I have created a custom template. Now how do I apply my template instead of single.php for posts by default?

I want to do this so that theme upgrade doesn't replace by custom template.

  • 2
    single.php is the default post template, so if you want to apply a template to a post by default... Why not just modify single.php? – Jacob Peattie Jul 1 '18 at 11:43
  • Theme Upgrade Problem. Is it okay if I create a single.php template on my child theme? – Bikram Jul 1 '18 at 11:45
  • 2
    Of course. Why wouldn't it be? – Jacob Peattie Jul 1 '18 at 11:46
  • Thanks. I created my desired template in the name of single.php. – Bikram Jul 2 '18 at 9:44

single.php template customization from a child theme:

If the main theme you're going to upgrade in future is not a child theme itself, then you can create your own child theme and create a single.php template file within the child theme to override the parent theme's single.php. This way future upgrades of the parent theme will not replace your customizations.

What if creating a child theme is not an option?

Say you don't want to create a child theme for some valid reasons or your theme itself is a child theme and you want to upgrade it in the future. As WordPress doesn't support Grand Child theme, you have a couple of options:

1. Using a higher priority template than single.php:

According to WordPress Template Hierarchy, you can use single-{post-type}.php template file to override single.php.

Since you are going to use the new template by default for posts, if you create a new template file and name it single-post.php, then by default all posts will be loaded with this template instead of single.php because of how it's defined in Template Hierarchy of WordPress core.

2. Using a Plugin to override single.php template for posts:

Say even single-post.php is already available in your theme or you suspect it may be added in future upgrades, in that case, the only alternative you have is to add a custom plugin to change this behaviour.

You may use the single_template filter hook to achieve that. Sample plugin CODE:

Plugin Name:  Custom Theme Utility Plugin
Plugin URI:   https://wordpress.stackexchange.com/a/307541/110572
Description:  Overrides single.php template for posts by default
Version:      1.0.0
Author:       Fayaz Ahmed
Author URI:   https://www.fayazmiraz.com/

define( 'WPSE_307430_PLUGIN_TEMPLATE_DIR', plugin_dir_path( __FILE__ ) );

function wpse307430_override_single_template( $template_file, $type, $templates ) { 
    global $post;

    if ( $post->post_type == 'post' ) { 
        $custom_single_template = WPSE_307430_PLUGIN_TEMPLATE_DIR . 'single.php';
        $template_length = strlen( $template_file );
        // To determine if we want to override single.php from plugin
        // Without this check, WordPress template hierarchy will be broken for single posts, we don't want that
        $single_override = $template_length === 0 || substr_compare( $template_file, "single.php", strlen( $template_file ) - 10, 10) === 0;
        if( $single_override && file_exists( $custom_single_template ) ) { 
            $template_file = $custom_single_template;

    return $template_file;
add_filter( 'single_template', 'wpse307430_override_single_template', 10, 3 );

Create this sample plugin file within a directory (for example: /theme-util/theme-util.php) under plugins directory, activate the plugin and keep your custom single.php template file within this plugin directory as /theme-util/single.php.

This way as long as this plugin is active, the single.php template file within this plugin directory will override single.php template file from both a parent theme and a child theme.

| 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.