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DEVELOPING WORDPRESS PLUGINS
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7: Anatomy of a WordPress Plugin 8: Plugins and functions.php
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Part III
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ANATOMY OF A WORDPRESS PLUGIN
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In this chapter we ll look at plugins from a slightly different standpoint than we did with the themes chapters previously. The reason for this is simple: your plugin can do anything. It is basically a way for you to add whatever feature you want; compare that to doing funky stuff with a select few template tags, and you see the difference. With plugins, it is not a matter of what you can do, it is more a question of why. So that s where we ll start.
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It goes without saying that plugins are different from themes, but a lot of things concerning them share the same ground. If you simplify things, you could say that when you re adding functionality to your theme by adding code to the functions.php template file, you re actually writing a plugin.
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But there is a huge difference. Themes are there to display the WordPress site, using the tools available. Plugins, on the other hand, are used when you need to extend the WordPress functionality with additional features. You should remember that, because bloating your theme s functions.php with features sometimes isn t the way to go.
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7
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Part III: Developing WordPress Plugins
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Plugin Basics
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A plugin s essentials don t differ too much from a theme s essentials. Instead of the necessary style.css stylesheet file with its theme-identifying top header, you have an aptly named PHP file with a similar header. Then you can expand by adding even more functionality outside of the main plugin PHP file if you want, just like you add template files to the child theme s style.css. Start from the beginning: the main plugin file. There are just two things to observe here:
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The main plugin file needs to be a PHP file with a unique filename, or a unique folder name if
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your plugin consists of several files inside a folder. The PHP file needs an identifying top, just like a theme s style.css does, so that WordPress can recognize it as a plugin.
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Giving your plugin a unique filename or folder name is very important, since plugins reside in wp-content/plugins/ and you wouldn t want any weird conflicts. Name it appropriately, and in such a way that there is no doubt which plugin it is should someone need to find it using FTP but only know it by the name it is displayed with from within the WordPress admin interface. The identifying plugin header block will look familiar. The following is a dummy: 146
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< php /* Plugin Name: My Smashing Plugin Plugin URI: http://my-smashing-plugin-url.com Description: This is what my Smashing Plugin actually does. Version: 1.0 Author: Thord Daniel Hedengren Author URI: http://tdhedengren.com */ >
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Actually, you don t need all that; only the plugin name line, the first one within the comment notations, is mandatory. The rest should be there, however, so that the user knows what the plugin is, where to get updates, version numbering, who made it, and so on. You should include licensing information as well. This is the standard GPL licensing dummy that is recommended in the WordPress Codex:
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< php /* Copyright YEAR
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PLUGIN_AUTHOR_NAME
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(e-mail : PLUGIN AUTHOR E-MAIL)
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This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by
7: Anatomy of a WordPress Plugin
the Free Software Foundation; either version 2 of the License, or (at your option) any later version. This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. See the GNU General Public License for more details. You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License along with this program; if not, write to the Free Software Foundation, Inc., 51 Franklin St, Fifth Floor, Boston, MA 02110-1301 */ >
Naturally, you d want to change YEAR and PLUGIN AUTHOR E-MAIL to the correct information. You can also include the full license as a text file, aptly named license.txt of course. Obtain the license from www.gnu.org/copyleft/gpl.html. And that s about it. All you need for WordPress to find the plugin is this, one single file with an identifying top. Dropping it in wp-content/plugins/ will result in it being listed in the Plugins section within WordPress. Activate it, and it will be available to you in your theme, and from WordPress s actions themselves. 147 This is where the fun part begins, because this is where you have to figure out what you need to do, and how you ll accomplish it. Whether you re planning on writing the plugin you think will change the way you use WordPress, or just need some extra functionality for your latest project, you should go through the plugin checklist before getting started. It may just save you some time and headaches.
Is there a plugin for this already If there is, consider using that instead, or forking/hacking it if it
nearly does what you want. Make sure you ve got a unique name for your plugin. Don t just check the wordpress.org plugin directory, you should Google it to make sure. Decide on a unique prefix to all your functions, and stick to it. That way you re doing your part in eliminating any unnecessary conflicting functions due to similar naming structure. Do you want to internationalize your plugin You really should; it works the same way as with themes and is pretty easy after all. Should this plugin have widget support If it should, what kind of settings should it have Do you need a settings page within the admin interface the wordpress.org directory. Don t forget the final check. Is the header up to date Is the version number correct Do all the links work Is every necessary file in the package And last but not least, have you spell-checked your plugin