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Wordpress The Complete Guide To Custom Post Types

WordPress has been gaining a foothold in the general content management system (CMS) game for a few years now, but the real breakthrough was the custom post type mechanism which allows for the creation of a wide variety of content. Let’s take a look at how this came to be and all the options that this great functionality offers.

Some of the custom post types you can create in WordPress.1
Some of the custom post types you can create in WordPress.

What It Used To Be Like Link

In practice, custom post types have been around for a long time, more specifically since February 17, 2005, when WordPress 1.5 added support for static pages, creating the post_type database field.

The wp_insert_post() function has been around since WordPress 1.0, so when the post_type field was implemented in 1.5, you could simply set the post_type value when inserting a post. Of course, creating and managing custom post types required much more than that, but the amount of coding needed became less and less as WordPress functions became more and more flexible.

By version 2.8, the register_post_type() function and some other helpful things were added to the nightly builds, and when 2.9 came out, the functions became available to everyone. At this point, extensive coding and hacks were not needed to make WordPress a full blown CMS; you could use plenty of great built-in functions to make WordPress do your bidding.

What WordPress Can Do For You Now Link

A custom post type is nothing more than a regular post with a different post_type value in the database. The post type of regular posts is post, pages use page, attachments use attachment and so on. You can now create your own to indicate the type of content created. You could create custom post types for books, movies, reviews, products and so on.

If created correctly, you can achieve the following with a few lines of code:

  • The custom post type will show up in the back end as a separate menu item with its own post list and “add new” page
  • Navigating to will take you to the archive page for the post type. This is akin to visiting the front page for latest posts from the “post” post type.
  • Categories and tags can be made available to the custom post type, or you can create custom taxonomies.

Apart from these, you can modify countless options, such as where the custom post type should be placed in the menu, should it be searchable, which user level can access it, should it be hierarchical, custom rewrite rules, etc.

Different types of content have different data requirements. For regular posts, you’ll want to specify the author, category, date and so on. For a “book” custom post type, ideally you’d like to have the option to specify the book’s author, the page count, genre, publisher and other book-specific data. Using custom meta boxes, this is easily achieved and managed as well.

Custom meta boxes enable you to add additional boxes to the edit screen of a post. They usually use custom fields, so you could just use custom fields as well, but by separating out some custom fields as meta boxes, you can create a much smoother and usable admin.

Working With Custom Post Types Link

To effectively create and use custom post types, you’ll need to be familiar with the following:

  • Creating custom post types,
  • Creating custom taxonomies,
  • Creating custom meta boxes.

Creating Custom Post Types Link

First on our agenda is creating the post type itself. Ideally you should create a plugin2 when working with custom post types, but if you don’t know how, or just need a quick test, you can use the functions.php file in your theme.

function my_custom_post_product() {
  $args = array();
  register_post_type( 'product', $args ); 
add_action( 'init', 'my_custom_post_product' );

In its simplest form, it will create a post type which has almost no customization. It won’t be public, it won’t show up in the admin, interaction messages will be the same as posts (“post saved,” “post updated,” etc.) and so on. To tailor our new post type to our needs, I’ll go through some of the more frequently-used options and add them to the previously empty $args array.

function my_custom_post_product() {
  $labels = array(
    'name'               => _x( 'Products', 'post type general name' ),
    'singular_name'      => _x( 'Product', 'post type singular name' ),
    'add_new'            => _x( 'Add New', 'book' ),
    'add_new_item'       => __( 'Add New Product' ),
    'edit_item'          => __( 'Edit Product' ),
    'new_item'           => __( 'New Product' ),
    'all_items'          => __( 'All Products' ),
    'view_item'          => __( 'View Product' ),
    'search_items'       => __( 'Search Products' ),
    'not_found'          => __( 'No products found' ),
    'not_found_in_trash' => __( 'No products found in the Trash' ), 
    'parent_item_colon'  => '',
    'menu_name'          => 'Products'
  $args = array(
    'labels'        => $labels,
    'description'   => 'Holds our products and product specific data',
    'public'        => true,
    'menu_position' => 5,
    'supports'      => array( 'title', 'editor', 'thumbnail', 'excerpt', 'comments' ),
    'has_archive'   => true,
  register_post_type( 'product', $args ); 
add_action( 'init', 'my_custom_post_product' );
  • labels
    The labels option should be an array defining the different labels that a custom post type can have. I have separated this out above just to make the arguments for registering a post type clearer.
  • description
    A short explanation of our custom post type; what it does and why we’re using it.
  • public
    This option controls a bunch of things in one go. Setting this to true will set a bunch of other options (all to do with visibility) to true. For example, it is possible to have the custom post type visible but not queryable. More on this later.
  • menu_position
    Defines the position of the custom post type menu in the back end. Setting it to “5” places it below the “posts” menu; the higher you set it, the lower the menu will be placed.
  • supports
    This option sets up the default WordPress controls that are available in the edit screen for the custom post type. By default, only the title field and editor are shown. If you want to add support for comments, revisions, post formats and such you will need to specify them here. For a full list take a look at the arguments section3 in the Codex.
  • has_archive
    If set to true, rewrite rules will be created for you, enabling a post type archive at (by default)
A custom post type in the menu.
A custom post type in the menu.

After setting this up, you should see the menu entry for the custom post type. You should be able to add posts, view the post list in the admin and also visit the published posts on the website.

As I mentioned there are a lot of things you can modify when creating a post type. I suggest looking at the arguments list in the Codex for a full description of each option and the possible values.

Custom Interaction Messages Link

WordPress generates a number of messages triggered by user actions. Updating, publishing, searching, etc., in the back end all lead to messages which — by default — are tailored to regular posts. You can change the text of these messages easily by using the post_updated_messages hook.

function my_updated_messages( $messages ) {
  global $post, $post_ID;
  $messages['product'] = array(
    0 => '', 
    1 => sprintf( __('Product updated. <a href="%s">View product</a>'), esc_url( get_permalink($post_ID) ) ),
    2 => __('Custom field updated.'),
    3 => __('Custom field deleted.'),
    4 => __('Product updated.'),
    5 => isset($_GET['revision']) ? sprintf( __('Product restored to revision from %s'), wp_post_revision_title( (int) $_GET['revision'], false ) ) : false,
    6 => sprintf( __('Product published. <a href="%s">View product</a>'), esc_url( get_permalink($post_ID) ) ),
    7 => __('Product saved.'),
    8 => sprintf( __('Product submitted. <a target="_blank" href="%s">Preview product</a>'), esc_url( add_query_arg( 'preview', 'true', get_permalink($post_ID) ) ) ),
    9 => sprintf( __('Product scheduled for: <strong>%1$s</strong>. <a target="_blank" href="%2$s">Preview product</a>'), date_i18n( __( 'M j, Y @ G:i' ), strtotime( $post->post_date ) ), esc_url( get_permalink($post_ID) ) ),
    10 => sprintf( __('Product draft updated. <a target="_blank" href="%s">Preview product</a>'), esc_url( add_query_arg( 'preview', 'true', get_permalink($post_ID) ) ) ),
  return $messages;
add_filter( 'post_updated_messages', 'my_updated_messages' );
A custom message after saving a product.4
A custom message after saving a product.

As you can see, this is not the most user-friendly method of managing messages. An associative array would be far better; we could see what each message is for without having to read the actual message.

Notice that you can change the messages for all custom post types using this single function. The $messages array holds the messages for all post types, so you can modify them all here. I personally create a function for each post type just so I can group the post type creation and the custom messages together easily.

Contextual Help Link

A feature I rarely see implemented is the customized contextual help. As a user, I’ve never actually used this feature myself, but I’m sure that many people do; in any case, it’s nice to provide some hand-holding for less experienced users.

The contextual help feature is a descending tab which can be seen in the top right of pages where available. Let’s take a look at how the contents can be changed.

function my_contextual_help( $contextual_help, $screen_id, $screen ) { 
  if ( 'product' == $screen->id ) {

    $contextual_help = '<h2>Products</h2>
    <p>Products show the details of the items that we sell on the website. You can see a list of them on this page in reverse chronological order - the latest one we added is first.</p> 
    <p>You can view/edit the details of each product by clicking on its name, or you can perform bulk actions using the dropdown menu and selecting multiple items.</p>';

  } elseif ( 'edit-product' == $screen->id ) {

    $contextual_help = '<h2>Editing products</h2>
    <p>This page allows you to view/modify product details. Please make sure to fill out the available boxes with the appropriate details (product image, price, brand) and <strong>not</strong> add these details to the product description.</p>';

  return $contextual_help;
add_action( 'contextual_help', 'my_contextual_help', 10, 3 );

This is also a bit difficult because you have to know the ID of the screen you are on. If you print out the contents of the $screen variable, you should be able to determine the ID easily. This is also a function you can use to modify the contextual help of all custom post types at once, but I personally recommend grouping this together with the previous two blocks and only using it for one custom post type at a time.

Overview Link

To quickly recap, we used three functions to create a “complete” custom post type. We used register_post_type() to create the post type itself and two hooks — contextual_help and post_updated_messages — to create helpful guidance and relevant messages respectively.

Custom Taxonomies Link

Your regular blog posts use categories and tags to create an organization structure. However, the same organization doesn’t necessarily make sense for custom post types. Your blog posts could be about your “Life,” your “Thoughts” or your “Dreams.” These are obviously not appropriate for products.

This is the problem that drove developers to create custom taxonomies. You can create a separate taxonomy named “Product Categories” to house categories you only use for products. Kevin Leary wrote a great article about custom taxonomies in WordPress5 which I highly recommend, so I will only go into minor detail here.

function my_taxonomies_product() {
  $args = array();
  register_taxonomy( 'product_category', 'product' $args );

add_action( 'init', 'my_taxonomies_product', 0 );

Similarly to custom post types, you can create a taxonomy very easily, but you need to work at it a bit to tailor it to your needs. Custom taxonomies behave a bit better out of the box as they are public by default, so the above is actually enough to tie this taxonomy to the product posts. Let’s look at a customized example.

function my_taxonomies_product() {
  $labels = array(
    'name'              => _x( 'Product Categories', 'taxonomy general name' ),
    'singular_name'     => _x( 'Product Category', 'taxonomy singular name' ),
    'search_items'      => __( 'Search Product Categories' ),
    'all_items'         => __( 'All Product Categories' ),
    'parent_item'       => __( 'Parent Product Category' ),
    'parent_item_colon' => __( 'Parent Product Category:' ),
    'edit_item'         => __( 'Edit Product Category' ), 
    'update_item'       => __( 'Update Product Category' ),
    'add_new_item'      => __( 'Add New Product Category' ),
    'new_item_name'     => __( 'New Product Category' ),
    'menu_name'         => __( 'Product Categories' ),
  $args = array(
    'labels' => $labels,
    'hierarchical' => true,
  register_taxonomy( 'product_category', 'product', $args );
add_action( 'init', 'my_taxonomies_product', 0 );

As you can see, not much has changed. We added some labels and set the hierarchical option to true. This enables “category style” taxonomies. When set to false (this is the default), your taxonomy will be like the default tags.

There are a few other power options available which you can read about in Leary’s article, or you can go to the Codex entry on register_taxonomy()6.

The Product Categories custom taxonomy.7
The Product Categories custom taxonomy.

Post Meta Boxes Link

Meta boxes are the draggable boxes you see in the WordPress edit screen for a post. There are numerous built-in meta boxes like the publishing controls, the taxonomies, the author box, etc., but you can create some for yourself.

Meta boxes tend to be used to manage custom field data in a much more user-friendly way than the built-in custom fields box does. Since you put the controls in place, you can add client-side error checking and many other fancy things.

Justin Tadlock wrote the all-encompassing custom meta box article8 here on Smashing Magazine, which is a great in-depth article on the subject. I recommend reading it for the full picture, but I’ll get you started here.

Creating a meta box requires three steps:

  • Define the box itself,
  • Define the content of the meta box,
  • Define how the data from the box is handled.

Defining the Meta Box Link

add_action( 'add_meta_boxes', 'product_price_box' );
function product_price_box() {
        __( 'Product Price', 'myplugin_textdomain' ),

The code above creates the meta box with the following parameters (in the order given):

  • The unique identifier for the meta box (it does not have to match the function name),
  • The title of the meta box (visible to users),
  • The function which will display the contents of the box,
  • The post type the meta box belongs to,
  • The placement of the meta box,
  • The priority of the meta box (determines “how high” it is placed).

Defining the Content of the Meta Box Link

function product_price_box_content( $post ) {
  wp_nonce_field( plugin_basename( __FILE__ ), 'product_price_box_content_nonce' );
  echo '<label for="product_price"></label>';
  echo '<input type="text" id="product_price" name="product_price" placeholder="enter a price" />';

This is a simple box which only contains the price, so we have created a label and an input to manage it. A nonce9 field is also present, which adds security to the data submission.

Handling Submitted Data Link

In most cases, you will want to save the data as a custom field, but you are by no means restricted to this method. You could use the input to make a third party API call, to generate an XML file or whatever you like. The most common use is saving custom post data, so let’s take a look at how that is done.

add_action( 'save_post', 'product_price_box_save' );
function product_price_box_save( $post_id ) {

  if ( defined( 'DOING_AUTOSAVE' ) && DOING_AUTOSAVE ) 

  if ( !wp_verify_nonce( $_POST['product_price_box_content_nonce'], plugin_basename( __FILE__ ) ) )

  if ( 'page' == $_POST['post_type'] ) {
    if ( !current_user_can( 'edit_page', $post_id ) )
  } else {
    if ( !current_user_can( 'edit_post', $post_id ) )
  $product_price = $_POST['product_price'];
  update_post_meta( $post_id, 'product_price', $product_price );

The biggest part of this function is all about safety. First of all, if an autosave is being performed, nothing happens because the user hasn’t actually submitted the form. Then the nonce is checked, followed by permission checking. If these are all passed, we take our data and add it to the post using the update_post_meta() function.

An example of a meta box for an apartment post type.
An example of a meta box for an apartment post type.

Displaying Your Content Link

While there a plenty of nuances to all of the above, you should be familiar with the basics. All that is left is to actually use the data we now have and show things to the user. This involves showing posts — perhaps from various custom post types and taxonomies — and using our post metadata.

Displaying Posts Link

If you’ve created a post type with the has_archive parameter set to “true,” WordPress will list your posts on the post type’s archive page. If your post type is called “books,” you can simply go to and you’ll see your post list.

This page uses archive-[post_type].php for the display if it exists (archive-books.php in our case). If it doesn’t exist, it will use archive.php and if that doesn’t exist it will use index.php.

Another way to display custom post type content is to use a custom query with the WP_Query class. To display posts from a certain post type and custom taxonomy, you could do something like this:

    $args = array(
      'post_type' => 'product',
      'tax_query' => array(
          'taxonomy' => 'product_category',
          'field' => 'slug',
          'terms' => 'boardgames'
    $products = new WP_Query( $args );
    if( $products->have_posts() ) {
      while( $products->have_posts() ) {
          <h1><?php the_title() ?></h1>
          <div class='content'>
            <?php the_content() ?>
    else {
      echo 'Oh ohm no products!';

Displaying Metadata Link

Metadata can be retrieved easily using the get_post_meta() function. In our example above, we saved a post meta field named product_price. We can retrieve the value of this field for a given post using the following code:

  // If we are in a loop we can get the post ID easily
  $price = get_post_meta( get_the_ID(), 'product_price', true );

  // To get the price of a random product we will need to know the ID
  $price = get_post_meta( $product_id, 'product_price', true );

Final Words Link

As you can see, creating a CMS is pretty easy due to the modular nature of WordPress controls and functions. The methods outlined here can be used extremely well to create customized admins for nearly anything you can think of.

Since defining the content of meta boxes is completely up to you, you have the power to create additional features for your controls, making you or your clients very happy.

You can take this one step further with custom admin pages and completely custom content, but that’s a story for another day.

Image source10 of picture on front page.


Footnotes Link

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Hallo, my name is Daniel :) I build plugins, themes and apps - then proceed to write or talk about them. I'm the editor for the WordPress section here on Smashing Magazine and I contribute to various other online sites. When not coding or writing you'll find me playing board games or running with my dog. Drop me a line on Twitter or visit my personal website.

  1. 1

    Pedro Costa Neves

    November 8, 2012 5:31 am

    You should use “_product_price” instead of “product_price”, it’s WordPress pattern for custom field meta :) and it don’t appear to the user mess up with the data inside the default “Custom Field” widget in post/page/custom post type area.

    • 2

      Yes, when creating a meta_box, I always do this as well. There is no reason to confuse the user if you don’t have to. One UI is good enough :)

    • 3

      Yes, good idea. It’s more better and hidden from Custom Fields

    • 4

      Hi Pedro!

      That’s actually a great point, thanks! I’ve been neck deep in writing a huge WordPress framework which gives you much better control over custom fields (among other things) and the custom fields are hidden by default to make room for the custom control. In this case I needed to use the underscore-less way to make sure that if it is deactivated the users still see the data :)

      I agree though, in most cases when using metaboxes, prefixing with an underscore is the way to go!

    • 5

      Great point Pedro! Keeping it more in-line with core is best. I know at Skematik – – we’ve tried to keep things very similar and encourage devs to do the same with custom field meta.

  2. 6

    Great read. It would have been nice if you recommended some cool classes that eases up the Meta Box issue like “Custom Meta Box” class on Github by Jared, Bill Erickson, and Andrew Norcross.

    This will make your life super easy, and keep you from going the long route of adding custom meta boxes.

    I love Smashing Magazine because it usually offers additional resources towards the end of the article for those who want to learn more about the topic.

    Another thing that I wrote about yesterday which could be useful is to debate whether the custom post type should go in your theme’s functions.php file or a plugin. I see that the article takes a stance that it should go in the plugins, but doesn’t elaborate much of the reasoning.

    Overall a job well done on this guide :)

    • 7

      Hi Syed, thanks for the comment!

      I should have looked into tools like that, good point! however, I think creating meta boxes is already super easy, and if you want to be a good developer you need to learn how to do it without helpers anyway :)

      Well done plugging in your site in a useful way ;) The reason I didn’t join in the debate is that it really isn’t something people reading this article should be worrying about. Also, in many situations you have no choice but to use the functions file.

      In a perfect world everything like this would be in plugins. However, we sell numerous high quality WordPress themes where we want to add tons of functionality but we need to do it all the themes files.

      My opinion is that if your code is clear, readable and modular it doesn’t make a lot of difference where you put your custom post type.

  3. 8

    Gijs Jorissen

    November 8, 2012 5:44 am


    Nice article. Maybe you can have a look at my helper. It makes this process much easier!


  4. 9

    Do not trust your user, escape or sanitize the inputs before display/save. A sanitize_text_field and a esc_attr have to be used ;)

  5. 12

    Two things to say:

    Advanced Custom Fields and WCK Post Type Creator – (Once you’ve got tired of doing the hard way!!!).

    • 13

      @Adam: yes, ACF is awesome, especially with the add-ons.
      Although you may run into difficulties when using a multi-language site and use the WPML plugin for that.

      Types and Views does a much better job here, for the non-coders.

  6. 15

    Isaac Shapira

    November 8, 2012 7:53 am

    Just more evidence that wordpress is very gradually becoming drupal.

  7. 16

    Gabriele Romanato

    November 8, 2012 9:19 am

    It’s worth mentioning that if the custom slug/permalink structure of your newly created post types doesn’t match the base permalink structure of your site, WordPress can raise a 404 error. In this case a common-sense solution is to change your permalink structure to match the custom post type structure and the restore it to normal. Another solution is to follow the approach used by Custom Post Type UI:

  8. 17

    Geert van der Heide

    November 8, 2012 10:39 am

    WordPress needs to make up its mind whether it wants to be strictly a blogging platform or an all purpose CMS. The developers are slowly adding functionality signifying the latter, and many developers treat it as such, but for an allround CMS it’s sorely lacking in features. Like being able to set up custom post types with taxonomies and custom fields from the interface of the control panel itself. Having to code this by hand or resort to plugins like Pods is, in my opinion, quite sad for a CMS this size, that has been around as long as it has. If they’re offering this functionality, then why not build a “post type configuration” area for it in the admin?

    WordPress might have a lot of plugins available that can meet almost any need, but it also relies on them heavily for offering a complete solution for any web project that is more than a traditional blog. And many plugins have a very different approach, look and feel compared to WordPress itself, meaning it doesn’t always integrate well.

    So I’m a bit confused: Please either go full CMS, or keep it a blogging platform. But no more of this half-baked functionality please :)

    • 18

      @ Geert: Yes I very much agree with this. When using Drupal I’m so used to having a UI in core which deals with custom content types, fields and taxonomies that I find it amazing that WordPress still doesn’t have this. As you say, if WP is going to be an all purpose CMS then I think it does need something like this.

      Yes, there are plugins that can do this but these have their problems too. I recently took over support of a WP site that used the very old non maintained plugin ‘Flutter’ to create custom write panels. The site was originally built before WP 3 launched. Because their site was so dependent on Flutter it couldn’t automatically be upgraded without the site breaking. Therefore it was constantly getting hacked :-(

  9. 19


    First off, great article – I’ve learned a lot.

    I need to create a carousel on the landing page of a website I’m working on. Do you think a custom post type would be a good way to handle the management of the slides or is there maybe an easier way to this through the use of WordPress’ media management? If a custom post type is the way to go then how would you handle the managing the custom fields for the slide (jpg, png, etc) upload?

    • 20

      Hi Reece,

      In our Themeforest themes we offer the same functionality and we use a mix of options. One thing you can do is to use the featured image of a custom post as the slide image. You can use the custom fields for the post to hold the data.

      You can also add custom fields to images directly, take a look at this post:

      You can also use all images uploaded to a post, or all featured images from a given category, although if you do you will need to use the post meta option above.

      If you don’t need to show these things to the user, you can simply use add_post_meta and get_post_meta on the image (since it’s actually a post) directly, without a UI.

  10. 22

    Hi nice article,

    But I have a question, after create the custom post types, the custom post loop and single custom post …

    how do you do to show the link of access in the navbar or sidebar? like in your website.

    could be with a custom link created in admin>dashboard>appearance>custom link>add to menu.

    could you make an example? please.


    • 23

      In the top menu I simply have a custom menu. If you have a “Books” custom post type, just create a link to and it will work fine. Make sure that ‘has_archive’ is set to true when registering the post type.

      In the sidebar I think that the widget is just a custom loop I made using WP_Query and by extending the WP_Widget class. That is a little too long to elaborate here, but an article is coming at some point ;)

  11. 24

    i have been searching for so long this type of article…great job:)

  12. 25

    Handy stuff, thanks Daniel P.

    Comment: While I understand that time / (page) space is often limited, I’m with Syed Balkhi (see comment above) and would like to read more on why and when than how. Most of this article (how) is in the WP Codex or found elsewhere. For example, (I believe) the mighty Justin Tadlock covered custom post types in a couple thorough blog articles some time back. What’s not always clear, especially to those interested in Custom Posts 101, is why and when a CP might be smart. But there doesn’t seems to be much WP blogging with that in mind.

    Question: Are taxonomies usable across multiple post types? That is, can I use the same category taxonomy in my own custom post type such that when there’s a (traditional) post of category X, I can also pull content from my custom post also assigned category X? A simple example might be an article about X (traditional post) with photos about X in the sidebar. The custom post would store the photos.

    Thanks again.

    • 26

      Hi Mark,

      Perhaps I will cover that in an upcoming article :) I do see where you’re coming from.

      For the taxonomies question, the answer is yes, absolutely. You would need to do the coding of course, but this is easily done. If you are on a single post page the display of the single post is a trivial matter, you can just use the regular ol’ loop. In the sidebar, you can detect which taxonomy term is being shown and create a custom loop, listing only photos from it.

      This is why custom taxonomies are extremely powerful. In the same way that you can use tags and categories for any custom content, you can use custom taxonomies for built in, and custom post types.

  13. 27

    Thanks for the great article Daniel.

    Wondering if I could test yours and your readers skills a bit with a dilema I’ve run into?

    When displaying Custom Post Type (CPT) data, any idea how to order it using a value from postmeta?
    To make matters trickier, I need to do so WITHIN the loop for another CPT!!!

    Here’s the scenario I am facing:

    * Working on a site for a conference.
    * Created a CPT for the Program Schedule, to hold entries such as breaks, registration times, special events, etc.
    * Some of the items in the Schedule, such as Workshops, have their OWN secondary CPT because of the extra data they need to store.
    * I can successfully query the Program Schedule CPT and received the correct post data, and loop through that with no troubles
    * IF, while looping through these post results, an entry is found such as Workshops that has it’s own secondary CPT data, a second query needs to be performed to retrieve this data, loop through it (while still within the bigger post loop) and display this secondary CPT data.
    * Some of these secondary CPT’s have postmeta fields for dates/times, which need to be used for ordering this content

    So the dilema is, how to perform a Custom Post Type query while WITHIN the loop for another Custom Post Type query and order the display of this secondary data based on a postmeta field ?

    My main query for the Program Schedule is setup exactly how you have shown in your article, by passing an array of arguments to the query constructor ala:

    $program_schedule = new WP_Query( $args );

    then looping through that content as per standard WordPress:

    if( $program_schedule->have_posts() ) {
    while( $program_schedule->have_posts() ) {

    Using this same format for the secondary inner CPT queries within the above loop wasn’t working, so I’ve been trying a different approach for those.

    So my secondary query so far is:

    $SQL = ”
    SELECT $wpdb->posts.*, $wpdb->postmeta.*
    FROM $wpdb->posts, $wpdb->postmeta
    WHERE $wpdb->posts.ID = $wpdb->postmeta.post_id
    AND $wpdb->posts.post_status = ‘publish’
    AND $wpdb->posts.post_type = ‘workshop’
    AND $wpdb->posts.post_date postmeta.meta_key = ‘session_day’
    AND $wpdb->postmeta.meta_value = %s

    $workshops = $wpdb->get_results( $wpdb->prepare( $SQL, $date ), OBJECT );

    The variable $date is being retreived from the URL, and is properly processed and sanitized to match the date field for the Workshop CPT;

    How do I add an ORDER BY clause to the above query to sort the results using the Workshop CPT meta value for the meta key ‘session_time’ ?

    HUGE thanks in advance for any and all help with regards to this matter.

    Your time, effort, and talent will be greatly appreciated.

    • 28

      Hi Br3nt!

      That’s a great question, I’m sure many people are facing it :) I will try and answer how to do this the way you want to, but I would reconsider using a custom post type for the secondary loop, since there is no real need for it. You can manage this data easily with well built custom meta box in the backend of the schedule items.

      Here is a quick screengrab of one of our premium themes: This particular post type is for Apartments, and what you’re seeing is the meta section for it. All the data in here gets saved to postmeta. If there is something like the seasonal pricing (multiple fields, multiple sets of fields possible) it can all be passed to update_post_meta() as an array. It will be serialized before it is saved. If you retrieve the data with get_post_meta() it will be unserialized for you automatically.

      If you absolutely must use multiple queries it is best to stay with WP_Query for both. The way you can query and order based on post meta is this:

      $args = array(
      ‘post_type’ => ‘workshop’,
      ‘post_status’ => ‘publish’,
      ‘orderby’ => ‘meta_value’,
      ‘meta_key’ => ‘session_day’,
      ‘meta_query’ => array(
      ‘key’ => ‘session_day’,
      ‘value’ => ”,
      ‘compare’ => ‘!=’,
      $my_posts = new WP_Query( $args );

      The reason I have meta_key and meta_query in there is that the codex states that to order by meta_value the meta_key parameter must be present. The meta_query functionality was added later so it may be able to replace meta_key in this regard as well, but I can’t check right now :)

      That should take care of problem one, now for multiple nested loops. The only thing to keep in mind here is to store all the data from outer loops in temporary variables. (A pastebin version is available here:

      $schedule= new WP_Query( array( ‘post_type’ => ‘schedule’ ) );
      if( $schedule->have_posts() ) {
      while ($schedule->have_posts()) {
      the_title( ”, ” );
      $temp_post = $post;
      $workshops = new WP_Query( array(‘post_type’ => ‘workshop’) );
      if( $workshop->have_posts() ) {
      echo ”;
      while($workshops->have_posts()) {
      the_title( ”, ” );
      echo ”;
      $post = $temp_post;

      I hope that answered your question :)

  14. 29

    Great article and examples! thanks Daniel.

  15. 30

    This is a great article. I did have to go through it a few times. I’m still working on understanding the complexities of creating custom posts, but this really help me walk through it.

  16. 31

    Good write up. How about including tips on how to perform admin backend search of the custom post type including meta fields/boxes? Because by default, if you even type the ID of the custom post type in the search box, it will not come back with any results.


  17. 32

    Hi Daniel,

    I know I’m a bit late, but do you know if it’s possible to configure Custom Post Types so certain post types use only a subset of your defined thumbnail sizes? If you’ve got a few different custom post types, each needing a different thumb size for it’s featured image, then the default wordpress behaviour is to create ALL thumbnail sizes, for ALL post types – which laves you with way more thumbnails than you need.

    I asked this on Stackoverflow ( a while ago, but didn’t get an answer.

    Thanks in advance, and great article!

  18. 33

    Good article. I did learn more about custom post fields from this article. It saves my time. Thanks a lot.

  19. 34

    Great step by step guide. Works perfect, well sort of.
    2 questions
    I went through the entire post and managed to add a Post-Type tilted “Sights” In the dashboard I get the Sights menu with All Sights, Add New, Sight Categories, but I don’t have the “Tags” item. How would I add that. In other words what did I miss?

    Also while I managed to get things to work and created a post however when I try to view the post on the site although I published it I seem to get an error 404 page not found message. Any thoughts?

    Thanks again for this easy to understand guide. Great work

    • 35

      Daniel Lemes

      June 12, 2013 11:03 am

      If anyone is interested, i’m using…

      register_taxonomy(‘post_tag’, ‘product’);

      …after “register_taxonomy( ‘product_category’, ‘product’, $args );” to have the tag box back.

    • 36

      I also got a page not found error when I tried to create custom post types first time. You can solve this by going to the ‘permalink setting’ page and pressing the ‘Save Changes’ button. This will reset the permalink setting in your WordPress installation. Now you should be able to view the posts of the new custom post type you created by visiting their view post(or whatever name you gave these post types) link. Let us know if this doesn’t work.

  20. 37

    Truly, truly helpful. I had hit a roadblock in just getting the custom post to display in a template, and this was exactly what I needed. Thank you for making a clear, direct set of instructions. I’m not sure why it’s so hard for so many other bloggers!


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