Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

How to: Automatically add a default set of Custom Fields to each post in WordPress Feb 12 2009 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

type = textarea
rows = 3
cols = 50
label = Summary Deck:

type = text
size = 35
label = Byline Writer Name:

type = text
size = 35
label = Byline Writer Title:

type = text
size = 54
label = Byline Writer Picture URL:

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

type = text
size = 35
label = Lead Photo Credit:

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

// 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:

// 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:
type = text
size = 35
label = Where are you going to go?

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


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!


Requires WordPress 2.1 or higher.

Click here to download Custom Field Template plugin from

Benton Sheet Metal did a great job with our kitchen range hood metalwork – Probably the best Sheet Metal Fabricators in St. Louis Sep 14 2007

Benton Sheet Metal - Metal Fabricators in St. Louis, MO

When we came up with the final design for our kitchen range hood, we did a fair amount of research into finding someone in St. Louis who could build what we had designed. Eric called lots of people, and kept on getting recommendations to talk with Ron over at Benton Sheet Metal. Eric got in touch with him, and explained the job. Once we delivered final drawings, work got underway.

Our copper pipes kitchen range hood done and delivered!

The final product came out so excellent. The craftsmanship is outstanding. I would recommend using Benton Sheet Metal for any sheet metal fabrication work you ever need to have done. They do work for people all over the country.

Our copper pipes kitchen range hood done and delivered! Serafini_Range_Hood_isometric_exploded

They don’t have a website (yet) however. Most of their work comes through word of mouth.

Here’s their contact info if you ever need some work done:

Benton Sheet Metal
2519 S. Jefferson Ave
St. Louis, MO 63104-2307

Phone: (314) 771-4647
Fax: (314) 771-9524

Serendipity Ice Cream is Exquisite. Sep 10 2007

Serendipity Ice Cream is Exquisite

If you’ve forgotten what truly amazing ice cream tastes like, you should try some Serendipity ice cream. It’s made right here in St. Louis, and it is just exquisite. We’ve been eating the Gooey Butter Cake ice cream and the Gold Coast (double chocolate) flavors.

I am not kidding when I say that we have been serving it in our shallow bowls. So we can literally lick them out once we’re done. It is that good.

We buy ours from Local Harvest which is a long walk (or easy bicycle ride) from our house.

If you have the opportunity I completely recommend this delicacy.

Serendipity Ice Cream – St. Louis, MO

Serendipity Ice Cream is Exquisite

Some excellent WordPress plugins I found recently – Breadcrumbs and better Links page management Aug 2 2007

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 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 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

My (paid) review for – a new site where you get paid to review things (duh) Nov 12 2006

Note: This entry is a PAID review for Oh good gracious.

TextLinkAds is now offering a new service called where bloggers get paid to write about stuff. As I am a current customer of TextLinkAds, I thought I’d give it a try. So here it is, my first paid-for review.

Things I like about so far:

  • Pleasant graphic design (Web 2.0 style points)
  • Not too heavy on the ajax interactions
  • Fairly clear explanations of how things work (though, see the not-likes below for more on this).
  • I feel like I can trust them since I’m already dealing with the parent company TextLinkAds.
  • The amount that they’re offering seems like a good amount ($30 to write this particular review, for example).
  • Getting my PayPal account details right up front and offering check payments as well. That feels like I’ll get paid.
  • Disclosure Policy I really like that they have a clear policy of disclosure when posting a paid review. That seems like a clean, clear and honest approach that will at least let readers know when a post has been sponsored.

Things I’m not completely thrilled about:

  • Having to supply SSN right up front. A lot of services make this a later step. I know why they need it (it’s the law in the United States), but I’d feel more comfortable if they requested this particular info after I had completed the signup process.
  • Need more clarity for the blogger user type (me) for how to get new reviews, or maybe an explanation that’s not just in the FAQ. If I submitted a site as a blogger / publisher, you should provide me with a clear next step and set my expectations. I felt a sense of “what’s next” after completing signup.

All in all, I’m excited about this program and having it help pay for my monthly hosting fees. If you have a website, or want to pay to have bloggers like me post reviews of your product on their sites, I’d recommend giving it a try.

ReviewMe | Write reviews for cash!

Just a reminder. This was paid for. Or will be. I hope. πŸ™‚

Discovering Nerdcore – nerd | geek hip-hop Mar 9 2005


Google Search: nerdcore

MC Frontalot – Download tons of Nerdcore tracks – he’s one of the originators of the genre according to Wikipedia.

He’s got great sound, infectious grooves, and is funny as hell. πŸ™‚

Faves so far:
Romantic Cheapskate

He’s hilarious. Gotta get it in your iPod. Then you’ll be cool too.

Bought MarknDial the other day Feb 4 2005

MarknDial screenshot

After trying it out a long time ago, I finally bought this handy little app that does what it promises – lets you highlight a phone number on your palm, then call it. So simple, and why Palm didn’t include that in their OS, not sure. Get it? Handy? Heh.


Are you a user who often finds yourself wanting to dial a phone number being displayed on a web page, memopad, datebook or word document?
Did you find yourself memorizing the number, switching to the phone application, starting to dial the number… and then forgetting and having to go back. Memorizing again. Switching to the phone application. How exasperating!!

With MarknDial, just mark the number and let MarknDial dial it for you. A single keystroke can dial a highlighted number. Another keystroke can add a highlighted number to the address book.
Any application that supports highlighting text on the screen will work with MarknDial. With Blazer, phone numbers are automatically hyperlinked and will dial out from your phone if clicked. You can even mark a URL in most applications and MarknDial will launch Blazer with that URL. You can also mark an email address, and MarknDial will launch your favourite email program with that address filled in appropriately.

Try MarknDial free today!

I heart gmail Archive button Nov 17 2004

In Google’s gmail webmail offering, one of the things I absolutely love and adore is the Archive button. So simple. So easy. So perfect for what it does.

You read an item. You absorb the content. You hit Archive. It goes away. Into the netherworld. Tucked into place where Google’s almighty seeing eye knows right where it is. Archive is freedom. Archive is release. Archive allows you to free yourself from past communication, ideas and concepts, safe in the knowledge that it is a simple click on the “All Mail” link to see what you need again. Or simply search for it, and lightning fast, it is back for you.

But you don’t have to categorize it. You don’t have to worry. Just hit Archive, and it is gone. Out of sight, out of mind. I really want an Archive button for everything now. Okay, I’m done with you, click Archive. Next. I think Archive is one of the most useful features of gmail, and is a concept which will spread to other software, it is just that good of an idea.

That is all. Archive. You heard it here first.

What do you want an Archive button for? Add your comments below.

The Grey Video Nov 16 2004

The Grey Video

Awesome. Awesome. Awesome.

(Via Waxy)

I heart Ugly Dolls (Wedgehead) Nov 13 2004

Ugly Doll - Wedgehead

So I got a new friend at Star Clipper today (on sale!!!), an Ugly Doll named Wedgehead. It is the best. It makes me want to have kids so that I can get them dolls like this. It was love at first sight. πŸ™‚

Review: I give my Ugly Doll ***** (5 stars). It is the best. Mine has white teeth, not red like in the picture. It is soft and nice and has perfect arms for taking it with you wherever you go. Although I’m pretty sure I’d be too embarrassed to bring it with me places being 28 and all, but for at home, brilliant.

sell diamonds