#! code: Drupal 9: Selecting Machine Names For Content Entities And Fields

Naming things is hard[citation needed] and there are a lot of things that you can name when configuring a Drupal site. Picking the right machine names for the different parts of Drupal can make your life easy in the long run. Changing labels is simply a case of tweaking the label in the interface, or through configuration updates. The issue is that once you decide on a machine name for something in Drupal it’s pretty much set in stone forever.

The machine names you pick are often used in database tables, paths, interface elements and pretty much anywhere it is used. Changing entity or field machine names at a later date is difficult and can mean writing complex code or using migrations to achieve.

I have built a lot of Drupal sites over the years and done detailed audits on quite a few as well. This experience has given me a lot of insight on how to set up by machine names in Drupal. I have seem some horrific naming practices and poorly configured sites and in my experience there is a correlation between poorly named things in Drupal and bugs caused by those poor choice of names.

As far as I can tell the drupal.org documentation doesn’t actually cover this aspect of setting up Drupal. It does address naming conventions in code and modules as part of the coding standards, but not with machine names for content and fields.

Recently, I got into a discussion with a couple of other Drupal developers about content entities and fields, what to name them, and what to avoid when reusing fields. Surprisingly few people have written about naming conventions in Drupal, despite the fact that it has such an effect on the life cycle of the site itself. I thought I would write down some of the conventions I use when naming things and some of the best practices when reusing fields within a Drupal site.

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