Using hook_form_alter in a custom module

Making what would seem to be really simple HTML changes in Drupal can appear really perplexing until you learn about the hook_alter functions. These Drupal specific functions are great for you to override Drupal behavior when the normal configuration options don’t provide a means to do so. That’s really important too: learning when to write code and when not to for Drupal. Always explore the available options for changing the way a module or theme presents data before you try to write code until you really know how to use Drupal properly. Writing code is satisfying but a waste of time in Drupal if someone has already written it for you.

But if there is an occasion to write some code, here is a really simple example of what to do to alter the presentation through a hook. Specifically, we are going to reverse the display of the user name and email fields on the user registration form so that the user name field is listed below the email field, the opposite of the way the form is written. This is the high level stuff that we are about to do.

The function or “hook” to override a form is:


where hook will be replaced by the name of the module I am going to create to do this and FORM_ID will be replaced by the ID of the actual form.

  1.  Identify the form ID of the Drupal form, in this case the User Registration Form.
  2.  Find the form in the core so that we can see what it is, where it lives and how it does what it does
  3. Create a new module to override the form so that we can make a very simple change

Find the form
Go to the form in a browser
View its HTML source in the browser
Figure out the form ID of the form you are altering. The ID will be the “id” attribute of the HTML form tag.
In the case of the User Registration form, the ID is, user_register_form. I can see this in the HTML source as “ID=user-register-form” but I know that the machine name will be with underscores and not dashes. Now, this is where it gets a bit tricky. Since the form is the user registration form, I know that I am certainly dealing with the Core User Module. I know enough about Drupal to know this is likely true so I know where to look. What I am emphasizing is to be really careful and ONLY do this in a test environment until you really know what you are doing. See my post about Get Pantheon if you want a good free Drupal testbed. One of the things that you can do to track down the area of code that you want to work with is to search through the .module file(s) for rendered text. When I look at the Drupal form (the user registration form in this case) that I want to alter, I note that there is a description that says, “Spaces are allowed; punctuation is not allowed except for periods, hyphens, apostrophes, and underscores.” If I search for that specific text in the user.module file, I am taken to line 1039. This is the precise area that I want to change, so I know that I am in the right area. If you are unsure of which .module file you need, you can expand your spearch to look at multiple files.

This is the code from the user.module file. It shows the user name code, then the email code below.

$form[‘account’][‘name’] = array(
‘#type’ => ‘textfield’,
‘#title’ => t(‘Username’),
‘#maxlength’ => USERNAME_MAX_LENGTH,
‘#description’ => t(‘Spaces are allowed; punctuation is not allowed except for periods, hyphens, apostrophes, and underscores.’),
‘#required’ => TRUE,
‘#attributes’ => array(‘class’ => array(‘username’)),
‘#default_value’ => (!$register ? $account->name : ”),
‘#access’ => ($register || ($user->uid == $account->uid && user_access(‘change own username’)) || $admin),
‘#weight’ => -10,
$form[‘account’][‘mail’] = array(
‘#type’ => ‘textfield’,
‘#title’ => t(‘E-mail address’),
‘#maxlength’ => EMAIL_MAX_LENGTH,
‘#description’ => t(‘A valid e-mail address. All e-mails from the system will be sent to this address. The e-mail address is not made public and will only be used if you wish to receive a new password or wish to receive certain news or notifications by e-mail.’),
‘#required’ => TRUE,
‘#default_value’ => (!$register ? $account->mail : ”),

Since we want to reverse the display order of the two fields, this is what we’ll do. Notice the ‘#weight’ key of the array for the user name? since that weight is “light” it will float to the top. If we give it a heavier weight, it will sink.

I create these items:

  • a folder called registeruser in sites/all/modules
  • a file called – this can just have all the normal .info stuff
  • a file called registeruser.module – the code is below:

function registeruser_form_user_register_form_alter(&$form, &$form_state, $form_id) {
$form[‘account’][‘name’][‘#weight’] = 1;

Since I just want to alter the one key, I can write it on just the two lines to make it simpler. The weight is now 1 instead of -10 so it will sink below the default of 0.
I enable my new module and test it out. I see now that the fields are in the reversed order. This change isn’t groundbreaking or anything, but it is a good example of how to user the hook_form_alter() function.

Use the hook_field_schema function from your custom module’s .install file

Many custom modules will not need to add information directly to your MySQL database. But if you do want to store new info from your module, you’ll need to include a .install file with your .module and .info files and use the hook function listed above to do this.

This references a great book that I picked up from Yeah, I know; another shameless plug. But it is worth it.

This is the code that you need to place in your install file. You’ll note that it looks similar to the SQL statements that you would use to add the info manually.

* Implements hook_field_schema()
function countryinfo_field_schema() {
$columns = array(
‘country’ => array(
‘description’ => ‘Two letter ISO country code of this
‘type’ => ‘varchar’,
‘length’ => 2,
‘not null’ => FALSE,
‘default’ => ”,
return array(
‘columns’ => $columns,

If this is the type of development you want to be able to do, take a look at the book at

Drupal Core Upgrade – 7.25



There is a new core upgrade for Drupal, moving from 7.24 to 7.25. It appears to be pretty cut and dried. Once, again, I am using the procedure detailed from the link below.


Drupal – When to Code and when NOT to….

I have found a really great book for those who want to do Drupal development from O’Reilly.Programmer’s Guide to Drupal. This isn’t really a book for those who want to lhaveearn PHP though. It’s for those who are already comfortable with coding and want to apply those skills to Drupal.


What this book does really well is to show you when to start writing your own code and when not to. It also recommends that a novice Drupal developer learn to build sites in Drupal without any custom coding at all in the beginning. With something like 24,000 modules out there, there is always a good chance that someone has already written code for the very purpose you have. Or that judicious use of core modules will allow you to get where you need to be.

Check this book out: it is AWESOME!

Inexpensive Drupal Books –

Packtpub is having a great sale until january 3th. All eBooks and Videos are on sale for $5.00. Very good deal. This includes all their books on Drupal, and they have a LOT of them. I’ve reviewed several of them and they are all really good. Check it out, it is an awesome deal! Find it here!



How to write a working Drupal Module

The power of Drupal can only be leveraged best if you learn how to write your own custom modules. If you know a bit of PHP and aren’t intimidated by functions, elements, arrays and the like, this is the best place to start. Community Docs. This tutorial will take you through the ins and outs of writing a basic but very functional Drupal module. This tutorial will, in great detail, explain all the steps needed to create a module that will allow you to show a configurable number of posts in a block, create a configuration menu option for the module and include a Help page.

I’ve looked at many online tutorials on how to write basic modules and this one is the best. It has the most thorough explanations and is rigorous in its adherence to Drupal commenting standards, coding standards and naming conventions. As well as the Drupal specific functions that make developing for Drupal easier. If you want to learn Drupal PHP development, this is the place to start.

The (almost) free web site – and learn Git too!

This is not a Drupal post. But I do have to share this anyway. I needed a site for the consulting side of my business but I don’t want to shell out much cash. OK, no cash at all.

So, i went digging and found that Github allows you to post a small site for free. No strings, no garbage. No database either so you can’t have a Drupal site. This isn’t the only site that will let you do that but it is one of the only ones that will also let you have your own domain name too. So, I spent two hot US quarters (50 cents) and bought as domain name for a year. I then used that name to establish my new site Lande Tech.

The only piece of the puzzle missing is DNS. Enter, a free service that will allow your domain’s dns needs to be hosted for free.

You won’t get your new domain’s email out of this (although will host your mx record) but you will get your own site and domain name for SUPER cheap!

Plus, you have the added benefit of using Git for the transfer of your data to Github Pages. Git was developed by Linus himself and is more or less the standard VCS (Version Control System) for Open Source development. I talked about Pantheon earlier – They use Git for their platform. If you do Open Source, you need to be familiar with Git.