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According to the Codex docs, wordpress uses the query string and the template hierarchy to determine which template to use for a certain 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...

However, using Dashboard settings, you can hand pick templates for pages:

screenshot of dashboard page attributes

So, in this case, how does the Wordpress engine determine this, and where is the information stored?

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up vote 1 down vote accepted

It's stored in post meta under the key _wp_page_template.

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And that is so obvious I feel stupid for not finding it myself. Thanks! –  george Jan 9 '12 at 20:36
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