The basics of a Word Press plugin

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Now honestly, the details of writing WordPress plugins are far beyond the scope of this title; my goal is to show you the structure of a simple WordPress plugin and the basics of how to construct one. Understanding this, you can begin to write your own basic plugins and feel more confident looking through other people's plugins when assessing what kind of features they provide to your WordPress site and if you need to tweak anything for your jQuery enhancements. Even as simply and basically as we're going to work, you'll see how truly powerful WordPress plugins can be.

Want to become a WordPress plugin rockstar?

You can start off with, yet again, WordPress 2.7 Complete by April Hodge Silver and Hasin Hayder. There's a chapter on plugins that walks you through creating very useful simple plugins, as well as a more complex plugin that writes to the WordPress database. Beyond that, you'll want to check out WordPress Plugin Development: Beginner's Guide by Vladimir Prelovac. Don't let the title fool you, Vladimir will have you generating feature rich and dynamic WordPress plugins using WordPress' coding standards all explained with clear, step-by-step code.

Working with plugins does require some experience with PHP. I'll keep this explanation fairly straightforward for non-PHP developers, and those of you with PHP experience should be able to see how to expand on this example to your advantage in WordPress. On the whole, if you've been following the jQuery and WordPress PHP examples in this book so far, you should be fine.

Just as with themes, WordPress plugins require a little structure to get started with them. There's no defined hierarchy for plugin files, but you do need, at the very least, a PHP file with a special comment up top so that WordPress can display it within the Plugin Management page. While there are some single-file plugins out there, such as the Hello Dolly plugin, which comes with your WordPress installation, you never know when you first start developing, the ways in which a plugin may grow. To be safe, I like to organize my plugins into a uniquely named folder. Again, like with themes, WordPress relies on the plugin directory's namespace, so uniqueness is of key importance!

In the wp-content/plugins directory you can place a unique folder and inside that, create a .php file, and at the beginning of the file, inside the <?php ?> tags, include the following header information. Only the bold information is absolutely required. The rest of the information is optional and populates the Manage Plugins page in the Administration panel.

Plugin Name: your WordPress Plugin Name goes here

Plugin URI: Description: Explanation of what it does Author: Your Name Version: 1.0

Author URI: */

Make sure that you don't have any spaces before your <?php tag or after your ?> tag. If you do, WordPress will display some errors because the system will get some errors about page headers already being sent.

Once you have your .php file set up in its own directory, inside your plugin directory, you can add a basic PHP function. You can then decide how you want to evoke that function, using an action hook or a filter hook. For example:

Plugin Name: your WordPress Plugin Name goes here Plugin URI: Description: Explanation of what it does Author: Your Name Version: 1.0

Author URI: */

h function myPluginFunction(){

//function code will go here

add_filter('the_title', 'myPluginFunction');

Remember that in the theme section earlier, I covered plugin hooks and how it's important to have them in your theme? This is why. If you didn't have wp_head or wp_footer in your theme, many plugins can't function, and you limit yourself to the plugins you can write. In my plugins, I mostly use wp_header and the init action hooks.

Luckily, most filter hooks will work in your plugins as WordPress will run through them in The Loop. For the most part, you'll get the most work done in your plugin using the_title and the_content filter hooks. Each of these filter's hooks will execute your function when WordPress loops through those template tags in the loop.

Want to know what filter and action hooks are available?

The list is exhaustive. In fact, it's so immense that the WordPress codex doesn't seem to have them all documented! For the most complete listing «„Xi-^ available of all action and filter hooks, including newer hooks available in version 2.9.x, you'll want to check out Adam Brown's WordPress Hooks


Overwhelmed by the database? Of course, checking out Vladimir's WordPress Plugin Development: Beginner's Guide will get you started with an arsenal of action and filter hooks as well.

You now understand the basics of a WordPress plugin! Let's do something with it.

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