I have a custom post type called "resource" where files are uploaded by admins and made visible to selected subscribers. I'm using Advanced Custom Fields (ACF) to create a field called "visible_to", and this field allows the admin to indicate which subscribers get to see the post. The user name is displayed to admin and you can select 1 subscriber, many, or none for all subscribers to see the post. The selection gets stored as an array of user_id in wp_postmeta table.

enter image description here

In WP-Admin for the custom post type "resource", I'd like to use a similar dropdown list filter for admin to select the user name, click filter, and return a list of posts that are "visible_to" the selection or visible to all. So far I have successfully added a custom column, a dropdown list, and I have a query to return results. But I have 2 problems with my query.

Screenshot of the custom post type, dropdown list filter (All Visible To), and custom column (Visible To):

enter image description here

My code is based on the closest solution I could find here: Filter by custom field in custom post type on admin page

Problem: My problem revolves around my lack of understanding $query and parse_query filter. It is two-fold:

  1. The $query in the code I'm using is pulling in the meta_value for "visible_to", which is an array of ID values. This is not user friendly. I want a list that shows the user name for each subscriber role, just like the first screenshot I posted above.

enter image description here

  1. I've tried changing $query to return user_login from wp_users but I cannot join wp_users to wp_posts. Neither of my $query attempts have an effect on the results. All posts are returned, regardless of the list item selected.

Any help is much appreciated.

My code below.

    add_action('restrict_manage_posts', 'myehs_visible_to_dropdown');
    function myehs_visible_to_dropdown($post_type){
        global $wpdb;

    //Only add dropdown to the appropriate Custom Post Types
        if( $post_type !== 'resource' && $post_type !== 'manual' && $post_type !== 'news')

    //Grab data for the dropdown from the DB
            $query = $wpdb->prepare('
            SELECT DISTINCT pm.meta_value FROM %1$s pm
            LEFT JOIN %2$s p ON p.ID = pm.post_id
            WHERE pm.meta_key = "%3$s" 
            AND p.post_status = "%4$s" 
            AND p.post_type = "%5$s"
            ORDER BY "%3$s"',
            'visible_to', // Meta key
        $results = $wpdb->get_col($query);

    //Ensure there are options to show

    //Get selected option if there is one selected
    if (isset( $_GET['visible'] ) && $_GET['visible'] != '') {
        $selectedName = $_GET['visible'];
    } else {
        $selectedName = -1;

    //Grab all of the options that should be shown
        $options[] = sprintf('<option value="-1">%1$s</option>', __('All Visible To'));
        foreach($results as $result) :
        if ($result == $selectedName) {
        $options[] = sprintf('<option value="%1$s" selected>%2$s</option>', esc_attr($result), $result);
            } else {
                $options[] = sprintf('<option value="%1$s">%2$s</option>', esc_attr($result), $result);

    //Output the dropdown menu
        echo '<select class="" id="visible" name="visible">';
        echo join("\n", $options);
        echo '</select>';


    // Make selected dropdown return results
        add_filter( 'parse_query', 'myehs_filter_by_visible_to' );
        function  myehs_filter_by_visible_to($query) {
        global $pagenow;
        $current_page = isset( $_GET['post_type'] ) ? $_GET['post_type'] : '';
            // If we are in Admin and on the right post type and dropdown selection is made
            if ( is_admin() && 
                $pagenow == 'edit.php' && 
                $current_page == array('resource','manual','news')  && 
                isset( $_GET['visible'] ) && $_GET['visible'] !='' &&
                // Return only posts where visible to matches the selection
                    $query->query_vars['meta_key'] = 'visible_to'; 
                    $query->query_vars['meta_value'] = $_GET['visible'];
                    $query->query_vars['meta_compare'] = '=';
  • Trying to figure out the logic from your code. You have CPT with meta value for user ids (it can be single, multiple or empty - for everyone). You want to filter posts by user id. Isn't it easier to populate a dropdown from just users table? Just users with subscriber role. Right now I see an arrays with user ids in your dropdown. If you will have 10000 posts, you will need to work with 10000 arrays to pull unique user ids again and again. Or you want to filter posts by multiple user ids?
    – anton
    May 16, 2021 at 8:56
  • If you're the same Matthew that proposed the edit as asked the question in the first place, you should probably merge your two accounts so your new account owns the question.)
    – Rup
    May 31, 2021 at 18:13


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