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When to node_load and when to access the db directly in Drupal

on Wed, 01/05/2011 - 23:45

node_load() in Drupal 6 is very efficient in that when you load a node it will keep the fully loaded node in a static array. This means, for example if you load nid 23 and need information from that node in a different place, you can simply call node_load(23) and it will return the previously loaded node. There is no charge to you. Drupal sees that it has previously loaded nid 23 and doesn’t need to make all the calls to the database or through all the hooks again, just return what we’ve already got.

Now this is all fine and well if you are working on a node that is already loaded, but what if you would like just a single column from a node that hasn’t been loaded yet? Sure you could node_load the new node (ie node_load(24)) but that’s quite a bit of work to go through for a single column. In this case you might be better off going directly to the database for the data you want.

Beware when going directly to the database. Know that going directly to the database could cause slightly different results since your data won’t be passed through the different nodeapi hooks that would normally have the opportunity to alter the data before presenting it to you. Just do a bit of research and if you are sure you don’t need any alters to the data, have at it.

Though Drupal 7 has a completely different way of handling the node_load on the back end, for the purposes we’ve discussed here you can use the same logic. Drupal 7 still loads the nodes into a static variable for future uses.


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