Is your filter going to break the WordPress layout?

If you’re not clear about the difference between WordPress actions and filters, you may end up breaking the page layout of WordPress – maybe days, months, or even years after you’ve written and implemented a new filter hook. The difference can be difficult for new developers to grasp – after all, hooking an action or filter runs your code, either way, right? Well, yes, it does, but filters can be executed several times, in different locations as the webpage is being built (header, body, footer, etc.), and even in the admin back-end. But more importantly, filters do not send anything to the webpage! Filter hooks receive their data / text as an argument, and then “return” the modified (or original) data / text at the end. They do not use “echo”, “print”, “printf”, etc. – they should not send anything to the webpage. If you need to output something directly to the webpage, use an action – that’s what they’re for. ;-)

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PHP Code to Clear the WPSSO Cache

If you use a caching plugin, you may have an option to include custom PHP code when flushing the cache manually — for example, Comet Cache has an “Evaluate Custom PHP Code when Clearing the Cache?” option where you can enter additional PHP code to execute when clearing the cache manually. Adding the following code will also clear the WPSSO object cache when clearing the webpage cache:

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PHP – Print a Prettier Array

I often want to output an array for debugging purposes, but using var_dump() or print_r() on an array that includes true / false values and class objects can be problematic — false values appear empty, and class objects can include too much information. I wrote the following recursive static method (presented here as a function) to pre-filter an array for readability when using print_r() or var_dump().

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How Fast is WPSSO Compared to Other Plugins?

There is a huge variety of available plugins for WordPress — 30,326 plugins as of today — and if you’ve tried more than a few, you’ll have noticed a marked difference in their quality as well (functionality, user interface, stability, etc.). If you know your way around PHP, you should take a moment to browse the source code of a plugin before installing it. You’ll notice quite a difference there as well. ;-) You can view WPSSO’s source code directly from’s SVN repository. If you do, please excuse the lack of comments — it’s on my To-Do list. ;-)

I started developing the NextGEN Facebook (NGFB) plugin about a year ago, when I broke my foot and was stuck in bed / on the couch for much of the day. NGFB is the foundation for WPSSO, minus the sharing buttons and their related features (shortcodes, widgets, stylesheets, javascript caching, and url shortening). WPSSO has 25% less code, is 0.0070 secs faster per page load, and is often preferred for websites that already have (or don’t need) a set of sharing buttons.

I’ve always kept an eye on performance, and used WordPress’s object and transient caches when possible, along with disk based caching when appropriate. NGFB and WPSSO are fast, but until recently, I’d never compared their performance to other plugins. As I prepare WPSSO v2.4.4 for release later this week, I took some time to double-check its performance and that of a few other plugins as well.

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NextGEN Gallery v2 Resize Issue Persists

If you are concerned about the quality of your NextGEN Gallery v2.x resized images, this should be of particular interest to you.

Some months ago I contacted Photocrati to ask them how, in version 2.x, developers could retrieve the “actual” dimensions of a resized image. In the past, after resizing an image we could use PHP’s getimagesize() function on the resulting file, but in v2.x image resizing is dynamic and those resized images may not be available on disk. I had some concerns between the expected / calculated image dimensions, those returned by NGG v2.x’s methods / functions, and the actual image retrieved by the URL. All 3 dimensions were different! A resized uncropped image which should have been 300x200px, was reported as being 300x199px by the NGG methods / functions, and the image retrieved by URL was 298x199px!

This may not sound like much, but a few pixels here and there can lead to image distortion when rendered by browsers, alignment issues in page layouts, and failures when working with minimum image dimensions (for example, Facebook ignores images smaller than 200x200px).

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WordPress Multisite Activate, Deactivate, and Uninstall

I recently added multisite support for NGFB and faced a few challenges — the documentation is a little slim, especially when it comes to uninstalling / deleting plugins. The basic premise is that network-wide plugin activation must take care of the essentials for all sites (like creating default settings in the options table), and when removing the plugin, it should cleanup all its settings from all the sites. I prefer working within classes, so opted to keep the uninstall method in the class, instead of breaking it out into an uninstall.php file.

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My WordPress Debug / Logging PHP Class

One of the eventual issues you have to deal with when developing a plugin for WordPress, is finding out what went wrong when someone reports a bug. You need to know what the plugin did — what decisions it took as it executed and why. There are a number of PHP / WordPress debugging tools available to developers, but you can’t really ask customers to debug your plugin with these. At most, you can ask them to click a “debug” option so you can get more info about it’s operation. And this is where my WordPress debug / logging PHP class comes in. At first, it was just a way to include a few hidden HTML comments in the webpage, so I could have some clues as to what might have went wrong and where. But the more I used it, the more useful it became. Here are a few examples…

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Screenshot Machine Shortcode v1.1 Plugin for WordPress

Include images from Screenshot Machine in your content with a shortcode.

Use the [[ssm]] shortcode in your content with the following arguments:

  • key=”{account key}”
  • url=”{website url}”
  • size=”{size letter}” (default=T)
  • format=”{jpg|png|gif}” (default=jpg)
  • days=”{cache expiration}” (default=14)
  • wait=”{wait in ms}” (default=200)
  • title=”{href title}”
  • link=”{yes|no}” (default=yes)
  • target=”{link target}” (default=_blank)
  • refresh=”{yes|no}” (default=yes)

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