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Template Hierarchy


WordPress Templates fit together like the pieces of a puzzle to generate the web pages on your WordPress site. Some templates (the header and footer template files for example) are used on all the web pages, while others are used only under specific conditions.

What this article is about

This article seeks to answer the following question:

Which template file(s) will WordPress use when it displays a certain type of page?

Who might find this useful

Since the introduction of Themes in WordPress 1.5, Templates have become more and more configurable. In order to develop WordPress themes, a proper understanding of the way WordPress selects template files to display the various pages on your blog is essential. If you seek to customize an existing WordPress theme, this article aims to help you decide which template file needs editing.

Using Conditional Tags

WordPress provides more than one way to match templates to query types. WordPress Theme developers can also use Conditional Tags to control which templates will be used to generate a certain page. Some WordPress Themes may not implement all of the template files described here. Some Themes use conditional tags to load other template files. See the Conditional Tags page and "Query Based" in Theme Development for more information.

The Template File Hierarchy

The General Idea

WordPress uses the Query String — information contained within each link on your web site — to decide which template or set of templates will be used to display the page.

First, WordPress matches every Query String to query types — i.e. it decides what type of page (a search page, a category page, the home page etc.) is being requested.

Templates are then chosen — and web page content is generated — in the order suggested by the WordPress Template hierarchy, depending upon what templates are available in a particular WordPress Theme.

WordPress looks for template files with specific names in the current Theme's directory and uses the first matching template file listed under the appropriate query section below.

With the exception of the basic index.php template file, Theme developers can choose whether they want to implement a particular template file or not. If WordPress cannot find a template file with a matching name, it skips down to the next file name in the hierarchy. If WordPress cannot find any matching template file, index.php (the Theme's home page template file) will be used.


If your blog is at http://example.com/wp/ and a visitor clicks on a link to a category page like http://example.com/wp/category/your-cat/, WordPress looks for a template file in the current Theme's directory that matches the category's ID. If the category's ID is 4, WordPress looks for a template file named category-4.php. If it is missing, WordPress next looks for a generic category template file, category.php. If this file does not exist either, WordPress looks for a generic archive template, archive.php. If it is missing as well, WordPress falls back on the main Theme template file, index.php.

If a visitor goes to your home page at http://example.com/wp/, WordPress first determines whether it has a static front page. If a static front page has been set, then WordPress loads that page according to the page template hierarchy. If a static front page has not been set, then WordPress looks for a template file called home.php and uses it to generate the requested page. If home.php is missing, WordPress looks for a file called index.php in the active theme's directory, and uses that template to generate the page.

Visual Overview

The following diagram shows which template files are called to generate a WordPress page based on the WordPress Template hierarchy.

Graphic Example of the WordPress Template Hierarchy Structure Full-Size Image (png) ; Source: wp-tricks.co.il

The Template Hierarchy In Detail

The following sections describe the order in which template files are being called by WordPress for each query type.

Home Page display

  1. home.php
  2. index.php

Front Page display

  1. front-page.php - Used for both Your latest posts or A static page as set in the Front page displays section of Settings -> Reading
  2. Page display rules - When Front page is set in the Front page displays section of Settings -> Reading
  3. Home Page display rules - When Posts page is set in the Front page displays section of Settings -> Reading

Single Post display

  1. single-{post_type}.php - If the post type were product, WordPress would look for single-product.php.
  2. single.php
  3. index.php

Page display

  1. custom template file - The Page Template assigned to the Page. See get_page_templates().
  2. page-{slug}.php - If the page slug is recent-news, WordPress will look to use page-recent-news.php
  3. page-{id}.php - If the page ID is 6, WordPress will look to use page-6.php
  4. page.php
  5. index.php

Category display

  1. category-{slug}.php - If the category's slug were news, WordPress would look for category-news.php
  2. category-{id}.php - If the category's ID were 6, WordPress would look for category-6.php
  3. category.php
  4. archive.php
  5. index.php

Tag display

  1. tag-{slug}.php - If the tag's slug were sometag, WordPress would look for tag-sometag.php
  2. tag-{id}.php - If the tag's ID were 6, WordPress would look for tag-6.php
  3. tag.php
  4. archive.php
  5. index.php

Custom Taxonomies display

  1. taxonomy-{taxonomy}-{slug}.php - If the taxonomy were sometax, and taxonomy's slug were someterm WordPress would look for taxonomy-sometax-someterm.php. In the case of Post Formats, the taxonomy is 'post_format' and the terms are 'post-format-{format}. i.e. taxonomy-post_format-post-format-link.php
  2. taxonomy-{taxonomy}.php - If the taxonomy were sometax, WordPress would look for taxonomy-sometax.php
  3. taxonomy.php
  4. archive.php
  5. index.php

Custom Post Types display

  1. archive-{post_type}.php - If the post type were product, WordPress would look for archive-product.php.
  2. archive.php
  3. index.php

(when displaying a single custom post type see the Single Post display section above.)

Author display

  1. author-{nicename}.php - If the author's nice name were rami, WordPress would look for author-rami.php.
  2. author-{id}.php - If the author's ID were 6, WordPress would look for author-6.php.
  3. author.php
  4. archive.php
  5. index.php

Date display

  1. date.php
  2. archive.php
  3. index.php

Search Result display

  1. search.php
  2. index.php

404 (Not Found) display

  1. 404.php
  2. index.php

Attachment display

  1. MIME_type.php - it can be any MIME type (image.php, video.php, audio.php, application.php or any other).
  2. attachment.php
  3. single.php
  4. index.php

Filter Hierarchy

The WordPress templates system allow you to filter the hierarchy. The filter (located in the get_query_template() function) uses this filter name: "{$type}_template" where $type is the a file name in the hierarchy without the .php extension.

Like these (not a complete list):

  • single_template
  • page_template
  • category_template
  • tag_template
  • taxonomy_template
  • archive_template
  • date_template
  • search_template
  • 404_template


For example, let's take the default author hierarchy:

  • author-{nicename}.php
  • author-{id}.php
  • author.php

To add author-{role}.php before author.php we can manipulate the actual hierarchy using the 'author_template_candidates' hook:

function author_role_template( $templates ) {
    global $role;

    $new_template = array( "author-$role.php" );

    $templates = array_merge( 
        array_slice( $templates, 0, -1 ), // before
        $new_template,                    // inserted
        array_slice( $templates, -1 )     // after

    return $templates;
add_filter( 'author_template_hierarchy', 'author_role_template' );


  • 1.5 :
    • Introduction of the theme system.

Source File

The template hierarchy functions are located in wp-includes/theme.php.


Template Hierarchy: Category Templates, Tag Templates, Taxonomy Templates, Page Templates, Post Type Templates, Author Templates, Date Templates, Search Templates, 404 Templates, Attachment Templates, Loop Templates