menu related purposes too? - if that made any sense.
    – dbj44
    Apr 14, 2013 at 12:22
  • With this hook you say to the system that a function will be called to build the code. You could add it to a menu as a menu item with the "menu_name" property, but it's not the case.
    – Rufein
    Apr 14, 2013 at 12:38
  • Re. the link you sent me to hook_menu(): the paragraph that begins "Registered paths may also contain special "auto-loader..." - is this what I need to be following to load my node from the database (point 2 in my plan)? Thanks
    – dbj44
    Apr 14, 2013 at 15:07
  • You could implement it. You can choose between 2 ways: function mymodule_create_form($id){$node = node_load($id); // Now build the form and fill it with the values of node. Finally return the form} or you could implement as you say. Firt the hook_menu: $items['my-view/%mymodule_node']array( 'page callback' => 'mymodule_create_form', 'page arguments' => array(1), ) and finally add a function to your module called function mymodule_node_load($id){return $node_load($id);}
    – Rufein
    Apr 14, 2013 at 16:13

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