Shortcodes put the power of coding in the hands of every WordPress user – even those who don’t know a thing about website development. These snippets of code can be inserted just about anywhere to add dynamic features, ranging from galleries, audio files, headers, and content from external sites to any WordPress website. Easy to use, shortcodes are often overlooked, but a convenient tool for adding a variety of specialized features to your WordPress site.
How Do Shortcodes Work in WordPress?
A shortcode is a small piece of code designed to perform a specific function or add a particular feature to a WordPress site. Because most shortcodes aren’t part of WordPress themes or plugins, they can be inserted into pages, posts, and text widgets anywhere on a website a user wants to add that feature – or deleted when the feature is no longer needed. Whether they’re included within WordPress hosting itself or acquired elsewhere, shortcodes appear as text within single brackets and this represents a larger piece of code that WordPress executes from within one of its site files. All a user needs to do is locate the shortcode, copy it, and insert it into the location where the shortcode function is supposed to appear.
Shortcodes can be pasted into a WordPress page or post using either the Visual or the Text editor, and the shortcode’s output appears within the editor at the point a user has selected. For example, if you want to add a gallery to your site, you would copy and paste the gallery shortcode into the relevant page using either the Visual or Text editors – whichever you prefer. Then, the gallery itself should appear when the page is viewed.
Shortcodes can come from a variety of sources. A basic set of shortcodes is included within the WordPress core, while others can be installed through plugins or created from scratch. Shortcodes can also be used to display content from other sites, such as a Twitter feed or an Amazon bookshelf, simply by copying and pasting the relevant code from that external source into the desired location on a WordPress page, post, or text widget.
How to Get WordPress Shortcodes
Some shortcodes are available right inside WordPress itself. Placing any of these into the WordPress text editor or a text widget will display the desired element. This can be customized as needed from settings available on the WP admin dashboard. Shortcodes can also come along with some free or premium WordPress themes or plugins for additional features and functions. For example, a photo gallery WordPress theme might have a gallery shortcode for managing the theme’s image content.
But if those aren’t enough, it is possible to get many more specialized shortcodes by way of a number of free WordPress shortcodes plugin options, such as Shortcodes Unlimited, which includes 50 or more shortcodes for adding features of all kinds, such as carousels, headers, and sliders. And for even more shortcodes, users can purchase a variety of premium shortcode plugins, such as Vision, which features over 100 customizable shortcodes from the many WordPress developers and asset marketplaces around the world.
A number of third-party sites also offer shortcodes of their own for placing things like badges, publications, and feeds on a WordPress site. To insert this kind of content, copy the shortcode provided on the source site and paste it into the desired location on your WordPress site.
Creating Custom Shortcodes
Although anyone can use shortcodes without having any web design or coding skills, experienced developers can also modify shortcodes for more customization. For example, users can set parameters within a shortcode to specify how it should behave, such as how many recent posts to display, or how many slides appear in a slideshow. Like everything else WordPress, shortcodes are available to the entire WordPress community for customizing and updating.
Developers can also create their own custom shortcodes from scratch, with specifications from the WordPress codex and tools, such as the Generate WP developer toolkit, which provides the framework for generating shortcodes for a variety of uses. Because WordPress is free, open-source software that anyone can edit or modify, users can create them for specific uses that are exclusive to a particular WordPress website or make them available to the whole WordPress community.
Using WordPress Shortcodes
Using a WordPress shortcode is as simple as copying the code and pasting it into your text editor or widget wherever you want it to appear. It’s important to keep in mind, though, that shortcodes that come bundled with a particular WordPress shortcodes plugin or theme will stop working if the “parent” plugin is deactivated or if the WordPress theme is changed. Shortcodes that are part of the WordPress core, or ones added from other sources, remain in place even if the site’s theme has changed or updated.
A shortcode becomes active once it’s inserted into your content. If your shortcode is provided by a WordPress plugin, such as the many plugins for placing media managers, like galleries and sliders, on your site, you’ll most likely have options for customizing the content that is displayed using the shortcode. For example, if you’ve installed one of the many WordPress gallery plugins, the plugin allows you to add an image to the gallery and edit it, then generates a shortcode that can be added anywhere on the site to generate the current edition of the gallery.
Shortcodes in WordPress were first introduced way back in WordPress 2.5, so they have been around a while, giving users of all skill levels a way to bring the coding power of WordPress to their sites without working directly with code itself. Along with the more familiar themes and plugins, shortcodes make it easy to customize your WordPress site.