Managing Post Metadata

Adding Metadata

Adding metadata can be done quite easily with add_post_meta() . The function accepts a post_id, a meta_key, a meta_value, and a unique flag.

The meta_key is how your plugin will reference the meta value elsewhere in your code. Something like mycrazymetakeyname would work, however a prefix related to your plugin or theme followed by a description of the key would be more useful. wporg_featured_menu might be a good one. It should be noted that the same meta_key may be used multiple times to store variations of the metadata (see the unique flag below).

The meta_value can be a string, integer, or an array. If it’s an array, it will be automatically serialized before being stored in the database.

The unique flag allows you to declare whether this key should be unique. A non unique key is something a post can have multiple variations of, like price.
If you only ever want one price for a post, you should flag it unique and the meta_key will have one value only.

Updating Metadata

If a key already exists and you want to update it, use update_post_meta() . If you use this function and the key does NOT exist, then it will create it, as if you’d used add_post_meta() .

Similar to add_post_meta() , the function accepts a post_id, a meta_key, and meta_value. It also accepts an optional prev_value – which, if specified, will cause the function to only update existing metadata entries with this value. If it isn’t provided, the function defaults to updating all entries.

Deleting Metadata

delete_post_meta() takes a post_id, a meta_key, and optionally meta_value. It does exactly what the name suggests.

Character Escaping

Post meta values are passed through the stripslashes() function upon being stored, so you will need to be careful when passing in values (such as JSON) that might include escaped characters.

Consider the JSON value {"key":"value with \"escaped quotes\""}:

$escaped_json = '{"key":"value with \"escaped quotes\""}';
update_post_meta( $id, 'escaped_json', $escaped_json );
$broken = get_post_meta( $id, 'escaped_json', true );
$broken, after stripslashes(), ends up unparsable:
{"key":"value with "escaped quotes""}


By adding one more level of escaping using the function wp_slash() (introduced in WP 3.6), you can compensate for the call to stripslashes():

$escaped_json = '{"key":"value with \"escaped quotes\""}';
update_post_meta( $id, 'double_escaped_json', wp_slash( $escaped_json ) );
$fixed = get_post_meta( $id, 'double_escaped_json', true );
$fixed, after stripslashes(), ends up as desired:
{"key":"value with \"escaped quotes\""}

Hidden Custom Fields

If you are a plugin or theme developer and you are planning to use custom fields to store parameters, it is important to note that WordPress will not show custom fields which have meta_key starting with an “_” (underscore) in the custom fields list on the post edit screen or when using the the_meta() template function.

This can be useful in order to show these custom fields in an unusual way by using the add_meta_box() function.

The example below will add a unique custom field with the meta_key name ‘_color’ and the meta_value of ‘red’ but this custom field will not display in the post edit screen:

add_post_meta( 68, '_color', 'red', true );

Hidden Arrays

In addition, if the meta_value is an array, it will not be displayed on the page edit screen, even if you don’t prefix the meta_key name with an underscore.