I'm building a custom theme for in-house use only. I started by putting a lot of the core functions in plugins, but then that seemed silly since they don't require any user interaction.

Next, I put all of my classes in different php files in my theme folder and include them all in functions.php.

Is there a better way to do this?

  • Why don't you use an auto-loader? – fuxia Jan 26 '16 at 19:52

As @toscho mentioned in his comment, your best bet is probably an autoloader of some sort...

foreach ( glob( plugin_dir_path( __FILE__ ) . "subfolder/*.php" ) as $file ) {
    include_once $file;

There are plugins that do this kind of thing or possilby something like code snippets, but I'll add some examples below...

Example for basic functions in separate files in a plugin:

This example lets you easily add and remove features using theme-support. so basically in your functions.php you can this....

add_theme_support( feature-one );
add_theme_support( feature-two );
add_theme_support( feature-three );

Create a basic plugin with the following structure:

    ├── plugin-name.php
    ├── features/feature-one.php
    ├── features/feature-two.php
    ├── features/feature-three.php
    └── features/feature-four.php

Inside plugin-name.php include this code:

Plugin Name:        My Themename Addons
Plugin URI:         https://example.com/
Description:        Add Themename support
Version:            1.0.0
Author:             bryanwillis
Author URI:         https://github.com/bryanwillis/
License:            MIT License
License URI:        http://opensource.org/licenses/MIT

function mytheme_autoload_files() {
  global $_wp_theme_features;
  foreach (glob(__DIR__ . '/theme-support/*.php') as $file) {
    $feature = 'mytheme-' . basename($file, '.php');
    if (isset($_wp_theme_features[$feature])) {
      require_once $file;
add_action('after_setup_theme', 'mytheme_autoload_files', 100);

Second Example with functions in separate folders (like entire plugins):

This example doesn't have the option to remove features on the fly, but it automatically loads everything...

  1. Add a folder in your theme called theme-plugins.
  2. Create a file called autoloader.php inside theme-plugins folder with the below code and use include/require/etc. in your functions.php to include it ( you could also make this it's own plugin).
  3. Drop your plugins inside the theme-plugins folder to autoload them ( plugins must have the same folder name as file name.

Folder structure:

 └── theme-plugins/
    ├── autoloader.php
    ├── plugin-one/plugin-one.php
    ├── plugin-two/plugin-two.php
    ├── plugin-three/plugin-three.php
    └── plugin-foo/plugin-foo.php

Code for autoloader.php:

 * Autoloader - theme-plugins/autoloader.php
 function themename_plugins_autoloader() {
    $plugins_dirs =  = array_filter( scandir() );
    $non_dirs = array(
    for( $i = 0; $i < count( $non_dirs ); $i++ ) {
        $not_dir_key = array_search( $non_dirs[ $i ], $$autoload_plugin_dirs );
        if( $not_dir_key !== false ) {
            unset( $$autoload_plugin_dirs[ $not_dir_key ] );
        unset( $not_dir_key );
    unset( $non_dirs );
    if( empty( $$autoload_plugin_dirs ) ) {
    sort( $$autoload_plugin_dirs );
    foreach( $$autoload_plugin_dirs as $dir ) {
        $plugin_dir = plugin_dir_path( __FILE__ ) . $dir;
        $plugin_file = trailingslashit( $plugin_dir ) . $dir . '.php';
        if( is_dir( $plugin_dir ) && file_exists( $plugin_file ) ) {
            require_once( $plugin_file );
        unset( $plugin_file, $plugin_dir );
| improve this answer | |
  • This is amazing. Thanks so much. I can't wait to give it a try. – ibhhvc Jan 27 '16 at 23:13

I store core functions in a parent theme, then load site-specific functions to a child theme.


  1. Decluttering the (child) theme with code that hardly ever changes per in-house preferences.
  2. Ability to push new core functionality to many installations by simply updating the parent theme.
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