Last Updated: February 25, 2016
· ericrallen

A Better WordPress Plug-in Boilerplate


We set up a plug-in boilerplate for WordPress that provides a lot of functionality that we found ourselves having to include in pretty much every plug-in. Check it out: WordPress Plug-in Boilerplate

The Backstory

We end up writing a lot of plug-ins for various WordPress sites and we find a lot of the code we need for activation, deactivation, and uninstallation is repeated and we end up copying it from a previous plug-in or rewriting it, making incremental improvements to it over time.

We got tired of this so I wrote a simple plug-in boilerplate that let's us do a few Find/Replaces and be on our way working on the actual logic of our plug-in.

The default folders might not be perfect for how you like to organize your code, so feel encouraged to fork it and create your own boilerplate.

The code is commented heavily and has lots of blocks that will guide you through converting the boilerplate into your own plug-in, in case you are new to WordPress plug-in development.

You can find it here: WordPress Plug-in Boilerplate

EDIT: I finished the documentation and included it here so you can get an idea of what it does for you.


First and foremost, you'll want to go through and replace instances of "Plugin_Name" or any derivation there of with the name of your actual plugin. I generally rename the files in /assets/classes/so that the names reflect my plugin name, too.

Plugin Prefix

Define a prefix in the PluginNameOptions class for your option names, tables names, capabilities, page slugs, etc. so you only have to write it once:

//prefix for option names, table names, and capability names
public $prefix = 'plugin_name_';

You can use the $this->fix_name($slug) method of the Plugin_Name class to append this prefix to any string.

If you want to refer to the prefix in the Plugin_Name class, you can refernce it as $this->options->prefix.

Plugin Debug Namespace

Define a namespace in the PluginNameOptions class to be prepended to any messages you have your plugin send to the debug.log so you can easily find your debug statements in the log.

//namespace for any Debug messages
public $namespace = 'PLUGIN NAME';

If you use the $this->log($msg, $namespace) method in the PluginName class, you can send it a custom namespace or the namespace defined in the PluginName_Options class will be used.

If you want to refer to the namespace in the Plugin_Name class, you can reference it as $this->options->namespace.


Define capabilities in the PluginNameOptions class by adding them to the associative array in the set_capabilities() method.

The array key for a set of capabilities should be the required capability a role needs for your capability to be added.

In the example below we are adding a capability that requires the manage_options capability. NOTE: We are using $this->prefix to prepend our plugin prefix to the capability name

//set up capability array
private function set_capabilities() {
    //add capabilities to this array as 'required_capability' => array('capability_to_grant')
    $this->caps = array(
        'manage_options' => array(
            $this->prefix . 'capability'

I generally refer to these capabilities when adding admin pages or checking user access by refering to their array key: $this->options->caps['manage_options'][0].

If you have a lot of various capabilities, you may want to set up an array mapping of capability slugs and reference them that way.

In the future I may shift to using a slug for each capabilities key and mapping them to a simpler point of reference.


Define options in the PluginNameOptions class by adding them to the associative array $this->opts.

The options array will be JSON encoded and decoded when being stored and retrieved from the DB.

//set up options array
private function set_options() {
    $this->opts = array(
        $this->prefix . 'version' => $this->v_num,
        $this->prefix . 'options' => array(

            //add options to this array as 'option_name' => 'option_value'
            //this allows us to only store two options in the table
            //one will keep our version number and the other will keep a JSON encoded
            //string of all of our other options


To access any of the options in the Plugin_Name class, you can reference them like this: $this->options->opts['slug'].

To access the current options values in the Plugin_Name class, you can reference the settings array: $this->settings['slug'].


Define tables in the PluginNameOptions class by adding them to the associative array $this->tables.

//set up table array
private function set_tables() {
    //set the table name slug as a key for the $this->tables array
    //and add the MySQL CREATE statement as the value for that key
    $this->tables['main'] = "CREATE TABLE `" . $this->prefix . 'main' . "` (
            `ID` int(15) NOT NULL AUTO_INCREMENT,
            `column_name` varchar(255),
            PRIMARY KEY (`ID`)
        ) ENGINE=InnoDB DEFAULT CHARSET=latin1"

To access the table names in the Plugin_Name class, you can reference them like this: $this->tables['slug'].


If you need to perform maintenance when updating your plugin, tie into the pre_update_option() method in the Plugin_Name class.

There is a comment that starts //IMPORTANT to show you where to inject your update code.

WordPress Plug-in Repository

Make sure to fill out the readme.txt before submitting to the WordPress repository and include some screenshots if you can.

Here is a link to WordPress' example readme.txt:


So, you want to host your plug-in on GitHub but also have it available in the WordPress Plug-in Repository? No problem.

I've included a version of the script found here:

All you need to do is edit the script to reflect the SVN information for your WordPress plug-in and then navigate to the folder for your plugin and type ./ and let the script work its magic.

A few notes about deploying:

  • The script is pretty literal in it's reading of the plugin header comment, so don't muck with it's formatting or placement.
  • The script will create tags for you based on the version number in your plugin header comment and the release version in your readme.txt so make sure they are the same.
  • The script will push the master branch and latest tag to GitHub so you don't have to worry about pushing before you deploy.
  • WordPress (or SVN, not sure which) doesn't seem to like letters in its version numbers, so I stick with semantic versioning format: 0.0.1, 0.0.2, etc.
  • You should add to your .gitignore (I recommend globally) so you don't give anyone access to deploy your plugin.


Please let me know if you have any ideas for improvements or questions about the functionality it provides. I'd like to keep improving on it.