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tl;dr: Contact Form 7's shortcode doesn't work in an AJAX request when called with do_shortcode


add_action('wp_ajax_ps_get_survey_form', 'ps_get_survey_form');
add_action('wp_ajax_nopriv_ps_get_survey_form', 'ps_get_survey_form');

function ps_get_survey_form() {
    echo do_shortcode( '[contact-form-7 id="397" title="Contact form 1"]' );



        href: ajaxurl,
        ajax: {
            type : "POST",
            data : {action: 'ps_get_survey_form'}


echo do_shortcode( '[contact-form-7 id="397" title="Contact form 1"]' )

returns the shortcode string itself. It works fine if I put it in a template.

Try as I might (ludicrous things like wrapping it in a post/applying the_content filter, manually firing various actions that CF7 hooks into, etc) it refuses to translate itself into a form.

How do I debug this?


@Kaiser sensibly suggests that I don't have access to do_shortcode. I tried to check this, with the following result:

function ps_get_survey_form() {

    //include( ABSPATH . 'wp-includes/shortcodes.php' ); 
    //Causes fatal error: cannot redeclare add_shortcode

    if ( function_exists( 'do_shortcode ' ) )  {
        echo "do_shortcode exists";
    } else {
        echo "do_shortcode doesn't exist";  // this gets echoed

    do_shortcode( 'foo' );      // this fails silently, even though the function apparently hasn't been defined
    //foo();                    // Causes fatal error as expected

    //echo do_shortcode( '[contact-form-7 id="397" title="contact form 1"]' );
share|improve this question
Maybe because the shortcode function hasn't been registered yet at that point? –  onetrickpony May 25 '12 at 17:10
@OneTrickPony - I agree that seems likely. The question is, how can I cause it to be registered (if you see what I mean)? –  djb May 26 '12 at 10:56
Just handle the ajax request yourself in the "wp" or "init" action. WP's admin-ajax was designed to be used in the administration area anyway –  onetrickpony May 26 '12 at 12:05
@OneTrickPony, thanks. that works. will post working code above for posterity. –  djb May 26 '12 at 13:54
Last time I looked through Contact Form 7, they didn't use the build in shortcode API, opting to role their own instead. Worth checking out. –  chrisguitarguy Jul 31 '12 at 18:47

2 Answers 2

WP Ajax runs both public as well as closed calls via admin.php. This means that you don't have access to the whole wp environment, such as do_shortcode(), which is inside /wp-includes/shortcodes.php.

share|improve this answer
thanks! but see edits, above –  djb May 26 '12 at 11:13
@djb Please add your solution not to the question, but as a new answer and mark it then as solution. Thanks. –  kaiser May 27 '12 at 15:35
will do. can you shed any light on the function_exists mystery? –  djb May 28 '12 at 9:50
@djb I could. But I'd need to have a full working ajax example (pastebin?), so I can dig into it. Else I don't have enough time. :) –  kaiser May 29 '12 at 0:38
up vote 2 down vote accepted

The answer is to sidestep admin-ajax restrictions by handling it yourself, as @OneTrickPony suggests.

add_action( 'init', function() { 
  ps_register_shortcode_ajax( 'ps_get_survey_form', 'ps_get_survey_form' ); 
} );

function ps_register_shortcode_ajax( $callable, $action ) {

  if ( empty( $_POST['action'] ) || $_POST['action'] != $action )

  call_user_func( $callable );

function ps_get_survey_form() {
    echo do_shortcode( '[contact-form-7 id="397" title="contact form 1"]' );
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