Professional WordPress

Design and Development
Out of the over 300 books on WordPress, few get down into the into WordPress’ code itself. Professional WordPress is that kind of book.

WordPress is one of, if not the, most recognized names in blogging software. Since arriving in 2003, it has grown to the point that several million websites are running it daily. Naturally, there have been quite a few books written on it (Amazon currently lists about 300 titles). Most of these books are about how to use the software itself. A much smaller set cover creating themes and using plug-ins. An even smaller set still includes writing your plug-ins. Finally, there are a few that get down right into the software itself. Professional WordPress is that last kind of book.

Professional WordPress teaches readers about the inner workings of WordPress starting with three chapters near the beginning of the book before covering theming and plug-ins in the middle chapters and then going into practical examples that round out the book. The main sections focus on: navigating the codebase, the loop structure, and data storage.

Things get started with the fourth chapter that gives an overview of the codebase. While WordPress’ own Codex wiki is mentioned, it’s pointed out that it is not always up to date. I found the Codex was a bit disorganized and last time I looked through it and had a to google a lot of items to find answers. That said, this book does have a lot of stuff that you could dig out of the Codex, but it’s generally better presented here. One of the good parts in this chapter is an overview of the files found in a WordPress installation and the major functions in each. Like any large codebase that has been in constant development for nearly a decade, a guide like this is invaluable for figuring out where to start understanding the code. I wish other books on large frameworks took a similar approach.

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The next chapter covers the loop that drives WordPress’ public-facing display. While at the most basic it lists merely blog entries, digging just a bit deeper into the API shows that it can be manipulated to do a lot more than lists blog entries chronologically one after each. There have been a few books written about controlling the loop, including recently Thord Daniel Hedengren’s Smashing WordPress. Still, this book goes into all the options theme designers have available to them in a systematic way.

Finally, most books don’t touch the database structure that powers WordPress. Chapter six covers everything from a break-down of the database structure, how taxonomies are stored, and the various API commands WordPress has for communicating with the database as well as some tips on working manually with the database using PHPMyAdmin. With the internals covered, the book then goes into creating themes and plug-ins.

Though the book does start with the obligatory “how to install WordPress”, it’s much more about how WordPress is put together from the database-level on up. Even the installation chapter goes into a lot of depth about understanding the config.php file and how what the various options are. As readers would expect, there’s plenty of PHP code to be found, but there isn’t an over-arching project. The book is written for version 2.8, so the API information is up to date (at the time of writing this review, v2.9.2 is the latest release). At 300-odd pages, it’s not a huge book, but for developers looking to get into programming WordPress, there’s a lot of well-organized material packed into it.

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Date published: 23-Apr-2010