Short Codes and Routing in WordPress


One of the projects at my workplace has got me diving into WordPress. Should be easy right? It's php, one of the simplest, easy to use (besides it's dreadful $ symbol before everything), and dynamically typed languages out there. What could go wrong?

Simple: Everything. If you want to do custom code in a WordPress site, you make a plugin. Sounds easy enough, sounds like Drupal's modules. Cool. That makes perfect sense to me. But then came the learning curve.

Luckily the Codex has a ton of information, and there are some great tutorials out there. But anything involving how to run just a standard php file was near impossible to find. All I wanted to do was be able to say: This URL goes to This file, without making an .htaccess file. And it seemed impossible.

Luckily, I had an example (sort of) of how to make a custom router. Granted it was nested heavily into a massive plugin that I had to search through. But it used the technique of making objects that were associated with custom post types in order to serve it's content.

Well that was great. But I only really wanted to serve a single page. Not a bunch of posts. I could programatically create a page from my plug-in and then try to somehow hook up listening to JUST that page with a slug of some kind and then make the template include my file?

But that seemed messy. There had to be a clean way. So I got thinking. Well, if they can include custom post types, then I can make just one and then keep a reference to it some how. Simple enough. Use get_option to check the ID of the post I'll make from some initializing function.

So I did that (after some trial and error where I forgot to hook into the init hook of wordpress before calling wp_insert_post -- which fails by the way, fatally. No WP_Error or anything) and bam. It was working.

The best part of the whole routing system was that since I was capturing my php files output in the output buffer (ob_start and friends). That content was then sent to wordpress as a string to be interpreted as the content of the post being rendered onto the page. This means that any shortcodes in the php files output were expanded.

This is actually very cool because it allows me to integrate the flexibility of my php code with the simplicity of shortcodes. Essentially I ended up with my own meta language to write my views in. A nice combination of php and shortcodes.

I made a small plugin called qroute that does this routing. And tested the shortcode output with a few custome shortcodes. If you need nesting of shortcodes (which is likely), you just need to call do_shortcode on whatever the string being returned from the other shortcodes is.

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