WordPress Dashboard Theme Documentation

I was just finishing up the chapters for the 5th Edition of my WordPress For Dummies book (shameless plug, it’ll be released later this year) and as I was making my gazzilionth screenshot (yes, at LEAST a GAZILLION) that little drop down menu underneath the Theme Editor caught my eye and I thought to myself ….

“Hello little drop down menu, you don’t get nearly as much love as you deserve”.

So, I thought I’d bring it to your attention, in case you are just as guilty as overlooking this little gem as I am.

Now, admittedly, I do not use the Theme Editor in WordPress often, if at all. I love my Coda – so I rarely see that Theme Editor. However, today I was taking screenshots of various Dashboard screens and there it was – – in all it’s goodness – the Theme Documentation drop down menu. Behold:


So, when you’re in the Theme Editor and you’re looking at one of the template files – this drop down menu will appear underneath the text editor. Contained in the drop down menu are all of the template tags contained within the template file you’re looking at. Go ahead, select one. See what happened there?

Allow me to show you – – I’m looking at the page.php template file, and when I click on the drop down menu, I can see the template tags I’m dealing with:


…and because I’m a naturally curious person at heart, I want to know exactly what the get_footer() tag is doing – so I click it (wouldn’t you??) and then click the Lookup button and LOOK:


The documentation is pulled from trunk – and yea, you could just as easily go there and look stuff up – but this is sorta convenient, eh?

So, without asking anyone, or filing a support ticket, or looking it up in the codex, or Googling it, or…. or…anything else – I have ready reference front of my face, just like that.  Now, granted, the references here could stand a bit more meat – for instance, some very popular theme functions don’t have any documentation at all:


The tool isn’t supposed to replace actual and full documentation, so you’re not going to find everything you need to know about a certain tag and/or function – but it does give you a quick reference for it and, in most cases, references to sources like the Codex where you can go and find more information.  As a reference tool goes, it’s nice…needs work and could potentially save Googling time since it already tells you where to go to get the information you seek about a certain function (for some, but not all – see the previous image…)

Back when I was first cutting my teeth on WordPress in 2003-2004, what I would have given for something like this at my fingertips.  I think it’s a pretty cool tool

Do you ever use this?  Did you know it was there?  Do you find it helpful/useful at all?  Do you have a scenario where it really, really helped you out?  Just wondering…

10 Replies to “WordPress Dashboard Theme Documentation”

  1. Huh- I had stumbled on that menu before but thanks for pointing out how it be useful. On another side-topic could I ask if you have ever used any of the wordpress cache plugins to aid wordpress performance?

  2. Good find, I didn’t notice the menu at all until I read this. As you said, very useful for a first glance at what a function does. I’m editing my theme(s) pretty often, so I will definitely use this drop down a lot in the future. Let’s hope for some more docs to get added soon!

  3. Wow… honestly im still using blogger right now..
    but after reading your site… looks like learning “WordPress” is a must.
    I think WordPress somehow very close / very similar with Website 😀

  4. Have one of your old WP for Dummies books from the library, and am just starting out.
    Thanks for such well written help.
    This little button looks interesting, I’m just learning about the templates and tags.

  5. Ah!
    At first I had trouble finding the little sucker. I am walking through Chapter 11 of your “WordPress Web Design” book and I clicked on “Tag Template”. Sure enough, underneath all that PHP goodness was a documentation drop-box.
    Thanks!! The nerd in me loves gadgets, and here is yet another one for my arsenal!

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