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I have my own "Recent Posts" menu, but its not currently implemented as a Widget. I'm just including it in sidebar.php.

I had to "roll my own" so to speak in order to filter the menu of certain categories whose posts I don't want to appear in the menu.

Would it be possible, via functions.php, to filter the default "Recent Posts: widget's menu items in order to exclude posts belonging to a specific category?

If so, I'd really be grateful for an example.

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Unfortunately there is no filter for WP_Query args in WP_Widget_Recent_Posts class, so it's impossible. I think there are plugins for recent post that have category filtering option - http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/tags/recent-posts

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Thanks Mamaduka. I believe that my approach will then need to be to clone the recent posts widget and create my own version of it. I've posted a new question with that in mind. –  N2Mystic Oct 3 '11 at 15:53

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