Wordpress tips/tricks/tools I'm gathering along the way while learning how to use it.
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Wordpress Toolbox

This is a compendium of Wordpress tips, tricks, tools and recipes I'm gathering while I'm learning how to use it. Also check out the Wiki, which acts as a purgatory for half-formed ideas before they make it here.

A note on the content

This material is AWL.

Table of Contents


Query Monitor

View debugging and performance information on database queries, hooks, conditionals, HTTP requests, redirects and more.

I found this to be very useful for debugging a variety of things such as which hooks have been triggered, which theme files are used on the current page, what conditionals match it, et cetera.


Helps you create themes faster with sustainable code. With Timber, you write HTML using Mustache-like Templates — http://timber.upstatement.com

One of the first things I said to myself when I started learning Wordpress — there's gotta be a better way to write these templates. You can spread them across multiple tiny files, but that doesn't help with the fact that Wordpress templates are usually a soup of imperative code and HTML output, which can get unwieldy pretty fast either way.

Timber lets you use your theme's .php files for code, and handle all markup in a declarative .twig template, which is peachy. Now I just have to figure out how my theme file should invite/coerce the user into installing Timber along with it.

Advanced Custom Fields

Customise WordPress with powerful, professional and intuitive fields.

ACF is mentioned in every second sentence on Wordpress development, and lots of themes and plugins mention they play nicely with it. I still need to study it a bit to get what the fuss is about :-)


Shortcake makes using WordPress shortcodes a piece of cake.

This provides an UI for adding shortcodes, hasn't been updated for a while but looks good.

W3 Total Cache

W3 Total Cache improves the user experience of your site by increasing website performance, reducing download times via features like content delivery network (CDN) integration.

This pretty much worked out of the box for minifying CSS/JS and for caching website content on the disk, making the website much faster.

Post Types Order

Post Order and custom Post Type Objects (custom post types) using a Drag and Drop Sortable JavaScript AJAX interface or default WordPress dashboard.

Until Wordpress makes it easier to order posts of the same type (right now we're stuck with the Order input field on each post), this plugin helps order them with a simple drag & drop interface.

Facebook Open Graph, Google+ and Twitter Card Tags

Inserts Facebook Open Graph, Google+/Schema.org, Twitter and SEO Meta Tags into your WordPress Website for more efficient sharing results.

Although people seem to be using Yoast SEO for this purpose, I appreciated that this plugin worked out of the box with decent results.

Google XML Sitemaps

Use this plugin to greatly improve SEO to create special XML sitemaps which will help search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo and Ask.com to better index your site.

This popular plugin will help you create your sitemap.xml which Google and other crawlers use. Be sure to go to its Settings page and check any Custom Post Types / taxonomies / archives you might want included in the sitemap.

WP User Avatar

WordPress currently only allows you to use custom avatars that are uploaded through Gravatar. WP User Avatar enables you to use any photo uploaded into your Media Library as an avatar.

Page Builders

Page builders let you build the content of your page or post as a series of sections in a visual way. What I'm looking for is a light page builder that can work with controlled sections (i.e. allow some flexibility, but only use components I've defined). Here's a list of plugins that seem to be popular:

Name WP Plugin GitHub repo Notes
SiteOrigin Page Builder siteorigin-panels siteorigin/siteorigin-panels Entirely free and comes with a widgets bundle (GitHub)
Elementor elementor pojome/elementor Free and paid versions. I assume the GitHub repo and WordPress listing refer to the free version.
Beaver Builder beaver-builder-lite-version N/A Free and paid versions.
Visual Composer N/A N/A Paid-only. #1 paid plugin on CodeCanyon.
Advanced Custom Fields advanced-custom-fields N/A Free and paid versions. The paid versions contains a Flexible content field that can be used as a page builder.
Live Composer live-composer-page-builder live-composer/live-composer-page-builder Free.

For an easy solution with excellent flexibility, you can also use custom Shortcodes (the output of which you can manage very nicely with Timber / Twig). The downside is with migrating content to a different theme that does not know how to interpret them, but is it really better if the page builder just spews out very specific HTML markup?

(Also, I need to check out Widgets -- do they help?)

Further reading: WordPress Page builder plugins: a critical review is a thoughtful & thorough article.

Aesop Story Engine seems to be a lightweight page builder tool specifically geared towards storytelling.

Starter Themes


Hi. I'm a starter theme called _s, or underscores, if you like. I'm a theme meant for hacking so don't use me as a Parent Theme. Instead try turning me into the next, most awesome, WordPress theme out there. That's what I'm here for. — http://underscores.me/

I love this idea of "A 1000-Hour Head Start".

Timber Starter Theme

It's the _s of Timber-driven themes and it has all the things to get you hacking right away.


Changing the number of posts per page

In the example below, we're overriding the number of posts to show on an archive page for all custom post types (CPTs). The default is 10. This goes into functions.php:

add_action( 'pre_get_posts', 'configure_posts_per_page' );

function configure_posts_per_page($query) {
    // Don't alter queries in the admin interface
    // and don't alter any query that's not the main one
    if (is_admin() || !$query->is_main_query()) {
    // For custom post type based archives, override the number of posts per page
    if ($query->is_post_type_archive()) {
        $query->set('posts_per_archive_page', 12);

A couple of things to be mindful about: we only alter queries that happen on the user-facing interface (we check for is_admin() and return early), and only on the main query (the check for $query->is_main_query()), because the pre_get_posts hook gets triggered for all the queries happening for the request and not doing these checks might have unintended consequences, like breaking the pagination in the admin interface, or hindering performance.

Showing only top-level posts for a hierarchical custom post type archive page

If you've created a custom post type that allows nesting — that is, your posts can have a parent (of the same post type) — and you want to only display the top-level posts on its archive page, you can use the pre_get_posts hook to filter out posts that have a parent:

function configure_get_posts($query) {

    // Don't alter queries in the admin interface
    // and don't alter any query that's not the main one
    if (is_admin() || !$query->is_main_query()) {

    // For custom post type based archives
    if ($query->is_post_type_archive()) {
        // Only show top-level posts
        if ($query->query_vars['post_parent'] == false) {
            $query->set('post_parent', 0);

Note: All the caveats from the previous tip apply here as well.

Laying out posts in a grid using Twig

If you're using Timber to develop your theme, you can use the batch filter in Twig to elegantly lay out posts in a grid. In the example below, we're writing markup for a three-column grid layout:

{% for row in posts | batch(3) %}
  <div class='row'>
  {% for post in row %}
    <div class='col'>
      ...your post here...
  {% endfor %}
{% endfor %}

Using different languages for the website's front-end and the administration dashboard

Previously, you'd do this via hacks, but starting from Wordpress 4.7 you can set the language for the dashboard independently from the website language by going to your Profile settings in the administration interface.

Using references to particular menus in the theme's templates

When you have a single menu in your site, it's easy to just include it in your theme: just call wp_nav_menu() (or new TimberMenu() if you're using Timber), and you'll get the first available menu.

If you have more than one menu defined, you'll need to refer to specific menus by referencing them by their ID, slug, or full name. Neither option is very nice: the menu's name might inadvertently change; and, consequently, its slug. If you hardcode the ID you'll need to change it for each website you use the code on.

But you can use the menus theme feature to set up stable references to your menus:

// functions.php

add_theme_support( 'menus' );

// then:

function register_my_menus() {
  register_nav_menu('main-menu',__( 'Main Menu' ));
  register_nav_menu('secondary-menu',__( 'Secondary Menu' ));

add_action( 'init', 'register_my_menus' );

This creates two theme locations where the client can plug in their menus from the administration dashboard. And for us, the developer, it means we can call them by their location in our theme:

// plain WordPress...
<?php wp_nav_menu( array( 'theme_location' => 'main-menu' ) ); ?>

// ...or with Timber
$context['menu'] = new TimberMenu('main-menu');
$context['footer_menu] = new TimberMenu('footer-menu');

Redirecting to the first child of a page when visiting a parent page

This can be done very elegantly with a Custom Page Template that you apply to your parent page.

/* Template Name: Redirect To First Child */
$child_pages = get_pages( "child_of=" . $post->ID . "&sort_column=menu_order" );
if ($child_pages) {
    // get id of first child page
    $firstchild = $child_pages[0];
    wp_redirect( get_permalink( $firstchild->ID ) );

Adjusting the quality of resized JPEG images

add_filter('jpeg_quality`, 'adjust_jpeg_quality');
function adjust_jpeg_quality() {
  return 100; // 100% quality


The WordPress Template Hierarchy

This is a useful visualization of how Wordpress decides which template to use when displaying content on your site. Could work as a poster!

Miscellaneous tips

How to find which theme and plugins a WordPress website is using

If you're curious about how other websites use WordPress, the page source can give a few hints. You can search for wp-content/themes and wp-content/plugins to see what's included. (Of course, this only works for WP websites that don't do CSS/JS bundling, or serve assets from CDNs). Here's a short snippet that you can paste into the browser Console to inspect a website for themes/plugins:

function _match(str, regex) {
	var matches = [];
	str.replace(regex, function() {
	return matches;

function _unique(item, idx, arr) {
	return arr.indexOf(item) === idx;

function find_themes(str) {
	return _match(str, /wp\-content\/themes\/([^\/]+)/g)
		.map(function(item) {
			return item[1];

function find_plugins(str) {
	return _match(str, /wp\-content\/plugins\/([^\/]+)/g).map(function(item) {
		return item[1];

function inspect_wp() {
	var html = document.documentElement.innerHTML;
	console.info('Found themes:');
	console.info('Found plugins:');


Once you've identified the theme name, the path /wp-content/themes/<theme-name>/style.css will usually give you more information in the CSS header (this is also used by WordPress to display info about the theme).