So in my last post about Internationalization, I covered some non-obvious things that you should consider when adding translation capabilities to your code.

Today, let’s add to that by covering some non-obvious translation functions. You’re probably not using these, since they don’t get talked about as much. But there’s probably places where you should be using them, so knowing about them is the first step. And knowing is half the battle.

Basic functions, again

Last time I talked about these functions:

  • __()
  • _e()
  • _x()
  • _ex()
  • _n()

Let’s cover the ones I didn’t talk about.

Escaping output

In practice, you tend to use these mostly when outputting things onto the main page or in the admin. But, one thing you also use a lot when outputting text is the standard escaping functions. These are things like esc_html(), which outputs text in a way that makes it “safe” to go onto a webpage, without being interpreted as HTML. If the text comes from user input, then this is a good idea.

Now, if you think about it, then the text you have may be translated in some other file, which you don’t control either. So escaping that text might be a good idea too. If somebody snuck bad code into a translation file, a user might get bad things displayed without being able to easily find it.

So you could write something like echo esc_html(__('text','text-domain')), but that’s a bit wordy. Let’s talk about some shortcuts.

The esc_html__() function is the equivalent of esc_html(__(...)). It does the escaped html and the double-underscore translation all in one go. Similarly, the esc_html_e() function does the same thing, but it echoes the result, just like the _e() function would. And there’s also esc_html_x(), which is the equivalent of combining esc_html() and _x().

Along with those three are the three identical equivalents for attributes: esc_attr__(), esc_attr_e(), and esc_attr_x(). As the name implies, these combine the translation functions with esc_attr(), which is the escape function specifically intended when you’re outputting text into html attributes.

Also note there’s no shortcut for the equivalent of _ex(). It’s just not used that much, or at least not enough to need something special for it. Use an echo esc_html_x() instead.

There are no shortcuts for the other escaping functions as yet, but these can save a few keystrokes and make your code that much more readable.

The Numerical No-op

So we’ve got some shortcuts for escaping with those three functions, but where’s the love for _n()?

One of the problems with _n() is that it tends to require the strings to be in the same place that the PHP variable is. For all the other functions, you could have a big file of strings in an array, and then reference those strings by name or something elsewhere because they don’t require any PHP variables. Nothing about them is computed at the time of the output.

But not so with _n(), that $number to decide which string to use means that the strings have to be right there, they can’t be translated separately and referenced.

This is where _n_noop() comes in. The _n_noop() function basically takes the singular and plural strings for something, along with the text domain, and stores them in an array so that they can be referenced later by a function named translate_nooped_plural().

Perhaps an example is in order. Let’s go back to the tacos:

$string = sprintf( _n('You have %d taco.', 'You have %d tacos.', $number, 'plugin-domain'), $number );

What if we wanted those strings somewhere else? Like in a big file with all of our strings. Here’s a way to separate the strings from the _n() call:

$taco_plural = _n_noop('You have %d taco.', 'You have %d tacos.', 'plugin-domain');
$string = sprintf( translate_nooped_plural( $taco_plural, $number) , $number );

Now, that $taco_plural can be defined anywhere. Note that it contains no references to PHP variables. It’s basically static and unchanging. This allows us to separate it, then reference it elsewhere for the actual translation. The translate_nooped_plural() function performs the same job as _n() does, choosing which string to use based on the $number of tacos. The sprintf then pushes the $number into the chosen string, replacing the %d with the number.

Thus, that lets us extract the translatable strings out and put them anywhere we choose.

Also of note: The _nx_noop() function is a cross between _n_noop() and _x(). It takes a context for the translators as the third argument, and the domain becomes the fourth argument. Useful if you need to explain to the translators the context surrounding the pluralization choice.

Numbers and Dates

The number_format_i18n() function is functionally equivalent to the PHP number_format function. It lets you format numbers with commas at the thousands mark and so forth, except that it also takes localization into account. Not everybody uses commas for thousands and periods for decimals. This function will do the translation appropriately for that aspect.

The date_i18n() function is functionally equivalent to the PHP date function. It will handle all the same string formatting parameters as date() will, but it will cause output to be translated for month names, day-of-week names, and so forth. Of note is that it doesn’t change the format requested. If some places put days before months, for example, it won’t handle that. But it will output the month name in the native language (if the translation pack has the right month name in it). So you may want to run the date formatting string through __() as well, to let translators adjust the date format accordingly.

Wrap up

And that’s pretty much all the rest of the translation functions that I didn’t cover before. I may have forgotten a few useful ones here or there. Feel free to comment about anything I missed, or what you see most often, especially if you’re doing translations yourself.

Okay, a quick one today. Let’s make a custom control for the customizer.

Back in the first tutorial, I talked about the various controls available in the customizer. Specifically I mentioned image handling, color wheels, text boxes, radios, dropdowns, and checkboxes.

Let’s try a new one? How about a textarea? It’s not in the core code, but it’s easy enough to add one.

Create a Class

So first, we have to create our class. Now, where we create this class is important. Specifically, we have to create it in the function called by the customize_register action. You remember that, right? It started like this:

add_action( 'customize_register', 'themename_customize_register' );
function themename_customize_register($wp_customize) {
	// ... do stuff ...

The reason we have to create our class in here is because we need to make our new class extend the built in WP_Customize_Control class, and that class only gets loaded and defined when we’re actually using the customizer. An alternate means of doing this would be to wrap the class definition in an “if (class_exists(‘WP_Customize_Control’))” statement, if you prefer to not have your classes defined inside a function. Personal preference, I don’t think it makes a difference either way.

So, here’s our textarea control. All we’re doing is to override the render_content() function and make it display a textarea.

class Example_Customize_Textarea_Control extends WP_Customize_Control {
	public $type = 'textarea';

	public function render_content() {
		<span class="customize-control-title"><?php echo esc_html( $this->label ); ?></span>
		<textarea rows="5" style="width:100%;" <?php $this->link(); ?>><?php echo esc_textarea( $this->value() ); ?></textarea>

You can see how simple it is to do, really. We just output a span with the value from $this->label for the name displayed above the textarea, then output the textarea itself.

Note that the textarea has no “name” parameter. It doesn’t need one. The $this->link() function outputs the information for the customizer script. Specifically, it will create a “data-customizer-setting-link” attribute, to link the textarea to the proper setting it’s controlling.

Now, we just have to use the new control.

Add a setting and control

Let’s go back to the theme demo I used in the second customizer tutorial post, and add a new setting and control to demonstrate this:

$wp_customize->add_setting( 'textarea_setting', array(
	'default'        => 'Some default text for the textarea',
) );

$wp_customize->add_control( new Example_Customize_Textarea_Control( $wp_customize, 'textarea_setting', array(
	'label'   => 'Textarea Setting',
	'section' => 'themedemo_demo_settings',
	'settings'   => 'textarea_setting',
) ) );

Nothing complicated there. We create the setting, then we create our control, using the new class we made for this purpose earlier.

Use the setting in the theme

Now let’s add to that index.php file I made in the theme demo to show the results of our work.

echo 'textarea_setting => '.get_theme_mod( 'textarea_setting', 'default_value' )."\n";

And that’s pretty much that. We now have a textarea control, and changing/saving results in the setting changing as well.

You can extend this further to use postMessage for real-time changing of settings, if you like.

Custom controls using complex javascript and such can be done as well. Examine the core WP_Customize_Color_Control, which uses the farbtastic Javascript for the color wheel. That one has special JS in the customize-controls.dex.js file to handle receiving the input and passing it along to the customizer JS. Look for “api.ColorControl” and how it gets the setting from the HTML and sets it. I’m not a JS guru, that sort of thing is slightly outside my own scope. :)

Any ideas for other controls that themes might need? Leave a comment, maybe somebody has a solution.

Last time I wrote about using the Theme Customizer to supplant/add to your existing options. But what if you’re writing a new theme entirely?

Do you even need an options page?

How many options does your theme have, anyway? Would it not make more sense to eschew those complex options pages in favor of just allowing the user to do it all “live”? With the Theme Customizer, this becomes entirely possible. As an added bonus, it also gives us a really handy use for the theme_mod system.

Step 1: Surfacing the Customizer

One thing I don’t like about the theme customizer is how hidden it is. It’s in the Themes selection space, under the strangely worded “Live Preview” option. Let’s bring that to the forefront and make it more visible for our example theme. In our functions.php file:

add_action ('admin_menu', 'themedemo_admin');
function themedemo_admin() {
	// add the Customize link to the admin menu
	add_theme_page( 'Customize', 'Customize', 'edit_theme_options', 'customize.php' );

There we go. Now we have a “Customize” link in the Appearance menu that loads up the customizer. Nice.

(Note, using the “customize.php” link works with the currently active theme only. Adding ?theme=themedemo to it would allow links to customize non-active themes, but this makes no real sense in the theme functions.php file of a theme. But if you were doing a plugin that needed to load the customizer, that might be good to know.)

Step 2: Adding some options

Let’s add some simple options to the theme customizer. How about a text field and, say, a color picker. Why not?

add_action('customize_register', 'themedemo_customize');
function themedemo_customize($wp_customize) {

	$wp_customize->add_section( 'themedemo_demo_settings', array(
		'title'          => 'Demonstration Stuff',
		'priority'       => 35,
	) );

	$wp_customize->add_setting( 'some_setting', array(
		'default'        => 'default_value',
	) );

	$wp_customize->add_control( 'some_setting', array(
		'label'   => 'Text Setting',
		'section' => 'themedemo_demo_settings',
		'type'    => 'text',
	) );

	$wp_customize->add_setting( 'some_other_setting', array(
		'default'        => '#000000',
	) );

	$wp_customize->add_control( new WP_Customize_Color_Control( $wp_customize, 'some_other_setting', array(
		'label'   => 'Color Setting',
		'section' => 'themedemo_demo_settings',
		'settings'   => 'some_other_setting',
	) ) );


We now have “some_setting” and “some_other_setting”. You can tell that I’m being very creative with my naming scheme here. ;)

Note that I didn’t define the “type” for these settings. This means they’ll be the default type, which is “theme_mod”, and that’s perfect for this case. Since we’re providing no other way than the customizer to change these settings, then it’s nice and easy to use them.

Speaking of using them…

Step 3: Use the settings in your theme

Here’s our theme’s index.php file:

<?php get_header(); ?>

<h3>Theme Customizer Demo, using theme_mod and <em>no</em> settings page!</h3>


echo 'some_setting => ' .get_theme_mod( 'some_setting', 'default_value' )."\n";
echo 'some_other_setting => ' .get_theme_mod( 'some_other_setting', '#000000' )."\n";
echo 'non_existent_setting => '.get_theme_mod( 'non_existent_setting', 'default_value' )."\n";


<?php get_footer(); ?>

The header and footer are pretty standard. Nothing special. You can find them in the download. What we’re really concerned with here is how the theme uses the settings themselves.

Notice the use of get_theme_mod. It’s pretty darned easy to use, really. It just gets the settings and uses them however the theme needs to. For this demo, I’m just outputting their contents for demonstration purposes. I also added in a non-existent setting to show that it works and outputs the default value when nothing is set for the theme in the theme_mod system.

The nice thing about theme_mod is that it automatically stores the information in a nice packed way, unique to the theme itself. If you have multiple copies of the same theme on the site, but with different names, each will have its own settings. Easy and handy.

Step 4: There is no step 4.

Seriously, that’s it. You can go further and make the settings work “live” using the postMessage methods I explained in the previous post, but for the most part, there’s nothing more to do. This is a simple and easy way of making settings, using them, and not worrying about complex options pages, settings in the database, where they’re stored… Why do all that extra code if you don’t have to?

Here’s a link to a working theme using the above concepts. For fun, it also supports custom background colors. :)

This is just one example of how to use the core APIs in a somewhat handy way. There’s other ways too. Feel free to experiment.

Note: Everything I’m talking about here, including the code, is in beta mode. It will be subject to change. I’ll update this post after release to fix any code changes that may occur between now and then. I’m releasing this post now so that theme authors can start looking at their themes and thinking about how they might want to change the way they do options pages.

So, WordPress 3.4 has this nifty new feature you can find on the main Theme selection page. It’s a link next to each theme labeled “Customize”. This is the new Theme Customizer, and it’s way cool.

In fact, you can’t see what it does with a simple picture, so here’s a video. It’s available in HD if you want to go full screen. :)

So, now you know what it does, and if you’re a theme author, you’ve probably just gotten some great ideas. Here’s how you can implement those ideas in your theme.

First, note that if you already support the built in Custom Header and Custom Background functionality the WordPress core provides, then those will magically show up and work in the theme customizer. No extra code needed on your part.

Existing Options

Now, the first thing you’ll probably want to do is to take note of how your existing settings in the theme work. You have three main options for theme settings, realistically. I’ll go over them briefly.

1. “Theme mod”. This uses the set_theme_mod and get_theme_mod functions. It’s rare that themes actually use these since I wrote about the Settings API, but it is there and if you use these normally then it is supported by the Theme Customizer (in fact it’s the default).

2. Individual Settings. If you store your theme’s settings in the options table as individual rows, one per setting, then that works fine with the customizer. This is not the preferred way of doing things in themes, however, and not the most common. Still, some themes do this, so if you’re one of them, it’s supported as well.

3. Serialized Settings. This is the way I explained in my Settings API Tutorial and the method recommended by the Theme Review guidelines, as well as the way Chip described in his own tutorial for theme settings. Essentially, you store your settings in an array, then store that array using set_option or get_option, as one row in the database. This method is supported and it’s the way I’ll primarily cover in this article. I’ll briefly mention the other two methods when appropriate.

Once you know how your settings are stored, then you’ll know what to fill in at certain spots in the code. More on this when we get to it.

Object Orientation

Now, the Theme Customizer is very object oriented, and while you don’t necessarily need to understand this to implement the basics of it, you might need to understand it if you’re going to make something completely custom. Just a warning.

First, we’ll look at the left hand side of the customizer screen. Notice that the left hand side is divided into sections. Actually, that’s their name: WP_Customize_Section. In each of these sections is one or more controls; or rather, WP_Customize_Control. Finally, each of these controls one of more settings on the page: aka WP_Customize_Setting.

The Sections organize the controls. The Controls get input and pass it to the settings. The Settings interface with your existing options in the theme.

To make new stuff here for your own custom options, you need to know where to add it. That place is the customize_register action hook.

add_action( 'customize_register', 'themename_customize_register' );
function themename_customize_register($wp_customize) {
	// ... do stuff ...

The function gets a parameter of the main $wp_customize object. This is the interface point where you will do everything like adding sections and controls and such.


So, first thing to do is to add a section. Here’s one way to do it:

	$wp_customize->add_section( 'themename_color_scheme', array(
		'title'          => __( 'Color Scheme', 'themename' ),
		'priority'       => 35,
	) );

The first parameter is a unique ID for the section that you’ll need later (when you’re putting controls into it). The second parameter is an array of options for the section. Sections don’t have a lot of options, really. You can give them a title, you can give them a “description” if you need some explanatory text in them. The priority setting determines their order in the list.

You can also give sections a “capability” if you have a special case. Generally speaking, most sites require the “edit_theme_options” capability to have users edit this sort of thing, and this is the default capability that the sections use. However, if you have options that anybody can edit, or which should only be managed by administrators, changing this capability will prevent the section from appearing to users who can’t change those settings anyway.

One final thing you can add to a section is a “theme_supports” option. This will make the menu not appear unless the theme supports something. If you’re putting this code in a theme itself, then you already know what the theme supports, so it doesn’t make much sense. The core uses this to not show the header and background options if the theme doesn’t support them.


Next, let’s configure some settings. Yes, the settings, not the controls. See, the controls need to know what settings they’re changing, so we have to attach the settings up first.

To declare a setting, you do it like this:

	$wp_customize->add_setting( 'themename_theme_options[color_scheme]', array(
		'default'        => 'some-default-value',
		'type'           => 'option',
		'capability'     => 'edit_theme_options',
	) );

In this case, I’ve declared that the setting I’m interested in is in an option, the option is named “themename_theme_options” in the database, and it’s serialized, and the actual array key in there is “color_scheme”. Remember that talk we had before about the Settings API and how you store your settings? This was method 3.

Here’s method 2 (one option per database entry):

	$wp_customize->add_setting( 'themename_color_scheme', array(
		'default'        => 'some-default-value',
		'type'           => 'option',
		'capability'     => 'edit_theme_options',
	) );

And here’s method 1 (using theme_mod):

	$wp_customize->add_setting( 'color_scheme', array(
		'default'        => 'some-default-value',
		'type'           => 'theme_mod',
		'capability'     => 'edit_theme_options',
	) );

This setting basically tells the theme customizer where the option is stored, and how to change it’s value so that your theme displays with the changed option.

Here’s the good bit about this: You’re telling the theme customizer where the option is. You don’t have to change the way the existing option works at all.

You already have a theme options page, right? So somehow, you’re saving those options. And in the theme, it’s reading those options using get_theme_mod or get_option, right? The way the theme customizer works is that it intercepts that call using a filter, changes the option for the previewer case only, and then passes the new option along to the theme. So the theme has no idea that the value it’s getting isn’t in the database, but one the user just selected. That’s the magic trick and why themes don’t have to dramatically change to support this sort of thing. All they have to do to make custom sections is to tell the theme customizer code what options they’re using and how, and it changes those options directly for the previewer.

(Note of clarification here: The “default” setting above should be a default value, not the current value. The difference is a subtle one, but the point is that you don’t actually need to get the current value of the option from the DB and put it in here. The WP_Customize_Setting takes care of all that jazz for you. The “default” is what should be used if the value doesn’t exist in the DB at all.)

There’s one more bit to the add_setting call that we’ll come back to later when I get around to explaining postMessage.


Finally, we come to the controls. Controls can look one of a lot of ways, obviously. The simplest controls are just checkboxes, or text fields. However, colors are something that change a lot, so there’s color wheel controls too. In fact, WordPress defines a number of possible controls. Let’s go over a few:

A radio selection:

	$wp_customize->add_control( 'themename_color_scheme', array(
		'label'      => __( 'Color Scheme', 'themename' ),
		'section'    => 'themename_color_scheme',
		'settings'   => 'themename_theme_options[color_scheme]',
		'type'       => 'radio',
		'choices'    => array(
			'value1' => 'Choice 1',
			'value2' => 'Choice 2',
			'value3' => 'Choice 3',
	) );

Pretty simple. It’s referencing the section it’s in, the setting that it’s going to change, and then it has the radio type and the list of choices along with their associated values.

How about a checkbox instead? This one comes straight from core:

	$wp_customize->add_control( 'display_header_text', array(
		'settings' => 'header_textcolor',
		'label'    => __( 'Display Header Text' ),
		'section'  => 'header',
		'type'     => 'checkbox',
	) );

A checkbox is on or off, true or false. It needs no real values.

How about a selection dropdown box? Here’s an example:

	$wp_customize->add_control( 'example_select_box', array(
		'label'   => 'Select Something:',
		'section' => 'nav',
		'type'    => 'select',
		'choices'    => array(
			'value1' => 'Choice 1',
			'value2' => 'Choice 2',
			'value3' => 'Choice 3',
	) );

The default type of control is actually type = ‘text’, and it creates a text box control. One more type of control is the “dropdown-pages” type, which creates a dropdown list of the WordPress Pages.

But that’s not all. There’s actually several more, but because they’re so custom, they’re declared differently. Here’s where we get all object oriented on ya…

	$wp_customize->add_control( new WP_Customize_Color_Control( $wp_customize, 'link_color', array(
		'label'   => __( 'Link Color', 'themename' ),
		'section' => 'themename_color_scheme',
		'settings'   => 'themename_theme_options[link_color]',
	) ) );

Whoa, what’s with the new class? The WP_Customize_Color_Control is a class that is extending the built in WP_Customize_Control class. It adds the color wheel jazz to places where color selection is needed. Note that the class is being created here with new, and so it has to get the $wp_customize passed to it directly, so it knows where to hook in. (Note: This may change before final 3.4 release.)

Other controls of note:

  • WP_Customize_Upload_Control – This gives you an upload box, for allowing file uploads. However, you probably won’t use this directly, you’ll extend it for other things… like:
  • WP_Customize_Image_Control – This gives the image picker and the uploader box. It extends the upload controller. You can see it in action on the custom background piece, where a user can upload a new file to be the background image.
  • WP_Customize_Header_Image_Control – Because of the resizing action of the header piece, it needs a bit of special handling and display, so the WP_Customize_Header_Image_Control extends the WP_Customize_Image_Control to add that functionality. You can see it in action on the custom header piece, where a user can upload a new file to be the header image.

So, the way to create a custom controller to do whatever you want is to make a new class of your own which extends WP_Customize_Control and adds the bits you want. How to do that is a bit complex, so I’ll save that for another tutorial. For now, you’ve got image handling, color wheels, text boxes, radios, dropdowns, and checkboxes. I think that should be enough to get started with.

End of tutorial?

Not quite. Everything I went over above is enough to add new sections to the customizer, put controls in them, and then to have the preview show your changes after a slight delay when the page refreshes. All you have to do is to call those functions with the proper parameters, in the proper place, and it’ll work.

However, note that I said “when the page refreshes”… C’mon… this is the year 2012. We don’t have flying cars, and we still have to wait a whole second or two?


Enter postMessage

Back when I mentioned the $wp_customize->add_setting function call, I mentioned “one more bit”. That one more bit is the option called “transport”.

Transport defines how your setting change gets from the place where you changed it into the preview pane. The default setting for this is “refresh”. An alternative setting is named “postMessage”.

The postMessage transport makes it such that the setting is instantly sent into the other frame, where javascript can adjust the page on-the-fly using this new information.

An example:

Let’s say we have a setting to change the colors of the titles. All the titles on the page are in some tag that has a class of posttitle, perhaps. The option normally just saves the HTML color chosen, then outputs some inline CSS in the header.php to basically do this:

.posttitle {
	color: #abcdef;

Or whatever the option actually is for that color.

We have hooked our setting to that option, and hooked our WP_Customize_Color_Control up to it, and now when we change it, it works and we can see the color change. Note that this is easiest to do with already working customizer options, so the best way to do it is to get it working normally first, then add on this next bit.

Now, we have the working option in the customizer, so to take away that refresh delay, we’ll add this new option to the add_setting call:

	'transport'         => 'postMessage',

This tells the customizer that the setting will be sent directly to the frame via javascript. However, for that setting to work, we need javascript in the frame itself to receive it.

So, back in our main function… remember that? It started like this:

add_action( 'customize_register', 'themename_customize_register' );
function themename_customize_register($wp_customize) {
	// ... do stuff ...

Right at the end of that function, we’re going to add this code:

	if ( $wp_customize->is_preview() && ! is_admin() )
		add_action( 'wp_footer', 'themename_customize_preview', 21);

This is going to add a new function call to our preview frame’s footer. It only gets added with the preview frame, so the live site and others won’t see it, because they don’t need to see it. This is where we’re going to output our javascript to make things happen in real-time.

Here’s our function:

function themename_customize_preview() {
	<script type="text/javascript">
	( function( $ ){
	wp.customize('setting_name',function( value ) {
		value.bind(function(to) {
			$('.posttitle').css('color', to ? to : '' );
	} )( jQuery )

As you can see, it just outputs a bit of javascript. This code won’t change much, ever, so let’s go over just two pieces of importance:

  • ‘setting_name’ is the name of the setting, as added by the $wp_customize->add_setting call.
  • The entire line starting with jQuery(‘.posttitle’) is our custom bit of code. It gets the “to” variable, which will be the color chosen by the user, and it sets the posttitles on the page to have that color, using the css modifying functionality of jquery.

Those are the only two bits you need to change, really. The rest is pretty copy-pasta. For each real-time setting, you can dupe this bit of code in the script.

Here’s another thing: You can change pre-existing refresh settings to be postMessage ones. Take the Site Title and Tagline elements in the Header section, for example. These are refresh settings, and the reason they are is because each theme implements them differently. There’s no way for the core to know the javascript code needed for any particular theme.

But if you’re a theme author, then you’re not writing for a generic theme. You’re writing for your particular theme. You know how the site title and tagline are displayed. There’s no reason you can’t make those update in real time. And while you’re at it, the header_textcolor setting can be real time too, since you know the theme code.

In your main function again, add these three lines of code:


That changes the transport on those core settings to be postMessage. Now you need to add the javascript code to actually do the refreshing in your theme. Here’s an example of TwentyEleven doing this (with the patch I wrote for it):

function twentyeleven_customize_preview() {
	<script type="text/javascript">
	( function( $ ){
	wp.customize('blogname',function( value ) {
		value.bind(function(to) {
			$('#site-title a').html(to);
	wp.customize('blogdescription',function( value ) {
		value.bind(function(to) {
	wp.customize( 'header_textcolor', function( value ) {
		value.bind( function( to ) {
			$('#site-title a, #site-description').css('color', to ? to : '' );
	} )( jQuery )

For the blogname, it changes the HTML inside the “#site-title a” link. For the description, it changes the tag with #sitedescription. For the color of those, it simply targets both of them and alters their CSS.

Core has to try to be generic across all themes. But themes have more knowledge of how they work and can change things to target themselves in better ways. A theme adding controls knows what those controls change, so if it’s something simple like CSS or even something more complex like HTML, if you can write javascript code to make that modification in real time, then you can use postMessage and eliminate that refresh delay.

Hopefully this explains some of the theme customizer. Was it as clear as mud? Take a look at my patch to Twenty Eleven to add some of the theme options from its existing options screen into the customizer. You can find it on this ticket:

If you’re like me you like tools; online tools, offline tools, iPhone tools, widgets, apps, and whatevs. Actually, if you’re any type of an online business designer I’m sure you like tools. Tools are what makes our lives easier. Both professionally and personally.

Now, just so we’re on the same page … this isn’t simply yet another lame list post. The tools that follow really are my 12 favorite ones EVER. I use them every day, sometimes even multiple times a day.

Let’s just go straight down to business.

1. FreeMind

Visit: FreeMind

This is where all my masterplans are born. FreeMind is a great mind mapping tool (I’ve been talking about mind mapping not so long ago so don’t forget to check it out).

The tool is free, easy to use, and doesn’t use much of your computer’s resources. Mind mapping is the superior way of planning. This is #1 on this list not without a reason. I truly don’t know what my work would look like without this one single tool.

2. Remember The Milk

Visit: Remember The Milk

Playful name, isn’t it? But the tool is actually really valuable. Basically, it’s an online to-do list. However, it does have some cool features, like: multiple lists, tags, scheduling, priorities, mobile apps support, and more.

Most importantly, it is exceptionally easy to use. Creating and then working with a RTM to-do list is actually pretty enjoyable, and you can do it from anywhere. Plus of course, the tool is free. You just need to sign up for an account.

3. Google Reader

Visit: Google Reader

Google Reader is where I get my news. It’s my news stand and my TV combined in one place, accessible from anywhere. Well, basically, it’s just an RSS reader, but it’s all about how you use a tool not what it actually is.

I’m subscribed to 448 different feeds at the time of writing this. Of course, I don’t keep track of all of them at once because I’d have to do nothing else in a day, but you can be sure that if an important piece of news pops out I’ll notice it.

Actually, I don’t believe that there’s any other way of keeping up with different blogs than by subscribing to their RSS feeds. Who has the time to visit each blog individually?

4. Google Calendar

Visit: Google Calendar

Google is quite good at creating great tools. Calendar is yet another great project of theirs. The idea is simple. It’s basically just an online calendar where you can put some notes and set them to given dates and hours. You can also subscribe to some existing calendars not to miss any important events. Like the NFL calendar, for example.

Even though the idea is simple Google did a great job at implementing it. That’s why it’s one of the most important tools for me and thousands of other people worldwide.

5. Synchronize It!

Visit: Synchronize It!

I’m pretty positive you didn’t see this one coming. Synchronize It! is a tool for synchronizing files on different drives, or to put it in plain English – it’s a backing-up tool.

It’s very easy to use. You just have to choose two directories you want to synchronize and hit the play button.

If you don’t see the value yet, let me just say that backing up is one of the most important activities you have to do in your online business. Yes … I mean it!

The day your hard drive fails can be the day your business ends. But if you’re serious about backing up your data that day will never come.

6. Read it Later

Visit: Read it Later

I don’t always have the time to read whatever interesting pops up in my Google Reader, and that is why I use Read it Later.

At this point it’s no longer surprising that the simplest tools often turn out to be the most useful. It’s the same story with Read it Later. Whenever you stumble upon something worth reading later you just press the Read it Later button and it puts this thing on your reading list. When you have some time you can go to your reading list and catch up on the things waiting there.

The tool works as a web browser plugin, but you can also get versions for iPhone, Kindle Fire, Android, and other devices.

7. WordPress

Visit: WordPress

This one is obvious, but I needed to include it here anyway. WordPress is the easiest and cheapest solution for anyone who wants to launch any kind of website. Period.

Low budget solutions is what online business designers are looking for round the clock. And WordPress is not only the cheapest solution, it’s the best.

There are myriads of plugins and themes available to adjust your site to fit your needs 100%. No matter what online business you’re building, you can be sure that WordPress will be able to handle it.

8. Windows Live Writer

Visit: Windows Live Writer

Writing content is a mandatory element when running a website. Your opinion may be different, but don’t ever think that people will visit your site just to see what you’re offering. If you want to attract anybody you need content. Content that will give the readers a reason to visit.

Windows Live Writer is what makes publishing content on WordPress sites exceptionally simple. Basically, it’s a remote publishing software. It connects to your WordPress site and publishes a post. But it’s a lot faster, and a lot friendlier environment. Also, you can use it to post to multiple blogs, and you can write your posts offline, and only connect to the internet when sending the posts.

Lastly, unlike most Microsoft tools it is free.

9. Penzu

Visit: Penzu

Since we’re talking about writing I have to mention Penzu. It is an online journal tool. I said it many times and I’m going to say it again: writing a journal is a superior way of improving your writing skills.

Penzu is an easy to use tool that provides you with a friendly environment to write your journal entries and have them organized into a neat catalog. If you decide to sign up for a pro account you can customize your entries even further and include things like photos and other rich media.

10. Market Samurai

Visit: Market Samurai

This is the ultimate online marketer’s tool. There, I said it. Even though I had to pay $97 to get it I still think that it was one of the best spend $97 ever. Some of the things it can help you with: market research, keyword research, competition analysis, content searching, finding backlink opportunities, and more.

Actually, I already did an extensive Market Samurai review a while ago, so feel free to check it out.

11. Google Analytics

Visit: Google Analytics

One final Google tool on the list. I’m sure it’s not surprising for you to see it here. Google Analytics is free, powerful, and easy to use.

If you have a website, and if you’re an online business designer then there’s no other more cost effective solution for you to know what’s going on on your site, in terms of traffic and raw data.

I’m sure I don’t need to pitch Google Analytics to you because you already know what it is. The only reason why you might not be using it already is that you think that it’s too difficult to set up. Actually, it isn’t. It just takes a couple of minutes, and various tutorials provided by Google themselves guide you through the whole process.

12. Buffer

Visit: Buffer

This is the final tool on this list, and first Twitter tool at the same time. Twitter itself can be a little time consuming and difficult to follow at some times. There’s a lot going on there especially if you’re following a lot of people.

On the other hand, going to Twitter to publish a tweet is not the most time effective approach either. This is where Buffer comes into play.

The main idea behind the tool is simple. It’s basically a buffer for tweets. It lets you schedule your tweets to be posted in the future. This makes sense if you like to take care of your tweets all at once and have them scheduled for the whole week, for example.

What Buffer also provides are some analytics tools. You can monitor things like: your reach, number of clicks your tweets receive, number of re-tweets, mentions, and favorites.

This concludes the list of my 12 favorite tools ever. I’m curious to know what your favorite tools are. What’s on your list of can’t-live-without tools in terms of online business?

Related Posts:

My Top 12 Favorite Tools Ever |

Fun fact of the day: about 37% of WordPress downloads are for non-English, localized versions.

So as a plugin or theme author, you should be thinking of localization and internationalization (L10N and I18N) as pretty much a fact of life by this point.

Fun total guess of the day: based on my experience in browsing through the thing, roughly, ohh… all plugins and themes in the directory are doing-it-wrong in some manner.

Yes friends, even my code is guilty of this to some degree.

It’s understandable. When you’re writing the thing, generally you’re working on the functionality, not form. So you put strings in and figure “hey, no biggie, I can come back and add in the I18N stuff later.” Sometimes you even come back and do that later.

And you know what? You probably still get it wrong. I did. I still often do.

The reason you are getting it wrong is because doing I18N right is non-obvious. There’s tricks there, and rules that apply outside of the normal PHP ways of doing things.

So here’s the unbreakable laws of I18N, as pertaining to WordPress plugins and themes.

Note: This is not a tutorial, as such. You are expected to already be translating your code in some way, and to have a basic grasp on it. What I’m going to show you is stuff you are probably already doing, but which is wrong. With any luck, you will have much slapping-of-the-head during this read, since I’m hoping to give you that same insight I had, when I finally “got it”.

Also note: These are laws, folks. Not suggestions. Thou shalt not break them. They are not up for debate. What I’m going to present to you here today is provably correct. Sorry, I like a good argument as much as the next guy, but arguing against these just makes you wrong.

Basic I18N functions

First, lets quickly cover the two top translation functions. There’s more later, and the laws apply to them too, but these are the ones everybody should know and make the easiest examples.

The base translation function is __(). That’s the double-underscore function. It takes a string and translates it, according to the localization settings, then returns the string.

Then there’s the shortcut function of _e(). It does the same, but it echoes the result instead.

There’s several functions based around these, such as esc_attr_e() for example. These functions all behave identically to their counterparts put together. The esc_attr_e() function first runs the string through __(), then it does esc_attr() on it, then it echo’s it. These are named in a specific way so as to work with existing translation tools. All the following laws apply to them in the exact same way.

So, right down to it then.

Law the First: Thou shalt not use PHP variables of any kind inside a translation function’s strings.

This code is obviously wrong, or it should be:

$string = __($string, 'plugin-domain');

The reason you never do this is because translation relies on looking up strings in a table and then translating them. However, that list of strings to be translated is built by an automated process. Some code scans your PHP code, without executing it, and pulls out all the __()’s it finds, then builds the list of strings to be translated. That scanning code cannot possibly know what is inside $string.

However, sometimes it’s more subtle than that. For example, this is also wrong:

$string = __("You have $number tacos", 'plugin-domain');

The translated string here will be something like ‘You have 12 tacos’, but the scanning code can’t know what $number is in advance, nor is it feasible to expect your translators to translate all cases of what $number could be anyway.

Basically, double quoted strings in translation functions are always suspect, and probably wrong. But that rule can’t be hard and fast, because using string operations like ‘You have ‘.$number.’ tacos’ is equally wrong, for the exact same reason.

Here’s a couple of wrongs that people like to argue with:

$string = __('You have 12 tacos', $plugin_domain);
$string = __('You have 12 tacos', PLUGIN_DOMAIN);

These are both cases of the same thing. Basically, you decided that repetition is bad, so you define the plugin domain somewhere central, then reference it everywhere.

Mark Jaquith went into some detail on why this is wrong on his blog, so I will refer you to that, but I’ll also espouse a general principle here.

I said this above, and I’m going to repeat it: “that list of strings to be translated is built by an automated process“. When I’m making some code to read your code and parse it, I’m not running your code. I’m parsing it. And while the general simplistic case of building a list of strings does not require me to know your plugin’s text domain, a more complicated case might. There are legitimate reasons that we want your domain to be plain text and not some kind of variable.

For starters, what if we did something like make a system where you could translate your strings right on the website? Or build a system where you could enlist volunteer translators to translate your strings for you? Or made a system where people could easily download localized versions of your plugin, with the relevant translations already included?

These are but a few ideas, but for all of them, that text domain must be a plain string. Not a variable. Not a define.

Bottom line: Inside all translation functions, no PHP variables are allowed in the strings, for any reason, ever. Plain single-quoted strings only.

Law the Second: Thou shalt always translate phrases and not words.

One way people often try to get around not using variables is like the following:

$string = __('You have ', 'plugin') . $number . __(' tacos', 'plugin-domain');

No! Bad coder! Bad!

English is a language of words. Other languages are not as flexible. In some other languages, the subject comes first. Your method doesn’t work here, unless the localizer makes “tacos” into “you have” and vice-versa.

This is the correct way:

$string = sprintf( __('You have %d tacos', 'plugin-domain'), $number );

The localizer doing your translation can then write the equivalent in his language, leaving the %d in the right place. Note that in this case, the %d is not a PHP variable, it’s a placeholder for the number.

In fact, this is a good place to introduce a new function to deal with pluralization. Nobody has “1 tacos”. So we can write this:

$string = sprintf( _n('You have %d taco.', 'You have %d tacos.', $number, 'plugin-domain'), $number );

The _n function is a translation function that picks the first string if the $number (third parameter to _n) is one, or the second one if it’s more than one. We still have to use the sprintf to replace the placeholder with the actual number, but now the pluralization can be translated separately, and as part of the whole phrase. Note that the last argument to _n is still the plugin text domain to be used.

Note that some languages have more than just a singular and a plural form. You may need special handling sometimes, but this will get you there most of the time. Polish in particular has pluralization rules that have different words for 1, for numbers ending in 2, 3, and 4, and for numbers ending in 5-1 (except 1 itself). That’s okay, _n can handle these special cases with special pluralization handling in the translator files, and you generally don’t need to worry about it as long as you specify the plural form in a sane way, using the whole phrase.

You might also note that _n() is the one and only translation function that can have a PHP variable in it. This is because that third variable is always going to be a number, not a string. Therefore no automated process that builds strings from scanning code will care about what it is. You do need to take care than the $number in _n is always a number though. It will not be using that $number to insert into the string, it will be selecting which string to use based on its value.

Now, using placeholders can be complex, since sometimes things will have to be reversed. Take this example:

$string = sprintf( __('You have %d tacos and %d burritos', 'plugin-domain'), $taco_count, $burrito_count );

What if a language has some strange condition where they would never put tacos before burritos? It just wouldn’t be done. The translator would have to rewrite this to have the burrito count first. But he can’t, the placeholders are such that the $taco_count is expected to be first in the sprintf. The solution:

$string = sprintf( __('You have %1$d tacos and %2$d burritos', 'plugin-domain'), $taco_count, $burrito_count );

The %1$d and such is an alternate form that PHP allows called “argument swapping“. In this case, the translator could write it correctly, but put the burritos before the tacos by simply putting %2$d before %1$d in the string.

Note that when you use argument swapping, that single-quoted string thing becomes very important. If you have “%1$s” in double quotes, then PHP will see that $s and try to put your $s variable in there. In at least one case, this has caused an accidental Cross-Site-Scripting security issue.

So repeat after me: “I will always only use single-quoted strings in I18N functions.” There. Now you’re safe again. This probably should be a law, but since it’s safe to use double-quoted strings as long as you don’t use PHP variables (thus breaking the first law), I’ll just leave you to think about it instead. :)

Law the Third: Thou shalt disambiguate when needed.

When I say “comment” to you, am I talking about a comment on my site, or am I asking you to make a comment? How about “test”? Or even “buffalo”?

English has words and phrases that can have different meanings depending on context. In other languages, these same concepts can be different words or phrases entirely. To help translators out, use the _x() function for them.

The _x() function is similar to the __() function, but it has a comment section where the context can be specified.

$string = _x( 'Buffalo', 'an animal', 'plugin-domain' );
$string = _x( 'Buffalo', 'a city in New York', 'plugin-domain' );
$string = _x( 'Buffalo', 'a verb meaning to confuse somebody', 'plugin-domain' );

Though these strings are identical, the translators will get separated strings, along with the explanation of what they are, and they can translate them accordingly.

And just like __() has _e() for immediate echoing, _x() has _ex() for the same thing. Use as needed.

Finally, this last one isn’t a law so much as something that annoys me. You’re free to argue about it if you like. :)

Annoyance the First: Thou shalt not put unnecessary HTML markup into the translated string.

$string = sprintf( __('<h3>You have %d tacos</h3>', 'plugin-domain'), $number );

Why would you give the power to the translator to insert markup changes to your code? Markup should be eliminated from your translated strings wherever possible. Put it outside your strings instead.

$string = '<h3>'.sprintf( __('You have %d tacos', 'plugin-domain'), $number ).'</h3>';

Note that sometimes though, it’s perfectly acceptable. If you’re adding emphasis to a specific word, then that emphasis might be different in other languages. This is pretty rare though, and sometimes you can pull it out entirely. If I wanted a bold number of tacos, I’d use this:

$string = sprintf( __('You have %s tacos', 'plugin-domain'), '<strong>'.$number.'</strong>' );

Or more preferably, the _n version of same that I discussed above.


Like I said at the beginning, we’ve all done these. I’ve broken all these laws of I18N in the past (I know some of my plugins still do), only to figure out that I was doing-it-wrong. Hopefully, you’ve spotted something here you’ve done (or are currently doing) and have realized from reading this exactly why your code is broken. The state of I18N in plugins and themes is pretty low, and that’s something I’d really like to get fixed in the long run. With any luck, this article will help. :)

Disclaimer: Yes, I wrote this while hungry.

In trying to figure out what to talk about at WordCamp Atlanta, I remembered a question put to me in WordCamp Birmingham. The question was how can a theme developer easily make a plugin-dependency in their theme?

I wrote some code to do this sort of thing, just as an example/test/demonstration, but then after looking over the schedule, I found that Thomas Griffin had beat me to it. After looking over his slides and having him walk me through his code, I realized that his solution was much more fully featured than mine, so I’m glad I didn’t present anything on this topic. (I ended up just doing an answer session where I tried to answer any question put to me, and frankly that was much more fun than having slides, so I’m probably just going to do that from now on.)

You can find his cool library here, BTW:

However, his solution is highly complex. The class he came up with is well done and fully-featured. He has capabilities for making notifications in the header space on the admin section, lightbox popups, bulk installs, forced activation, custom skinning, etc. It’s a big thing. While that’s great for a lot of people in terms of having code you can just drop-in and use, I thought that it doesn’t do much to teach how one can DIY it.

See, the code I wrote was tiny. It basically just provides some minor functionality to show a theme author how to detect installed plugins, how to detect when they’re active, how to build install and activate links, etc. It doesn’t do any pretty stuff. No custom skinning. No lightbox popups. All these things are possible, but if somebody hands you a hunk of library code to do them, then you know how to use that library, not how it works. I dislike using libraries for this reason.

So here’s the small class I wrote to do the same sort of thing, but in a very bare-bones style.


Simple class to let themes add dependencies on plugins in ways they might find useful

Example usage:

	$test = new Theme_Plugin_Dependency( 'simple-facebook-connect', '' );
	if ( $test->check_active() ) 
		echo 'SFC is installed and activated!';
	else if ( $test->check() ) 
		echo 'SFC is installed, but not activated. <a href="'.$test->activate_link().'">Click here to activate the plugin.</a>';
	else if ( $install_link = $test->install_link() )
		echo 'SFC is not installed. <a href="'.$install_link.'">Click here to install the plugin.</a>';
		echo 'SFC is not installed and could not be found in the Plugin Directory. Please install this plugin manually.';

if (!class_exists('Theme_Plugin_Dependency')) {
	class Theme_Plugin_Dependency {
		// input information from the theme
		var $slug;
		var $uri;

		// installed plugins and uris of them
		private $plugins; // holds the list of plugins and their info
		private $uris; // holds just the URIs for quick and easy searching

		// both slug and PluginURI are required for checking things
		function __construct( $slug, $uri ) {
			$this->slug = $slug;
			$this->uri = $uri;
			if ( empty( $this->plugins ) ) 
				$this->plugins = get_plugins();
			if ( empty( $this->uris ) ) 
				$this->uris = wp_list_pluck($this->plugins, 'PluginURI');

		// return true if installed, false if not
		function check() {
			return in_array($this->uri, $this->uris);

		// return true if installed and activated, false if not
		function check_active() {
			$plugin_file = $this->get_plugin_file();
			if ($plugin_file) return is_plugin_active($plugin_file);
			return false;

		// gives a link to activate the plugin
		function activate_link() {
			$plugin_file = $this->get_plugin_file();
			if ($plugin_file) return wp_nonce_url(self_admin_url('plugins.php?action=activate&plugin='.$plugin_file), 'activate-plugin_'.$plugin_file);
			return false;

		// return a nonced installation link for the plugin. checks to make sure it's there first.
		function install_link() {
			include_once ABSPATH . 'wp-admin/includes/plugin-install.php';

			$info = plugins_api('plugin_information', array('slug' => $this->slug ));

			if ( is_wp_error( $info ) ) 
				return false; // plugin not available from

			return wp_nonce_url(self_admin_url('update.php?action=install-plugin&plugin=' . $this->slug), 'install-plugin_' . $this->slug);

		// return array key of plugin if installed, false if not, private because this isn't needed for themes, generally
		private function get_plugin_file() {
			return array_search($this->uri, $this->uris);

Obviously, for theme authors wanting to do something, they’re going to want to make much prettier means of displaying things and installing things. Thus, this code is meant as an example, to show the basics of how to detect such things.

So, use it directly if you like (it works), but more importantly, if you want to put plugin dependancies in your theme, then I suggest reading it and figuring out how it works instead. Then you can see how plugins can be detected and how to build simple install and activation links.

(BTW, note that I used the slug and the PluginURI for a reason. Plugins should be using a unique URL for the plugin in their code, and that URL is very likely to be the most unique thing about the plugin, and therefore the best way to check for a plugin already being there or not. Slugs can be duplicated by accident or design, but URLs are generally going to be unique and specific to a particular plugin.)

This site is for an innovative, forward-looking Dutch architecture company.

It is powered by WordPress, based on the AutofocusPro theme, with extensive customisation, including to the layout of the site’s categories, the site’s header, and with additional sidebars implemented.

The site’s home page behaviour has also been modified to give roll-over effects which indicate the post’s categories, and the behaviour of a slideshow function for individual pages has been customised by Urban Legend web.

A customised plugin, qTranslate, has been used to offer Dutch and English versions of the site. 

Google came out with an experimental specification for websites to provide “hints” on forms, to allow things like autocomplete to work better and be more standardized. Seems useful.

Here’s a quick plugin snippet you can use to make your comments form use this specification. Only Chrome 15 and up is using this at the moment, but in the long run I think most browsers will be implementing something similar to this, since filling out forms is just one of those endless pieces of drudgery that we could all stand to do away with.

Note that your theme will need to be using the comment_form() function call for this to work, otherwise you’ll just have to edit your comment form in the theme manually.

Plugin Name: Add X-Autocomplete Fields to Comment Form
function add_x_autocompletetype($fields) {
	$fields['author'] = str_replace('<input', '<input x-autocompletetype="name-full"', $fields['author']);
	$fields['email'] = str_replace('<input', '<input x-autocompletetype="email"', $fields['email']);
	return $fields;

Simple little bit of code, really. Should work with any theme using the normal comment_form() function call.