Besides the helpful WordPress forums and this Codex, there are many sites dedicated to helping WordPress users use WordPress even better. WordPress help is everywhere. So how do you find it when you really need it?
Before posting in the forums, since it is run by volunteers working hard over long hours when they could be doing something much more constructive, maybe you should start with a search.
To increase your search capabilities, you can add the Codex Searcher Plugin and search the Codex from your WordPress Administration Panels. Click on one of the search results and the page will open in a new window or tab so you can have the article open while working on WordPress.
Searching The Net For WordPress Help
There are a variety of ways to search for the information you need. The biggest problem is finding the “words” that describe your problem. The next biggest problem is limiting your search to only WordPress resources or sites. Let’s look at how to do this.
Search Using Keywords
Sometimes it’s easy to search using keywords because the problem you are having tells you what is wrong with it. Copy the most important words from the error, paste them into a text editor and take a good look at them. Here is an example:
Warning: main(/home/atlantis/public_html/wp-includes/ functions.php): failed to open stream: No such file or directory in /home/stargateatlantis/ public_html/wp-settings.php on line 67 Fatal error: main(): Failed opening required '/home/atlantis/public_html/wp-includes/ functions.php' (include_path='.:/usr/lib/php: /usr/local/lib/php') in /home/stargateatlantis/ public_html/wp-settings.php on line 67
Hidden within this information are the key words you need to help you get the answers.
Opening the files referenced, like functions.php, might help, but other files are often processed long before it gets to functions.php or wp-settings.php and the line number related to the generated file is not necessarily the line number in those template files. It might get you close, but maybe not.
From this error, though, you have some critical information to help you with your search. You know the names of the files that are causing the grief:
These are part of the keywords that you will need to be looking for.
The specific errors are failed to open stream and failed opening required and they both happen within the wp-settings.php file. Maybe the problem isn’t in the functions.php but in the wp-settings.php file? And you see the words “failed” and “open” in both errors. That’s a clue.
Create a search in your favorite search engine that included the words:
wordpress failed open wp-settings.php
This should get you started on narrowing down the problem.
But not all keywords can be so easily found. If the problem is with CSS or HTML, you can include the specific tag or selector that has the problem, but this might not be the problem at all, so you need to hunt for words that describe your problem.
If there is a difference in your web page layout in Microsoft Internet Explorer and another browser, then search for information on Internet Explorer layout bugs. If you have a consistent error in the different browsers in the layout, which part of the layout is it affecting? The sidebar, header, post content, or comments? If the problem is the image in the header not showing up or not working right, then search for wordpress header image to start, then add the specifics like wordpress header image missing to narrow things down.
Brainstorming Search Terms
When really stuck for keywords, you can try brainstorming your keywords. First, write down the problem. Be as descriptive as you want:
I’m having trouble with the nested list in the sidebar of my layout. It isn’t lining up the items under the titles right. It is keeping things on the left margin when I want them to be indented.
Right there, you’ve listed keywords to search with within your description. There are:
- nested list
- left margin
Arrange those in different ways and you have some keywords to search with.
A second method is to talk it out with someone. It doesn’t matter if the person you talk to is a WordPress expert or not, just talking to them will force you to use very simple terms and references, and among those are your keywords. Your friend might respond to your description with:
“Oh, you are trying to change X to B and get the result P. Why didn’t you say so?”
There, you have your search keywords.
Searching Tips and Tricks
Once you have some starting keywords, it’s time to put them to work. Remember, you are not stuck with your starting keywords. They are just that, a start. As you dig into the information, you may replace those words with ones that narrow the field down a little. For example, if you are looking for “wordpress sidebar layout nested links”, you may discover that the problem lies within the specific Theme you are using. Add the name of the theme to your keywords and it may narrow down your search.
Let’s look at some more tips for improving your odds of finding a solution.
Search Engine Site Search
Did you know you can search a specific site from a search engine?
Google Site Search
To search a specific website, like wordpress.org, in the Google search window, type your keyword and end with the site: reference:
keyword1 keyword2 keyword3 site:wordpress.org
Google will search all wordpress.org sites such as www.wordpress.org, wiki.wordpress.org, and codex.wordpress.org.
To narrow down your search to a specific site, like www.wordpress.org’, use the site: reference and type:
keyword keyword keyword site:www.wordpress.org
Google will search only the www.wordpress.org site, which includes the Support Forums, but not the WordPress Codex or Wiki.
Yahoo Site Search
To search a domain or website specifically in Yahoo, their Yahoo’s Advanced Search Page allows searching by domain name directly.
Other Search Engines
Other search engines provide a variety of ways to narrow your search to a specific site. Check with their Advanced Search Options, if they provide them, or at the Search Engine Watch’s Search Command list for details on searching by domain or url.
Use Quotes to Group Keywords
You can group different keywords together to narrow your search. For example, instead of looking for:
sidebar layout nested list left margin indented
You can group key phrases together with quote marks:
sidebar layout "nested list" "left margin" indented
This would limit your search to anything with the words sidebar, layout, and indented, and the phrases “nested list” and “left margin.”
You can also use Boolean references and a technique with plus and minus symbols to group keywords together. There are a lot of options for improving your searching techniques and you can learn more about these:
- Search Engine Watch’s Web Searching Tips
- Tutorial – Guide to Effective Searching of the Internet
- Windweaver’s Seach Yahoo Tips
WordPress Sources for Help
Of course, your best chance of finding WordPress information is to go to the source. The following are the main places to go to get WordPress help and support:
- WordPress Codex – WordPress Online Manual
- WordPress Support Forums
- IRC Freenode WordPress Support on channel #wordpress
- WordPress IRC Live Help
Other Helpful Resources
- Have you tried your favourite search engine yet?
- Search the WordPress Support Forums for the self-hosted version of WordPress, and WordPress.com Support Forum for help on WordPress.com issues. Please read Using the Support Forums and Finding WordPress Help to find out how to search the forums and post a clear, answerable question.
- Learn WordPress is the official WordPress.com tutorial and online video help site. Many tutorials apply to the self-hosted version of WordPress.
- To learn more PHP, the open source package that WordPress is built upon, this article by Net.tutsplus features sources for learning PHP.
- WPBeginner is an unofficial free WordPress resource site with tons of tips, tools, and videos for WordPress beginners.
- Using the Live WordPress Support on the IRC. See: WordPress IRC Live Help and IRC.
- If all else fails, go to the WordPress Trac (bug tracker) and see if your problem has already been addressed by searching the bug database. If you think your problem merits a new bug report, file one.