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Mastering WordPress Shortcodes


Introduced in WordPress 2.5, shortcodes are powerful but still yet quite unknown WordPress functions. Imagine you could just type “adsense” to display an AdSense ad or “post_count” to instantly find out the number of posts on your blog.

WordPress shortcodes can do this and more and will definitely make your blogging life easier. In this article, we’ll show you how to create and use shortcodes, as well as provide killer ready-to-use WordPress shortcodes that will enhance your blogging experience.

What Are Shortcodes? Link

Using shortcodes is very easy. To use one, create a new post (or edit an existing one), switch the editor to HTML mode and type a shortcode in brackets, such as:


It is also possible to use attributes with shortcodes. A shortcode with attributes would look something like this:

[showcase id="5"]

Shortcodes can also embed content, as shown here:

[url href=""]Smashing Magazine[/url]

Shortcodes are handled by a set of functions introduced in WordPress 2.5 called the Shortcode API. When a post is saved, its content is parsed, and the shortcode API automatically transforms the shortcodes to perform the function they’re intended to perform.

Creating a Simple Shortcode Link

The thing to remember with shortcodes is that they’re very easy to create. If you know how to write a basic PHP function, then you already know how to create a WordPress shortcode. For our first one, let’s create the well-known “Hello, World” message.

  1. Open the functions.php file in your theme. If the file doesn’t exists, create it.
  2. First, we have to create a function to return the “Hello World” string. Paste this in your functions.php file:
    function hello() {
        return 'Hello, World!';
  3. Now that we have a function, we have to turn it into a shortcode. Thanks to the add_shortcode() function, this is very easy to do. Paste this line after our hello() function, then save and close the functions.php file:
    add_shortcode('hw', 'hello');

    The first parameter is the shortcode name, and the second is the function to be called.

  4. Now that the shortcode is created, we can use it in blog posts and on pages. To use it, simply switch the editor to HTML mode and type the following:

    You’re done! Of course, this is a very basic shortcode, but it is a good example of how easy it is to create one.

Creating Advanced Shortcodes Link

As mentioned, shortcodes can be used with attributes, which are very useful, for example, for passing arguments to functions. In this example, we’ll show you how to create a shortcode to display a URL, just as you would with the BBCodes that one uses on forums such as VBulletin and PHPBB.

  1. Open your functions.php file. Paste the following function in it:
    function myUrl($atts, $content = null) {
        "href" => 'http://'
      ), $atts));
      return '<a href="'.$href.'">'.$content.'</a>';
  2. Let’s turn the function into a shortcode:
    add_shortcode("url", "myUrl");
  3. The shortcode is now created. You can use it on your posts and pages:
    [url href=""]WordPress recipes[/url]

    When you save a post, the shortcode will display a link titled “WordPress recipes” and pointing to http://www.wprecipes.com1.

Code explanation. To work properly, our shortcode function must handle two parameters: $atts and $content. $atts is the shortcode attribute(s). In this example, the attribute is called href and contains a link to a URL. $content is the content of the shortcode, embedded between the domain and sub-directory (i.e. between “” and “/subdirectory”). As you can see from the code, we’ve given default values to $content and $atts.

Now that we know how to create and use shortcodes, let’s look at some killer ready-to-use shortcodes!

1. Create a “Send to Twitter” Shortcode Link

The problem. Seems that a lot of you enjoyed the “Send to Twitter” hack from my latest article on Smashing Magazine2. I also really enjoyed that hack, but it has a drawback: if you paste the code to your single.php file, the “Send to Twitter” link will be visible on every post, which you may not want. It would be better to control this hack and be able to specify when to add it to a post. The solution is simple: a shortcode!

The solution. This shortcode is simple to create. Basically, we just get the code from the “Send to Twitter” hack and turn it into a PHP function. Paste the following code in the functions.php file in your theme:

function twitt() {
  return '<div id="twitit"><a href=" reading '.get_permalink($post->ID).'" title="Click to send this page to Twitter!" target="_blank">Share on Twitter</a></div>';

add_shortcode('twitter', 'twitt');

To use this shortcode, simply switch the editor to HTML mode and then type:


and a “Send to Twitter” link will appear where you placed the shortcode.

2. Create a “Subscribe to RSS” Shortcode Link

The problem. You already know that a very good way to gain RSS subscribers is to display a nice-looking box that says something like “Subscribe to the RSS feed.” But once again, we don’t really want to hard-code something into our theme and lose control of the way it appears. In this hack, we’ll create a “Subscribe to RSS” shortcode. Display it in some places and not others, in posts or on pages, above or below the main content, it’s all up to you.

The solution. As usual, we create a function and then turn it into a shortcode. This code goes into your functions.php file. Don’t forget to replace the example feed URL with your own!

function subscribeRss() {
    return '<div class="rss-box"><a href="">Enjoyed this post? Subscribe to my RSS feeds!</a></div>';

add_shortcode('subscribe', 'subscribeRss');

Styling the box. You probably noticed the rss-box class that was added to the div element containing the link. This allows you to style the box the way you like. Here’s an example of some CSS styles you can apply to your “Subscribe to RSS” box. Simply paste it into the style.css file in your theme:

  border:2px #D5E9D5 solid;

3. Insert Google AdSense Anywhere Link

The problem. Most bloggers use Google AdSense. It is very easy to include AdSense code in a theme file such as sidebar.php. But successful online marketers know that people click more on ads that are embedded in the content itself.

The solution. To embed AdSense anywhere in your posts or pages, create a shortcode:

  1. Open the functions.php file in your theme and paste the following code. Don’t forget to modify the JavaScript code with your own AdSense code!
    function showads() {
        return '<div id="adsense"><script type="text/javascript"><!--
      google_ad_client = "pub-XXXXXXXXXXXXXX";
      google_ad_slot = "4668915978";
      google_ad_width = 468;
      google_ad_height = 60;
    <script type="text/javascript"
    add_shortcode('adsense', 'showads');
  2. Once you have saved functions.php, you can use the following shortcode to display AdSense anywhere on your posts and pages:

    Note that our AdSense code is wrapped with an adsense div element, we can style it the way we want in our style.css file.

Code explanation. The above code is used simply to display AdSense ads. When the shortcode is inserted in a post, it returns an AdSense ad. It is pretty easy but also, you’ll agree, a real time-saver!

Sources: Link

4. Embed an RSS Reader Link

The problem. Many readers also seemed to enjoy the “8 RSS Hacks for WordPress6” post published on Smashing Magazine recently. Now, let’s use our knowledge of both RSS and shortcodes to embed an RSS reader right in our posts and pages.

The solution. As usual, to apply this hack, simply paste the following code in your theme’s function.php file.

//This file is needed to be able to use the wp_rss() function.

function readRss($atts) {
  "feed" => 'http://',
      "num" => '1',
    ), $atts));

    return wp_rss($feed, $num);

add_shortcode('rss', 'readRss');

To use the shortcode, type in:

[rss feed="" num="5"]

The feed attribute is the feed URL to embed, and num is the number of items to display.

5. Get posts from WordPress Database with a Shortcode Link

The problem. Ever wished you could call a list of related posts directly in the WordPress editor? Sure, the “Related posts” plug-in can retrieve related posts for you, but with a shortcode you can easily get a list of any number of posts from a particular category.

The solution. As usual, paste this code in your functions.php file.

function sc_liste($atts, $content = null) {
                "num" => '5',
                "cat" => ''
        ), $atts));
        global $post;
        $myposts = get_posts('numberposts='.$num.'&order=DESC&orderby=post_date&category='.$cat);
        foreach($myposts as $post) :
             $retour.='<li><a href="'.get_permalink().'">'.the_title("","",false).'</a></li>';
        $retour.='</ul> ';
        return $retour;
add_shortcode("list", "sc_liste");

To use it, simply paste the following in the WordPress editor, after switching to HTML mode:

[liste num="3" cat="1"]

This will display a list of three posts from the category with an ID of 1. If you don’t know how to get the ID of a specific category, an easy way is explained here7.

Code explanation. After it has extracted the arguments and created the global variable $posts, the sc_liste() function uses the get_posts() function with the numberposts, order, orderby and category parameters to get the X most recent posts from category Y. Once done, posts are embedded in an unordered HTML list and returned to you.

Source: Link

  1. WordPress: Création de shortcode avancé8

6. Get the Last Image Attached to a Post Link

The problem. In WordPress, images are quite easy to manipulate. But why not make it even easier? Let’s look at a more complex shortcode, one that automatically gets the latest image attached to a post.

The solution. Open the functions.php file and paste the following code:

function sc_postimage($atts, $content = null) {
    "size" => 'thumbnail',
    "float" => 'none'
  ), $atts));
  $images =& get_children( 'post_type=attachment&post_mime_type=image&post_parent=' . get_the_id() );
  foreach( $images as $imageID => $imagePost )
  $fullimage = wp_get_attachment_image($imageID, $size, false);
  $imagedata = wp_get_attachment_image_src($imageID, $size, false);
  $width = ($imagedata[1]+2);
  $height = ($imagedata[2]+2);
  return '<div class="postimage" style="width: '.$width.'px; height: '.$height.'px; float: '.$float.';">'.$fullimage.'</div>';
add_shortcode("postimage", "sc_postimage");

To use the shortcode, simply type the following in the editor, when in HTML mode:

[postimage size="" float="left"]

Code explanation. The sc_postimage() function first extracts the shortcode attributes. Then, it retrieves the image by using the get_children(), wp_get_attachment_image() and wp_get_attachment_image_src() WordPress functions. Once done, the image is returned and inserted in the post content.

Sources: Link

  1. WordPress Shortcode: easily display the last image attached to post9

7. Adding Shortcodes to Sidebar Widgets Link

The problem. Even if you enjoyed this article, you may have felt a bit frustrated because, by default, WordPress doesn’t allow shortcode to be inserted into sidebar widgets. Thankfully, here’s a little trick to enhance WordPress functionality and allow shortcodes to be used in sidebar widgets.

The solution. One more piece of code to paste in your functions.php file:

add_filter('widget_text', 'do_shortcode');

That’s all you need to allow shortcodes in sidebar widgets!

Code explanation. What we did here is quite simple: we added a filter on the widget_text() function to execute the do_shortcode() function, which uses the API to execute the shortcode. Thus, shortcodes are now enabled in sidebar widgets.

Sources: Link

WordPress Shortcodes Resources Link


Footnotes Link

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This guest post was written by Jean-Baptiste Jung, a 28-year-old blogger from Belgium, who blogs about Web Development on Cats Who Code, about WordPress at WpRecipes and about blogging on Cats Who Blog . You can stay in touch with Jean by following him on Twitter.

  1. 1

    This is an example of articles we need, not just lists and lists. Not that the lists are bad, but information is better.

    Then again, we all have different requirements.

  2. 2

    Great post, thanks! I’m really only just starting to realise the power of WordPress :)

  3. 3

    Some Of them I knew Already Some of them are not… Thanks for the info Jean!!

    DKumar M.

  4. 4

    A very useful tips. Thanks Jean!

  5. 5

    another smashing post!. :)
    Now I am going to retheme my blog..

  6. 6

    Wow this is a great tip that I didn’t know about – thanks!! (Dugg.)

  7. 7

    a very good article! i’ll definitely gonna make shortcodes !

  8. 8

    Agree with African Boy, less lists please and more articles like this. I actually learned stuff I didn’t know!

  9. 9

    Thank you!!!

  10. 10

    wow… nice post… thanks…

  11. 11

    Great !!!

  12. 12

    This is great! More like this, please
    (Running off to create a new wp theme…)

  13. 13

    Very useful and interesting article. Thanks a lot!

  14. 14

    this is so great! thanks for the detailed description!!

  15. 15

    Great tutorial. The one on inserting the adsense will definitely be of great use to me.

  16. 16

    Excellent article. Clear, consice and easy to follow…exactly what the Dr ordered :-) Well done!

  17. 17

    I’ve already discovered the power of the functions.php-file and these shortcodes are another tool in my kit, thanks very much !

  18. 18

    Wow, that’s great! Didn’t knew that feature existed. I really like the Embed Adsense Code in posts shortcode. It sure saves a lot of time… Thanks for sharing!

  19. 19

    I think I found a minor error.
    In the 5th tip, where a post is retrieved directly from the database, the shortcode reads
    [liste num=”3″ cat=”1″],
    but the code in functions.php that catches the shortcut is add_shortcode(“list”, “sc_liste”);

    so I guess the code you have to insert should read:
    [list num=”3″ cat=”1″]

    It’s just one character, but an important one, right ?

  20. 21

    Great article! Thanks

  21. 22

    Very interesting hack!
    I’ll use them to make my codex smaller end easier!


  22. 23

    Awesome !

    WordPress is very suitable for light-scale web development for those people that not much in pure coding techniques like me >_<

  23. 24

    Yahooo! very helpful…Tnx for sharing SM!

  24. 25

    Excellent article, found it through feedly´s twitter.

  25. 26

    what is de URL of the picture by ” 2. Create a “Subscribe to RSS” Shortcode”

  26. 27

    Awesome post. Please give us more of these helpful tutorials that show us more of what WordPress can do (and more of Jean-Baptiste’s genius!)

    I agree with African Boy and Youri – list posts have nothing on posts as useful and informational this one :)

  27. 28

    Same question as mathiz’s;

    What’s the url of the blog used for the screenshot at “Create a “Subscribe to RSS” Shortcode”? Looks like I design worth checking out.

  28. 29

    Great list and great and useful information. A lot of thanks :)

  29. 30

    wow, this post is extremely useful for everybody who uses WordPress, thanks!! :)

  30. 31

    Full Circle Studio

    February 3, 2009 8:26 am

    Wow, we’ve been using WordPress for years and never knew the process for doing this. Thanks for the great tip!

  31. 32

    Awesome article !!!

    Really thanks :-)

  32. 33

    AWESOMENESS! bookmarked!

  33. 34

    Jean-Baptiste Jung

    February 3, 2009 10:05 am

    I’m glad to see all theses nice comments, great to see you enjoyed the article! Thanks for your support!

  34. 35

    I was lately thinking about how to easily add images with lighboxes to posts… you just hit the jackpot… thanks for the amazing article :)

  35. 36

    Good stuff here – I just converted my site to use WordPress, and this functionality seems to offer a great amount of flexibility. I wasn’t aware that this existed at all, thanks!

  36. 37

    great article, definitely going to come in handy

  37. 38

    Awesome. i love the twitter shortcode. highly useful…

  38. 39


  39. 40

    Great! Can I use short codes in a comment?

  40. 41

    This would come much more handy with large chunks of random snippet insertions.

  41. 42

    That’s I’ve been studying and trying to summarize.
    Thanks for the tips. and hoping more informaiton for other shortcodes.

  42. 43

    Simply marvellous it’s going to help me so much with my new blog:

  43. 44

    Thanks, this post helped save me several hours of custom code on a WordPress customization project.

  44. 45

    This is a great article. I didn’t know that WordPress had such a thing built in. This is definitely useful. Thanks for the tips!

  45. 46

    This just made my day.

  46. 47


  47. 48

    Oh My ~楼上那个王韬~我好像认识你~

  48. 49

    very helpful article for webmaster who are using wordpress . Very Very thank you.

  49. 50

    really awesome article. thanks for sharing

  50. 51

    so powerful tips.


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