I need to access a list of all categories for a plugin I'm working on, I know that there is the wp_list_categories template tag for use in themes. What would be the best way of accessing these categories for use in a plugin? Is there a specific function or is it a case of writing a specific query?

Edit: Here's a screenshot which shows the context of how I'm trying to display a list of categories:

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1 Answer 1


The get_categories() function is what you're looking for.

Update: Thanks for the clarifications. Sounds like you're doing the same thing as this question, ie. creating a new taxonomy for attachments. (I'm not sure they get these categories automatically, maybe someone else can clarify.) I haven't played with that functionality yet, but does that other post sound like what you're looking for?

  • Thanks, I think I'm partially trying to get up to speed with what is accepted best practice for using various functions, whether they are appropriate for use only within themes or also within plugins. The wp_dropdown_categories function will render a dropdown menu containing all my categories, but is this an acceptable function to user within a plugin? Aug 20, 2010 at 10:02
  • Sure. Plenty of plugins provide content to widgets, or modify post body content based on a shortcode or filter. You may need to rely on the 'echo' argument to wp_dropdown_categories() depending on how your plugin is written (if it needs to return the html, or output it immediately). Aug 20, 2010 at 10:07
  • Ok, that's good to know. I think it's because I've used private and public (frontend and backend) functions in my custom PHP development before that I just wanted to make sure that there wasn't some specific plugin / backend functions that should be used. wp_dropdown_categories seems to work pretty well for what I want though I think. Aug 20, 2010 at 10:17
  • You can also use wp_dropdown_categories() to retrieve custom taxonomies (in the event you have a different style/set of categories that are used in your plug-in). Pass the name of the taxonomy in the options array indexed as taxonomy ... otherwise the taxonomy defaults to "category."
    – EAMann
    Aug 20, 2010 at 18:24
  • However, do note that when using a taxonomy other than category the option values are names, where as they are numeric IDs when showing categories.
    – t31os
    Dec 2, 2010 at 11:11

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