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How to: Automatically add a default set of Custom Fields to each post in WordPress

How to: Automatically add a default set of Custom Fields to each post in WordPress

PrincipiaPilot.org screenshot showing Custom Fields being used in a template

One of the neat things about WordPress is how easy it is to add custom metadata to a given page or post that you can then use in a template to display structured information. I’ve been using this technique for a while now to extend the basic WordPress elements of title, body, excerpt, etc and allow the creation of easily editable information-rich content.

Before now I’ve used the built-in WordPress Custom Field functionality in the Add New screen where you select previously created custom fields from a drop-down list that is limited to only showing 30 items. This is quite cumbersome as you have select each field you want to add to the entry and enter the value, click the Add Custom Field button, then repeat for however many custom fields you want to use. Needless to say, this can be frustrating to have to remember to do every time, especially for non-technical clients.

The Old Way:

Selecting a Custom Field (the old way)

During a recent site conversion to WordPress that involves 4-6 custom fields for each post, we finally decided that there must be a better way, and ended up finding a WordPress plugin that is so good that it should probably be added to WordPress core, it is so highly useful. The plugin is called Custom Field Template and is developed by Hiroaki Miyashita.

The New Way:

Custom Field Template WordPress plugin screenshot

Using a simple set of options to define the template you want to use is easy. After downloading and activating the plugin, go to Settings > Custom Field Template to define your template. One is provided for you to show you the possible template values. You can set up two separate custom field template designs.

This is the code used to generate the Custom Field Template form shown in the screenshot above:

Template Instruction

<strong>Story Template Metadata Instructions <em>(All fields are optional)</em></strong><br /><br />
1. Use this form to enter metadata about this story.<br />
2. Each item will get assigned to the correct Custom Field for use in the display template.<br />
3. Click the <strong>Save</strong> button to save the values.<br />
<br />

Template Content

[summary_deck]
type = textarea
rows = 3
cols = 50
label = Summary Deck:

[byline_writer_name]
type = text
size = 35
label = Byline Writer Name:

[byline_writer_title]
type = text
size = 35
label = Byline Writer Title:

[byline_writer_picture_url]
type = text
size = 54
label = Byline Writer Picture URL:

[lead_photo_caption]
type = textarea
rows = 3
cols = 50
label = Lead Photo Caption:

[lead_photo_credit]
type = text
size = 35
label = Lead Photo Credit:

[lead_photo_url]
type = text
size = 54
label = Lead Photo URL:

Then set this setting to true by checking the box to make the form look prettier:
Custom Field Template WordPress plugin setting

Next, I tweaked the Admin CSS settings to right-justify the labels:

#cft dl { clear:both; margin:0; padding:0; width:100%; }
#cft dt { float:left; font-weight:bold; margin:0; padding: 0 8px 0 0; text-align:right; width: 20%; }
#cft dt .hideKey { visibility:hidden; }
#cft dd { float:left; margin:0; text-align:left; width:70%; }
#cft dd p.label { font-weight:bold; margin:0; }
#cft_instruction { margin:10px; }

Click Update Options to save the settings and then go to Posts > Add New to see the form in action. You may need to go back and forth a couple of times to get your text field sizes just right and to put them in the right order you want them in.

Using the Custom Fields in a template

So how do these values get displayed on your page?

Simply edit your template PHP file to look for custom field values and then display them where you want them if they’re present.

This is how I do it for the Principia Pilot site. This code goes at the top of the template for single.php

<?php
// Retrieve custom meta values from post if they're present
$byline_writer_name = htmlspecialchars(get_post_meta($post->ID, "byline_writer_name", true));
$byline_writer_title = htmlspecialchars(get_post_meta($post->ID, "byline_writer_title", true));
$byline_writer_picture_url = htmlspecialchars(get_post_meta($post->ID, "byline_writer_picture_url", true));
$lead_photo_url = htmlspecialchars(get_post_meta($post->ID, "lead_photo_url", true));
$lead_photo_credit = htmlspecialchars(get_post_meta($post->ID, "lead_photo_credit", true));
$lead_photo_caption = htmlspecialchars(get_post_meta($post->ID, "lead_photo_caption", true));
$summary_deck = wptexturize(get_post_meta($post->ID, "summary_deck", true));
?>

Now each of the possible Custom Fields are available as PHP variables that can be checked for content.

This code example shows the “summary deck” being displayed on the page if it has been entered on the create content screen:

<?php
// Show summary deck if we have one
if ($summary_deck != "") {
    echo '<h3 class="summary-deck">' . $summary_deck . '</h3>';
}
?>

Using this excellent plugin, you can set up select lists, radio buttons, check boxes and more to help you populate your Custom Fields more easily if you prefer that to using simple text fields. You can also specify default values to use for the custom fields so you don’t have to type them in every time.

Plugin Default Template Options

These are the default options included by the plugin:
[Plan]
type = text
size = 35
label = Where are you going to go?

[Plan]
type = textfield
size = 35
hideKey = true

[Favorite Fruits]
type = checkbox
value = apple # orange # banana # grape
default = orange # grape

[Miles Walked]
type = radio
value = 0-9 # 10-19 # 20+
default = 10-19
clearButton = true

[Temper Level]
type = select
value = High # Medium # Low
default = Low

[Hidden Thought]
type = textarea
rows = 4
cols = 40
tinyMCE = true
mediaButton = true

Which displays a form that looks like this:
Custom Field Template WordPress plugin screenshot - Default form options

Summary

This plugin addresses a key need when using Custom Meta Fields in a WordPress custom template design — making it as easy as possible to enter values time after time on multiple pages or posts. There are a bunch of other neat options this plugin offers to make the authoring experience even easier. This is now on my “must install” list of essential WordPress plugins.

Please support Open Source by donating to the plugin author

If you use this and like it, I highly recommend sending a nice donation to the plugin author to help support ongoing development and to say thanks. This plugin will save you and your clients a lot of time and frustration. Thanks Hiroaki!


Requirements

Requires WordPress 2.1 or higher.

Click here to download Custom Field Template plugin from WordPress.org

Why you should upgrade your WordPress installation to version 2.6 (just released) today

Why you should upgrade your WordPress installation to version 2.6 (just released) today

WordPress 2.6 is Available! Security Advisory to upgrade ASAP!

First, the good news: Matt & his brave crew of WordPress coders have just released version 2.6 of the Open Source award-winningly awesome content management system called WordPress (download it here). I’ve been using it since it was called b2, and love it. I recommend it for most of my clients, and they love the simplicity and ease of use. I also really like how easy it is to customize and extend, using the excellent theme and plugin system.

If you have a WordPress installation yourself, please upgrade it today. Why should you do it today? In short, not only does the latest version of WordPress have some awesome new features (like content change tracking, a new “Press this” browser bookmark, using Google’s Gears system to make it faster, and about 194 bug fixes) it also contains the latest SECURITY FIXES.

Why should you care about security fixes? Because older versions of WordPress are vulnerable to exploits. I know this for a fact, and have been working on cleaning out a number of older installations of WordPress that have been hacked. This isn’t a fun process, and if you stay up to date, you will have the best chance of not getting hacked yourself.

This isn’t a problem exclusive to WordPress, and they’ve done a really good job generally at fixing holes (the current release proactively fixes a number of potential issues), but it is an issue you should definitely look into.

On a Unix machine, one thing to look for is this pattern in any files: md5($_COOKIE'

You can do a search through all your hosting accounts by running this command (run as root):
# grep -R 'md5($_COOKIE' /home/

That will tell you if you have any infected files (for this particular exploit). If you find any, you need to clean out those files. If you are running your sites out of version control (like using svn), this may be slightly easier.

$ svn st should tell you if any files were changed from the last time you checked them out. If you see unexpected files show up, you’ve been hacked.

To clean out your installation, not using version control method (done as root in this case):

  1. Copy your whole public_html directory to another location so you can do forensics on it and copy valid files back into your new installation:
    # cd /home/USERNAME/
    # mkdir public_html-hacked
    # mv public_html/* public_html-hacked/
  2. Download a clean copy of WordPress into your public_html:
    # cd /home/USERNAME/
    # wget http://wordpress.org/latest.zip .
    # unzip latest.zip
    # cp -R wordpress/* public_html/
    # chown -R USERNAME:USERNAME public_html/*
  3. Create a new wp-config.php file. It’s probably a really good idea to first change your MySQL database password. To create your new config file:
    #cd public_html/
    # cp wp-config-sample.php wp-config.php
    # vi wp-config.php

    Enter the correct (new) values for your MySQL database name, username, password, and the (currently 3) authorization unique key values (go to http://api.wordpress.org/secret-key/1.1/ to automatically generate the 3 keys for you to copy/paste into your config file.
  4. Next, upgrade your WordPress database: http://example.com/wp-admin/upgrade.php. You’ll have to sign in with your admin username and password. Once this is done (should go without a hitch, hopefully), examine your user table to see if there are any entries there that shouldn’t be. Delete any users that you didn’t create. Also, it would be a good idea to update the password for each user in the system.
  5. Go through all of your Settings, looking for any suspicious changes. Specifically notice what the Uploads directory is set to (in Settings->Miscellaneous). It should probably be set to something like wp-content/uploads. If it says something like ../../../../../tmp/ change it back. Also go look there to see if there are any left-over files that need to be investigated and removed.
  6. Make a local copy backup of your database and then clean out entries that don’t belong there. Check your raw database (using something like PHPMyAdmin or command line mysql tools) and examine the wp_users table. Look for a user called WordPress. Delete it! If you found it, also check the wp_usermeta table and delete all entries associated with the bogus WordPress user ID. Next, check through your other MySQL tables to look for any suspicious entries (attached files, comments, posts, etc.) Delete anything that looks incorrect or wrong, but be sure not to delete your actual content.

As you can see, there are lots of things to check for if your installation of WordPress gets compromised. So, to save yourself a lot of pain and suffering, make sure you upgrade your WordPress installation(s) just as soon as you can.

More good info if you think your WordPress installation has been hacked:

New site design is live (also upgraded to the latest version of WordPress – 2.5)

New site design is live (also upgraded to the latest version of WordPress – 2.5)

New site design is finally live!

In preparation for upgrading a whole mess of sites to using the latest version of WordPress I decided it was time to finally upgrade my own site and to implement the new design I’d been working on for a while (for over a year now).

Check it out: www.gabrielserafini.com

New car insurance site is now up

New car insurance site is now up

I’ve had this domain name for a while and finally built something on it. The idea is to figure out good ways to save money on car insurance. We have USAA for ours, which makes it nice because it is a pretty good rate. Some people need extra help, though, to find the best prices. Hopefully this site will assist them in their search.

Check it out: Car Insurance Connection

It is built using WordPress, and will hopefully pay for itself through the Google Adsense ads.

Serafini Studios Kitchen – Welcome to the kitchen.

Serafini Studios Kitchen – Welcome to the kitchen.

Screenshot of the Serafini Studios Kitchen website

Our kitchen now has a website (using WordPress of course). Lots more content to come soon, including the secret story of how the river came to be, the inspiration behind the pipes and the amazing triumph of getting everything finally finished.

Visit the site: Serafini Studios Kitchen – Welcome to the kitchen.

WP-Cache 2.0 – useful for surviving the digg/reddit effect for your WordPress blog

WP-Cache 2.0 – useful for surviving the digg/reddit effect for your WordPress blog

Found this useful plugin from this site while working on a site that was in the middle of getting dugg/reddited:

WP-Cache is an extremely efficient WordPress page caching system to make your site much faster and responsive. It works by caching Worpress pages and storing them in a static file for serving future requests directly from the file rather than loading and compiling the whole PHP code and then building the page from the database. WP-Cache allows to serve hundred of times more pages per second, and to reduce the response time from several tenths of seconds to less than a millisecond.

Get the plugin here: Ricardo Galli, de software libre – WP-Cache 2.0

Some excellent WordPress plugins I found recently – Breadcrumbs and better Links page management

Some excellent WordPress plugins I found recently – Breadcrumbs and better Links page management

I’m working on a new site relating to Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act compliance (it will replace the useless site that is currently up at grammleachblileyact.com) and was looking for breadcrumb functionality and a better way to manage outputting links from the Blogroll on the links.php page.

I had searched for a good WordPress breadcrumbs plugin a while ago, and the ones I found didn’t really impress me. I’m really happy with the one I ended up finding this time. It’s called Breadcrumb Navigation XT and it does exactly what I was looking for. I’ll be using this probably for any future needs when it comes to breadcrumbs and WordPress.

The second plugin that I found was related to fixing how WordPress currently outputs links using the default get_links_list() function used in most links.php template pages right now. I had used on the XyzAnt.com links page another WordPress function (wp_list_bookmarks()) that only works for WordPress 2.1 and higher, and is still undergoing active development / documentation. That function, however, only allows you to output the description, and doesn’t appear to include the functionality to show notes. Since there is a larger amount of allowable text for the notes field, and that is what I needed, I still needed to find (or write) a solution to outputting all links, ordered by category, displaying the notes field as well as link title, url, image, etc. This is the plugin that I found that does just this (found it after writing about 80% of the same functionality myself). It does just what I was looking for, shows all the categories that contain links and the links within each category.

Plugin author’s latest post about WordPress 2.1 support: Link Library now supports WordPress 2.1

New website for First Church of Christ, Scientist – Orinda, California is now up!

New website for First Church of Christ, Scientist – Orinda, California is now up!

Screenshot of new Orinda Christian Science church website

This is a site that we’ve been working on for a while for the Christian Science church in Orinda, California.

Check it out and feel free to visit them sometime if you’re ever in the area.

First Church of Christ, Scientist – Orinda, California – Welcome to our healing church

It’s powered by WordPress, of course.