I'm trying to find away to retrive a dynamic sidebar from one blog and print it on another blog in the same install of Wordpress Multisite. I have tried


But nothing is returned.

I also tired to retrive the sidebar through get_blog_option($blog_id, 'sidebar_widgets') but I was only able to retrive an array identify what widgets were used by the sidebar, but I couldn't find away to process the array into a sidebar.

5 Answers 5


Unfortunately, the switch_to_blog() method isn't going to work for this purpose. switch_to_blog() is really only a partial switch - it makes some modifications to $wpdb that help with database queries. But it's not a complete switch in the way you might imagine.

In particular, dynamic_sidebar() depends on global called $wp_registered_sidebars. This global is populated by register_sidebar(), which is generally called from a theme file like functions.php. But functions.php, and the rest of the theme setup process, is not re-run by switch_to_blog(). That is to say: if you're running Twenty Eleven on the current blog, it'll register its own sidebars during startup; using switch_to_blog() to a blog running Twenty Ten will not tell Twenty Ten to set up its sidebars. You could try forcing it (by loading the switched-blog's functions.php manually) but this is almost certain to lead to disaster, due to issues with duplicate function names, load order, etc etc etc.

You might try a somewhat different tack: On the blog with the sidebar that you want, build a function that will print the contents of the sidebar into the output buffer, and then before printing it to the screen, stash it in a site_option. Then you can grab the sidebar (or a static version of it, at least) from any site on the network. This won't work if you absolutely need a totally dynamic sidebar, but for most purposes you probably don't.

Another method (which may be easier) is to render the sidebar with a function in an mu-plugins file or something like that, and then call the function manually in your themes (or hook it to a common sidebar hook). It might take some work to abstract the content out of the WP_Widget architecture, but on the other hand it would be a truly dynamic solution to the problem at hand.

  • Thanks those other two methods sound like great ideas, I was already thinking about try the first one, but could you flesh out the second Idea a bit. I think I was trying to do something like this by using get_blog_option('1','sidebars_widgets'); to get a list of widgets but I couldn't find anyway to process the data into a sidebar. Commented Apr 20, 2012 at 19:39
  • I think it's going to be more trouble than it's worth to stick with WP's actual widget infrastructure. Instead, abstract the widget markup/PHP into a separate function, which you will then call directly in a template file (or hook to an appropriate action). Commented Apr 20, 2012 at 20:00

Ran into the same problem and kind of figured out a solution. What i'm doing is the following:

1.) Whenever something is changed on blog 1's sidebar, save an array of those widgets and their settings as a sitewide transient, that outdates after 24 hours.

2.) On all child-blogs, put some code into sidebar.php that grabs this sitewide transient and displays the widgets.

Sounds pretty easy, but was very hard to figure out … and still is far from perfect.

Let's dig into some Code:

function antwortzeit_cache_widgets() {
    if ( false === ( $widgets = get_site_transient( 'antwortzeit_widgets' ) ) ) {
        global $wp_registered_sidebars, $wp_registered_widgets;

        foreach ( (array) $wp_registered_sidebars as $key => $value ) {
            if ( sanitize_title($value['name']) == sanitize_title('Breite Spalte') ) {
                $index = $key;

        $sidebars_widgets = wp_get_sidebars_widgets();
        if ( empty( $sidebars_widgets ) )
            return false;

        if ( empty($wp_registered_sidebars[$index]) || !array_key_exists($index, $sidebars_widgets) || !is_array($sidebars_widgets[$index]) || empty($sidebars_widgets[$index]) )
            return false;

        $sidebar = $wp_registered_sidebars[$index];
        foreach ( (array) $sidebars_widgets[$index] as $id ) {
            if ( !isset($wp_registered_widgets[$id]) ) continue;

            $params = array_merge(
                array( array_merge( $sidebar, array('widget_id' => $id, 'widget_name' => $wp_registered_widgets[$id]['name']) ) ),
                (array) $wp_registered_widgets[$id]['params']

            // Substitute HTML id and class attributes into before_widget
            $classname_ = '';
            foreach ( (array) $wp_registered_widgets[$id]['classname'] as $cn ) {
                if ( is_string($cn) )
                    $classname_ .= '_' . $cn;
                elseif ( is_object($cn) )
                    $classname_ .= '_' . get_class($cn);
            $classname_ = ltrim($classname_, '_');
            $params[0]['before_widget'] = sprintf($params[0]['before_widget'], $id, $classname_);

            $params = apply_filters( 'dynamic_sidebar_params', $params );

            $widgets[] = array(
                'callback'  => $wp_registered_widgets[$id]['callback'],
                'base'      => $wp_registered_widgets[$id]['callback'][0]->id_base,
                'id'        => $wp_registered_widgets[$id]['callback'][0]->id,
                'params'    => $params,
        set_site_transient( 'antwortzeit_widgets', $widgets, 60 * 60 * 24 );
add_action( 'init', 'antwortzeit_cache_widgets');

This belongs into blog 1's functions.php (or better, a plugin alltogether) and saves the widgets into the bespoke transient every 24 hours.

function antwortzeit_widgetbruecke( $instance, $new_instance ) {
    return $instance;
add_filter( 'widget_update_callback', 'antwortzeit_widgetbruecke', 10, 2 );

This also belongs into blog 1's functions.php and renews the transient every time the widgets are updated.

And finally for the other blogs drop into sidebar.php:

global $blog_id;

if($blog_id !== 1) {
    $widgets = get_site_transient( 'antwortzeit_widgets' );
    if($widgets) :
        foreach($widgets as $widget) :
        if ( is_callable($widget['callback']) ) {
            call_user_func_array($widget['callback'], $widget['params']);

Hope, this can help somebody out. If one has any improvements, they'll be very welcome.


Make sure you have the exact same sidebars registration code running on both sites during widgets_init. That should populate $wp_registered_sidebars and solve the problem that Boone highlighted. Haven't tried this myself.


This 'might' point you in the right direction.

Xtreme One - Theme Framework - http://marketpress.com/product/xtreme/

Check the video - http://vimeo.com/52479425

Basic concept is when adding a sidebar to a network site, you can also assign it as a global sidebar.

  • Interesting, I wonder how he is doing it. Probably modified widget_update_callback to check and see if its global and then executing a query to add it to all child blogs of the current site. Commented May 25, 2012 at 19:44

Are you using global $switched;?

global $switched;
  • The $switched global is called from within switch_to_blog(). You don't need to declare it in the global namespace. Commented Apr 6, 2012 at 17:58
  • Good to know. I'm using an outdated WPMU method. So is it just sidebars you're not able to access? What about menus? Commented Apr 6, 2012 at 18:02
  • I would need to test it, but I'm guessing that menus might work in a switch_to_blog() context, because they don't need to be registered by the theme before being called (the registration data is stored in the database). Commented Apr 6, 2012 at 19:41
  • I can confirm that menus work. See what the result of using is_active_sidebar($sidebar_name) is. Commented Apr 6, 2012 at 19:46

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