I have a wordpress site (still in development on my localhost, sorry I can't provide a link) that provides definitions and explanations for common 6th grade math concepts. The main part of the site is a concept map or web, but my boss also wants us to provide a functionality to browse the terms alphabetically, like a dictionary or index.

So what she wants is commonly available on the web: All the terms that start with A listed under 'A', all the terms that start with B listed under 'B', etc. I can retrieve all the terms from the database and sort them, but I am unsure of the best way to display them.

Example: The web page should look like this:

• apple
• artichoke
• avocado

• banana
• blueberry

I am thinking that I could build the HTML framework, and within each letter's div query the database for all the terms that start with that letter. Like this (in psuedocode):

<div id='a-section'>
<?php $terms=$wpdb->get_results("all terms that start with A");
      foreach( $terms as $term ) {  ?>
          <a link-to-definition><?php echo $term ?></a>
      <?php } ?>
<div id='b-section'>

For this, I would need 26 queries to the database, so I am thinking this method would be fairly inefficient. Can I do better? What if I retrieved all the terms in one query, sorted them alphabetically, and looked at the first letter of each term? Would that work? It seems a while( "a" == first-letter-of-$term ) may not work inside the foreach( $results as $term ), since the foreach loop will only execute once for each $term. But I don't really want to write 26 (27, actually, since some terms start with numerals) if( "a" == first-letter-of-$term ) statements inside the foreach loop.

I hope I've explained this dilemma clearly. Can anyone suggest how I should proceed? I would think someone has done something like this, but google didn't help me find any answers. Thanks in advance.

  • 2
    This answer on another question deals with a similar issue, but with posts instead of terms. wordpress.stackexchange.com/questions/98582/… The main code to look at is the $glossary_letter != $term_letter which is where you print the next starting letter before listing the terms that start with that letter – czerspalace Oct 31 '16 at 18:35
  • much depends on where the terms are coming from. Seems obvious, though, that a PHP sort of the results of a single query (likely some kind of array) will be much more efficient than multiple db queries sorted via a nested foreach... so something like a) sort array by value for first letter; b) foreach with new heading each time value !== prior value, c) other details. – CK MacLeod Oct 31 '16 at 19:19

The comment from @czerspalace put me on the right track to doing what I needed. Since the first few terms start with numbers, this is how I implemented my solution:

// get results from $wpdb in object called $links
$glossary_ltr = "999";
foreach( $links as $link ) {
    $kw_ltr = substr( $link->keyword, 0, 1 ); // get first letter
    if( $glossary_ltr != $kw_ltr ) { 
        if( $kw_ltr > $glossary_ltr ) {
            // code to transition to new letter
            $glossary_ltr = $kw_ltr;
    } // if letters are different
    // print out term
    echo "<a onclick='openTerm(/* term data */)'>". $link->keyword . "</a><br>";
} // foreach

Hope this helps someone else!

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.