Creating the configuration form

Last updated on
1 March 2017

Main topic described: Form API
Main functions described: variable_get(), system_settings_form()

Next, we will build the current_posts_form() function. We build the form by adding elements to the $form array. In a pattern similar to the menu $items variable, the name of each element is its key in the array, with that key's value being a specially formatted associative array. In this value array, we list the attributes of the element, this time preceding each key with a hash mark (#).

Add the following to your current_posts.module file:

 * Page callback: Current posts settings
 * @see current_posts_menu()
function current_posts_form($form, &$form_state) {
  $form['current_posts_max'] = array(
    '#type' => 'textfield',
    '#title' => t('Maximum number of posts'),
    '#default_value' => variable_get('current_posts_max', 3),
    '#size' => 2,
    '#maxlength' => 2,
    '#description' => t('The maximum number of links to display in the block.'),
    '#required' => TRUE,

  return system_settings_form($form);

The element attributes

Here we create a text field, with a title of 'Maximum number of posts', and a description, which will appear below the field. Note that both of these strings are passed through the t() function for translation. Size is 2, maximum length is 2. The Form API will automatically validate the maxlength attribute when the form is submitted and throw an error if the length exceeds 2. We have also designated the field as required. The form API will mark it with an asterisk and will throw an error if the form is submitted with no value in the field. See the forms_api_reference for the complete list of available elements and properties.

Persistent variables

Certain data, like system settings and user-configurable information, needs to be saved and retrievable for a website to function properly. Drupal accomplishes this through the use of persistent variables. These variables are stored in a database table with keys provided by the implementing module.

The function variable_get() retrieves a persistent variable, and variable_set(), as you might expect, sets one. We use variable_get() above to retrieve the value of our field if it has been set. If not, we specify a default value of 3. variable_get() uses the name of the element, current_posts_max, to find the relevant data.

System settings

Drupal makes it easy for us to save the form's data with the function system_settings_form(). By using the function in our code, we tell Drupal to provide a submit button and to save data into persistent variables using variable_set(). It will also provide a green confirmation message when data is successfully saved, and a red error message if something went wrong. If you prefer, you can create a submit function yourself, (see Form API Quickstart Guide) but for now, we will use this handy shortcut.

Editing the query

We must add two lines of code to our query function, current_posts_contents, one using variable_get() to retrieve the data from our settings form, and the other adding the range function to include this limit in the query. Here's the revised function, with the new lines noted in comments:

function current_posts_contents() {
  //Get today's date.
  $today = getdate();
  //Calculate midnight a week ago.
  $start_time = mktime(0, 0, 0,$today['mon'],($today['mday'] - 7), $today['year']);
  //Get all posts from one week ago to the present.
  $end_time = time();

 $max_num = variable_get('current_posts_max', 3);

  //Use Database API to retrieve current posts.
  $query = db_select('node', 'n')
    ->fields('n', array('nid', 'title', 'created'))
    ->condition('status', 1) //Published.
    ->condition('created', array($start_time, $end_time), 'BETWEEN')
    ->orderBy('created', 'DESC') //Most recent first.
    ->range(0, $max_num) //NEW LINE
  return $query;

Using variable_get(), we save the configuration setting into the $max_num variable or assign a default of 3. Then we add the range method to our select query. That method's first argument is set to zero to specify starting at the beginning of the set. The second argument, $max_num, determines how many records to return.


Go ahead and again enable your module. Then you will need to clear the menu cache, so that Drupal will recognize the new URL. (Drupal caches a lot of data, including a list of all the URLs it recognizes.) To clear the cache, go to Configuration > Performance or, and click the Clear all caches button.

Now you can test the settings form. Navigate to it: Configuration > Content authoring > Current posts or Adjust the number of links and save the configuration. The maximum number of links in the block should adjust accordingly. See how system_settings_form() has added a submit button and gives you a confirmation message when you have successfully saved.

Please note: be sure to disable your module before continuing.

See also