I am curious as there are three function for loading files in plugins:

plugin_dir_path() and plugins_url(), along with plugin_dir_url() So as a plugin developer, which would you use for loading php files? the main example shows: plugin_dir_path() - but if one were to write an auto loader function, which function would you use?

2 Answers 2


Return values of the three mentioned functions

1. plugin_dir_path( __FILE__ ) returns the servers filesystem directory path pointing to the current file, i.e. something along the lines of

This can be used for loading PHP files.

2. plugins_url() returns the web address of the current WordPress installation's plugin folder, i.e. something along the lines of

3. plugin_dir_url() behaves in a very similar fashion to plugins_url(). It also returns a web address, but with a trailing slash, i.e. something along the lines of

The latter two are useful to load images, stylesheets, JS and the like.


Use-cases as from the main plugin file:

register_activation_hook( __FILE__, 'plugin_prefix_install' );

require_once( plugin_dir_path( __FILE__ ) . '/includes/class-plugin-sometask.php' );

    plugin_dir_url( __FILE__ ) . 'js/your-script.js',

    basename( dirname( __FILE__ ) ) . '/languages/'
  • Please don't pollute the global namespace with new constants! Slow, ugly and not collision-safe – that's anything but elegant.
    – fuxia
    Commented Apr 6, 2013 at 20:33
  • If you say so @toscho, I am willing to believe. And reconsider my approach. Leave this or remove? Commented Apr 6, 2013 at 20:35
  • why with the plugin_dir_path(FILE) does it got to /includes/ ? @JohannesPille
    – TheWebs
    Commented Apr 6, 2013 at 20:38
  • @TheWebs That will point to the absolute filesystem path of the current file it is used in - hence, whether it will give you a subfolder depends on the loacation of the file it was called from. Commented Apr 6, 2013 at 20:40
  • Your examples are good and helpful. Add the functions where their return value is actually used, and it is fine.
    – fuxia
    Commented Apr 6, 2013 at 20:41

plugin_dir_path() is the only one of the three that gives you the local filesystem path, ie: /var/www/site.com/wp-content/plugins/your-plugin/, and would be used for loading php files.

The other two are for retrieving public-facing URLs for loading assets like images, CSS, and JS files, ie: http://site.com/wp-content/plugins/your-plugin/.

This answer explains the difference between plugins_url() and plugin_dir_url().

  • +1, concise. Somewhat redundant, that I answered this as well, but I was halfway there when I got notified things had been done already. Commented Apr 6, 2013 at 20:33
  • Is there a reason to use plugin_dir_path() in code that resides in the plugin? Why not simply use a include like this? include 'lib/options.php' ?
    – user63350
    Commented Sep 7, 2018 at 10:10
  • Answering myself: Yes there is... - To avoid unintentionally including a file in the include path. "Files are included based on the file path given or, if none is given, the include_path specified. If the file isn't found in the include_path, include will finally check in the calling script's own directory and the current working directory before failing." (php.net/manual/en/function.include.php)
    – user63350
    Commented Sep 7, 2018 at 10:28

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