Late last year, I wrote a post that provided a way on how to include a page template in a WordPress plugin. There’s an accompanying project on GitHub that’s been maintained and relatively-well updated since.

Although this post is similar in nature, it doesn’t exactly deal with templates, but parts of code that may be considered partials (or template parts, in WordPress).

Let’s say that you’ve got a single post and you want to append a template to the end of the content. The content can be a little more complicated that markup because that’s easy enough to do inline, isn’t it?

So, for all intents and purposes, let’s say that we have a partial that includes a form that can be used to submit some type of information.

Including a Template in a WordPress Plugin

To make this as simple as possible, we’ll assume that the form has a single input field – a text field – in which the user can enter anything.

Whatever happens on the server doesn’t matter, but we can assume all of the necessary steps for sanitization, serialization, error checking, and all of that fun stuff is taken care of. Anyway, it’s not part of what we’re working on so it’s not what’s going to be covered.

Here’s an example of what the form may look like:

Remember that this is actually more of a template part than a full on template, so there’s a lot of standard WordPress template tags that aren’t included.

This can be kept in the plugin wherever works best for you – I opt for includes/templates/acme-my-template.php

Next, we need to define a function that will be hooked to the_content action and that will append the data to the actual content prior to displaying it.

This is where it gets a little bit interesting because it’s not a simple matter of reading the file contents and appending it to the markup (there’s filtering that doesn’t occur), and there’s also some work with the output buffering that I’ll share after the gist:

Here’s what’s happening:

  • First, the code is activating output buffering. This means that no output is going to be sent from the PHP script that’s calling this function. It’s stored in memory.
  • Next, the code grabs the content of the template part to include in the output of the_content.
  • It then uses ob_get_contents to read the content of the output buffer. Since it contains the data in the template part, it’s appending it to the $content variable.
  • Finally, the code empties the internal buffer by calling ob_end_clean().

And that will do it. Nothing terribly complicated, right?

But What About This Buffering Business?

Here’s the thing: I’m not positive that this is the best way to do this (and I’m hoping some of you can share some insight in the comments). The thing is, I did try a few different ways each of which yielded mixed results – this one ended up being the way that produced exactly what I needed.

So this is a way to include a template in a WordPress plugin, but beware of the output buffering if you’re doing more complex operations.

This naturally raises the question: is it the best way to do this? Honestly, I’m not so sure.

I’ve yet to experience any issues with it, but I’ve also not done anymore complex operations with additional output or filtering. So if you’ve got feedback on this, I’d love to hear it in the comments.