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Certified Wordpress Developer Hooks


WordPress Plugin Hooks

Many WordPress Plugins accomplish their goals by connecting to one or more WordPress Plugin "hooks". The way Plugin hooks work is that at various times while WordPress is running, WordPress checks to see if any Plugins have registered functions to run at that time, and if so, the functions are run. These functions modify the default behavior of WordPress.

For instance, before WordPress adds the title of a post to browser output, it first checks to see if any Plugin has registered a function for the "filter" hook called "the_title". If so, the title text is passed in turn through each registered function, and the final result is what is printed. So, if your Plugin needs to add some information to the printed title, it can register a "the_title" filter function.

Another example is the "action" hook called "wp_footer". Just before the end of the HTML page WordPress is generating, it checks to see whether any Plugins have registered functions for the "wp_footer" action hook, and runs them in turn.

Hooks are provided by WordPress to allow your plugin to 'hook into' the rest of WordPress; that is, to call functions in your plugin at specific times, and thereby set your plugin in motion. There are two kinds of hooks:

  1. Actions: Actions are the hooks that the WordPress core launches at specific points during execution, or when specific events occur. Your plugin can specify that one or more of its PHP functions are executed at these points, using the Action API.
  2. Filters: Filters are the hooks that WordPress launches to modify text of various types before adding it to the database or sending it to the browser screen. Your plugin can specify that one or more of its PHP functions is executed to modify specific types of text at these times, using the Filter API.

You can sometimes accomplish the same goal with either an action or a filter. For example, if you want your plugin to change the text of a post, you might add an action function to publish_post (so the post is modified as it is saved to the database), or a filter function to the_content (so the post is modified as it is displayed in the browser screen).

For a thorough listing of all action and filter hooks in WP .


Function Reference

Filter Functions
Actions Functions
Activation/Deactivation Functions



Actions are triggered by specific events that take place in WordPress, such as publishing a post, changing themes, or displaying a page of the admin panel. Your plugin can respond to the event by executing a PHP function, which might do one or more of the following:

  • Modify database data
  • Send an email message
  • Modify what is displayed in the browser screen (admin or end-user)

The basic steps to making this happen (described in more detail below) are:

  1. Create the PHP function that should execute when the event occurs, in your plugin file.
  2. Hook to the action in WordPress, by calling add_action()
  3. Put your PHP function in a plugin file, and activate it.


Create an Action Function

The first step in creating an action in your plugin is to create a PHP function with the action functionality of your plugin, and put it in your plugin file (your plugin file must go into the wp-content/plugins directory). For example, if you want your friends to get an email message whenever you create a new post, you might define the following function:

function email_friends($post_ID)  {
    $friends = ',';
    mail($friends, "sally's blog updated", 
      'I just put something on my blog:');
    return $post_ID;

For most actions, your function should accept a single parameter (usually the post or comment ID, depending on the action). Some actions take more than one parameter -- check the documentation for the action (if available) or the WordPress source code for more information. Besides the one parameter, you can also access the global variables of WordPress, and call other WordPress functions (or functions in your plugin file).

Any text output by the function (e.g. with print) will appear in the page source at the location where the action was invoked.

NOTE: Keep in mind that other plugins or the WordPress core may already be using the function name you have thought of. 


Avoiding Function Name Collisions

It is possible that someone has created a plugin with a function named the same as one in your plugin!

This is a problem because PHP does not allow multiple functions with the same name. If two plugins provide function with the same name, or a plugin provides a function with a name the same as a WordPress function, the blog could cease to function. There are two ways to avoid this problem.

The first solution is to prefix every function in your plugin with a unique set of characters. If your name is John Q. Public, you might declare your functions as function jqp_output() {...}. The likelihood that someone with the same initials does the same thing with their plugin is possible, but low.

The second - and possibly easier - solution is to enclose your plugin functions in a class and call the class methods statically. This sounds more complicated than it is.

Consider this class, which expands on the examples provided above:

class emailer {
  function send($post_ID)  {
    $friends = ',';
    mail($friends,"sally's blog updated",'I just put something on my blog:');
    return $post_ID;

add_action('publish_post', array('emailer', 'send'));

This class, called emailer has a method send that implements the plugin functionality.

The add_action() function outside of the class adds the action to WordPress that tells it to call the send method when a post is published. The array used in the second parameter tells the plugin system to call the static method of the class 'emailer' named 'send'.

The function send is protected from the global namespace by the class declaration. It is not possible to call send() directly, and so any other function named send will not collide with this one. If you did want to call send(), you would need to use a scope resolution operator, like this: emailer::send()

The above example is for static methods. If you have an instance of a class then that won't work. To call a method of an instance you need to pass the instance as a variable. Consider the above example modified to take this into account:

class emailer {
  function send($post_ID)  {
    $friends = ',';
    mail($friends,"sally's blog updated",'I just put something on my blog:');
    return $post_ID;
$myEmailClass = new emailer();
add_action('publish_post', array($myEmailClass, 'send'));

Classes are a complicated subject. Read more about them in the PHP documentation on classes.


Hook to WordPress

After your function is defined, the next step is to "hook" or register it with WordPress. To do this, call add_action() in the global execution space of your plugin file:

add_action ( 'hook_name', 'your_function_name', [priority], [accepted_args] );


The name of an action hook provided by WordPress, that tells what event your function should be associated with.
The name of the function that you want to be executed following the event specified by hook_name. This can be a standard php function, a function present in the WordPress core, or a function defined by you in the plugin file (such as 'email_friends' defined above).
An optional integer argument that can be used to specify the order in which the functions associated with a particular action are executed (default: 10). Lower numbers correspond with earlier execution, and functions with the same priority are executed in the order in which they were added to the action.
An optional integer argument defining how many arguments your function can accept (default 1), useful because some hooks can pass more than one argument to your function. This parameter is new in release 1.5.1.

In the example above, we would put the following line in the plugin file:

add_action ( 'publish_post', 'email_friends' );

Likewise, you can also Remove Actions from action hooks.


Install and Activate

The last step in getting your action hook to work is to install the file and activate the plugin. The PHP function you wrote and the add_action call must go into a PHP file together, and the PHP file must be installed in the wp-content/plugins directory. Once it is installed, you will need to visit the admin section of WordPress and activate your plugin .



Filters are functions that WordPress passes data through, at certain points in execution, just before taking some action with the data (such as adding it to the database or sending it to the browser screen). Filters sit between the database and the browser (when WordPress is generating pages), and between the browser and the database (when WordPress is adding new posts and comments to the database); most input and output in WordPress passes through at least one filter. WordPress does some filtering by default, and your plugin can add its own filtering.

The basic steps to adding your own filters to WordPress (described in more detail below) are:

  1. Create the PHP function that filters the data.
  2. Hook to the filter in WordPress, by calling add_filter()
  3. Put your PHP function in a plugin file, and activate it.


Create a Filter Function

A filter function takes as input the unmodified data, and returns modified data (or in some cases, a null value to indicate the data should be deleted or disregarded). If the data is not modified by your filter, then the original data must be returned so that subsequent plugins can continue to modify the value if necessary.

So, the first step in creating a filter in your plugin is to create a PHP function to do the filtering, and put it in your plugin file (your plugin file must go into the wp-content/plugins directory). For example, if you want to make sure that your posts and comments contain no profanity, you might define a variable with a list of forbidden words, and then create the following PHP function:

function filter_profanity($content) {
    $profanities = array('bad