, LLC.

Multiple Fields & Groups with the WordPress Custom Field Template  Plugin

Be warned! Several people have experienced a nasty bug with this fieldset duplication method. Reports of lost data upon saving multiple field groups has popped up, so be cautious using this. As of 2/10/2010 Hiraoki has updated the plugin to 1.8.2 to resolve these issues, though it hasn’t been verified.

custom field template delete smI absolutely love using the Custom Field Template Plugin for WordPress CMS setups. With it you can quickly turn WordPress into a fully fledged content management system that is intuitive and easy to use. Hiroaki Miyashita, the programmer behind the plugin, recently added a few new features that allow you to manage multiple custom fields. Using the multiple = true and multipleButton = true option you’re able to do this for single fields, and also groups of fields.

Creating & Parsing Multiple Single Fields

To create a single field that can be duplicated it’s actually very simply. To create the field in CFT you’ll need to use the following syntax:

type = text
label = Item
multipleButton = true
multiple = true

After that, the following PHP will allow you to get all duplicate fields entered from within one of your theme templates.

// Get duplicate fields
$duplicate_field = get_post_custom_values('duplicate_field', $post->ID);
foreach ( $duplicate_field as $key => $value ) {
	echo $value . '
'; }

Creating & Parsing Multiple Field Groups or Fieldset’s

Duplicate groups are wonderful, they allow a group of fields to be re-used an infinite number of times. This opens up many new doors for custom field management. Carousels, content sliders and image galleries are just a few examples of what you can create with this approach.

First, define you’re CFT input fields & fieldset

type = fieldset_open
legend = Group #1
multiple = true
multipleButton = true

type = text
label = Title
blank = true

type = textarea
label = Description
blank = true

type = select
label = Size
value = Small # Medium # Large
default = Right
blank = true

type = text
label = Order
blank = true

type = fieldset_close

What’s going on here?

  • type = fieldset_open – This defines a fieldset, or group, of fields. We need this because it serves as the container of the item’s we’ll be duplicating.
  • multiple = true – This allows the fieldset and it’s contents to be multiplied or duplicated as a whole.
  • multipleButton = true – This will display the Add New button that we need to duplicate the fieldset.
  • [cft_group_fieldset] – This closes the fieldset/group/container.
  • blank = true – This is required for database management reasons.
  • “cft_group_” is the – This is important because you’ll be searching for fields that begin with this. Make sure that no other fields in your CFT setup use this naming convention or the sky may fall on your head!

Add the get_cft_repeating_data() function to your functions.php theme file

The following function is a slightly modified version of a function created by proximity2008 in the Support Forums. It will run a lean WPDB call to query all of the fields in our repeating fieldset group’s. Thanks Proximity!

// Get Custom Field Template duplicates
if( !function_exists('get_cft_repeating_data') ){
	function get_cft_repeating_data( $like_item ){
		global $post, $wpdb;
		$sql = "SELECT * FROM $wpdb->postmeta	WHERE post_id = $post->ID AND meta_key LIKE '%" . $like_item . "%' ORDER BY meta_id ASC";
		$data_objects = $wpdb->get_results($sql);
		$project = array();
		$i = 0;
		$fieldset = $like_item . '_fieldset';
		foreach($data_objects as $data) {
			// the name of the fieldset:
			if ( $data->meta_key == $fieldset ) {
				$limit = $data->meta_value - 1;
			$i = ( $i <= $limit ) ? $i : 1;
			if( $data->meta_key != $fieldset && $data->meta_value !='' ) {
				$project[$i]["$data->meta_key"] = $data->meta_value;
		if(!$limit && is_user_logged_in() )
			echo 'Could not establish Custom Field Limit. The $like_item set was ' .$like_item . '
SQL query was ' . $sql; return $project; } }

Right now it is very rough, and I’ve just begun using this on various projects so hopefully I can continue to improve upon it. If anyone has improvements to this function please let me know, I’m sure it could use some work!

Control the group ordering & sorting

Once we have our group’s stored in a PHP associative array, we’ll probably need to allow CMS users to control the order of the groups. This handy function will do the trick nicely, add it your functions,php file.

// Sort multidimensional array
if( !function_exists('order_array_num') ){
	function order_array_num ($array, $key, $order = "ASC"){
		$tmp = array();
		foreach($array as $akey => $array2){
			$tmp[$akey] = $array2[$key];
		if($order == "DESC"){
			arsort($tmp , SORT_NUMERIC );
		} else {
			asort($tmp , SORT_NUMERIC );
		$tmp2 = array();       
		foreach($tmp as $key => $value){
			$tmp2[$key] = $array[$key];
		return $tmp2;

This will let us control the order and sort of the field group’s using the cft_group_order field we created.

Get the multiple group’s and display them in your WP theme

// Get all duplucate fields from the database and store in array
$cft_groups = get_cft_repeating_data('cft_group');
$cft_groups = order_array_num($cft_groups, 'cft_group_order', 'ASC');
// Display groups
echo '
'; foreach ($cft_groups as $s => $v) { // First check for data then define variables if( !empty($cft_groups[$s]['cft_group_title']) ) $title = strtolower($cft_groups[$s]['cft_group_title']); if( !empty($cft_groups[$s]['cft_group_description']) ) $description = strtolower($cft_groups[$s]['cft_group_description']); if( !empty($cft_groups[$s]['cft_group_size']) ) $size = strtolower($cft_groups[$s]['cft_group_size']); // Output HTML for a group echo '
'; if(isset($title)) echo '

' . $title . '

'; if(isset($description)) echo '
' . $subtitle . '
'; echo '
'; } echo '

You’ll need to switch out the cft_group values to match you’re own implementation.

I hope this example spark’s some ideas for your next WordPress CMS project. If it does, please don’t hesitate to let me know know about them in your comments!

Meet the Author

Kevin Leary, WordPress Consultant

I'm a freelance web developer and WordPress consultant in Boston, MA with 16 years of experience building websites and applications. View a portfolio of my work or request an estimate for your next project.