Get Active Widget Titles from WordPress Sidebar

it's like pulling teeth, only the teeth are strings

Today, we’re not going to be content to sail the known. We’re not going to sit by with our prototypical WordPress knowledge. No, we’re going to go out.

Way out.

Today’s WordPress: X-Files Edition has us tackling the following problem: You have a sidebar with many active widgets. You also really want to display / use the title of each. But how?

It’s easy to assume something like


would work. We could just iterate through all our widgets, and life will be peachy.

And that would be great! Just one problem: It doesn’t exist.

Sadly, there’s no official way to hack this. Not yet, anyway. WordPress gives us lots of options for managing widget titles and their display. But what if we just have to take it all to la vida loca territory?

We were stuck doing this for a recent theme project, and after much searching, we found an answer. Courtesy of some excellent code by Ahmed Saad we have an ugly, albeit functioning prototype:


$sidebar_id = 'your-sidebar'; // tell our code what sidebar to look for
$sidebars_widgets = wp_get_sidebars_widgets(); // it'll do its thing and grab the widgets involved
$widget_ids = $sidebars_widgets[$sidebar_id]; // we'll get the id for each sidebar in the collected array

// now we can start the iteration
foreach( $widget_ids as $id ) {
    $widget_var = 'widget_'._get_widget_id_base( $id );
    $id_var = _get_widget_id_base( $id );
    $instance = get_option( $widget_var );
    $id_simplified = str_replace( $id_var.'-', '', $id ); 
    echo '<li><a href="#'.$id.'">'.$instance[$id_simplified]['title'].'</a></li>';


And that’s it! You can now iterate through the active widgets of a sidebar to retrieve their titles. Which might seem a little pointless. And in most cases, there are better ways to go about this.

Still, we can think of a few practical applications. Such as:

  • Single page designs where widgets define the sections, while some other element needs to list and link them.
  • Auto-generated menus for when the standard admin panel isn’t an option.
  • Complicated sidebar setups where some kind of high-level jQuery roughhousing needs the data.

Besides, if you’re here you likely needed that code block, anyway. So enjoy, and let us know via Twitter if you come across a better, DRYer way to make it happen!

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