Variable scope and get_template_part


May 06, 2014

In developing my company’s website, I’m attempting to be as modular as possible. Following this methodology, I’m making heavy use of get_template_part to abstract out the WordPress loop and make downstream changes to code easier to understand. Recently, however, I ran into an issue with attempting to use a global variable with get_template_part. The issue is pretty easy to understand, and is more a PHP deal than a WordPress one: variable scope. Variables are mostly global in PHP; variables defined can be referenced most anywhere else, including required or included files. However, user-defined functions have their own local function scope. Any variable used in that function is limited to that function only. Here’s an example:

	  $a = 1;

	  function test() {
	    echo $a; // will not return anything

This threw me for a second; I’m used to global variables being accessible everywhere. But in PHP, functions have their own scope, and won’t have access to higher-level variables unless they are passed to the function in an argument, or declared with global. I didn’t want to declare a global variable within my template, and passing variables through get_template_part is exceeds the limitations of the WordPress function, so I had to find a different way to make sure my variables were accessible. To get around my problem, I opted to use the WP function locate_template(). locate_template is similar to get_template_part, except locate_template doesn’t return the results of the arguments passed. It does exactly what it sounds like, which is locating templates. From there, I did a simple include to add the template. Here’s what the final result looked like:

include( locate_template( "template-part.php" ) );

It honestly feels a little hack-y to me, but it gets the job done. No more worries about function-level scoping, all the benefits of get_template_part, and a modular website back-end. For more information about how scoping is handled in PHP, check out the documentation here: