I'm checking out how a particular plugin works and noticed that it stores its data for option_value in wp_options in this array format...


I like this method, since it only uses a single row to hold my custom data, uninstall cleanup is easy. Is there a standard way to do a get/set operation on a custom field that results in this syntax?

Update: Thanks to Denis and the others who've added responses.

Here's an excellent tutorial on this method in case anyone else has this question > http://striderweb.com/nerdaphernalia/2008/07/consolidate-options-with-arrays/

3 Answers 3


Just pass an array when updating your option. It will be serialized automatically.

  • Thanks Denis. Here's an excellent tutorial on this method in case anyone else has this question > striderweb.com/nerdaphernalia/2008/07/…
    – Scott B
    Commented Jan 6, 2011 at 16:36
  • Wow - Had no idea. I kept trying to serialize them myself. Commented Jan 6, 2011 at 19:20
  • Is this format specific to WordPress?
    – trusktr
    Commented May 28, 2012 at 20:13
  • Note: You can also pass an object (stdClass for example). When you use get_option you will get the exact object back :)
    – Brian
    Commented Mar 19, 2015 at 19:32
  • @Brian: Actually, it's not stdClass for example. It's only stdClass, else WP will crash on load if the class doesn't exist, the option is set to autoload, and no class autoloader can find the appropriate class. Commented Mar 19, 2015 at 20:09

The serialization is done automatically, but if you want to know how to do this manually the function to look at is called serialize()


As per other answers (un)serialization is performed automatically on more complex data formats (arrays, objects) when options are stored or retrieved. This also applies to transients and other functionality.

Technically this is performed by internal usage maybe_serialize() and maybe_unserialize() functions that try to determine if data needs to be processed or passed as is.

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