When we create or edit a post in WordPress, we have two content editors to choose from: the TinyMCE visual editor and the WordPress text editor. The latter consists of a text area element enhanced by buttons providing a quick way to inject HTML code into post content.

Users can easily switch from visual to text mode by clicking on the upper right labels. WordPress will preserve the post content, but TinyMCE would convert special characters into the corresponding HTML entities. For this reason, you may prefer

Recommended reading:

Diving Into the New Gutenberg WordPress Editor (Pros and Cons)

What’s New in WordPress 5.0 (How to Prepare for Gutenberg)

The text editor shows exactly the HTML structure of the post content, and it grants complete control over user input, so this post is all about WordPress text editor. First, we will dive into the topic from a developer perspective: we’ll look at the Quicktags JS API, the quicktags_settings filter, and the wp_editor() function.

The final section of this post is dedicated to non-developers. I will present you with a plugin that allows users to configure the text editor from the WordPress admin panel quickly.

Visual and text editors compared
Visual and text editors compared.

WordPress Text Editor

Either if you’re used to adding a lot of code into your posts, or you like to preview the exact HTML structure of your content, you may prefer the barebones text editor to the ease of use of the advanced visual editor.

However, the text editor is not just a form element. The editor toolbar provides a set of buttons (called quicktags) that allow users to quickly inject a good number of tags into the HTML post structure.

By default, WordPress provides the following quicktags:

  • a
  • strong
  • code
  • del
  • em
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • img
  • blockquote
  • ins
  • fullscreen
  • lookup
  • close
The image shows the default buttons of WordPress text editor
The image shows the default buttons of the WordPress text editor

Default settings can be overridden thanks to the Quicktags API. A JavaScript API provides an easy way to add custom buttons and inject code and content into the editor textarea.
The QTags.addButton method adds a button to the toolbar and is defined as follows:

	instance );

This method keeps the following parameters:

  • id (string) (required) is the HTML id for the button;
  • display (string) (required) is the HTML value;
  • arg1 (string) (required) is the opening tag to be included or a custom callback function to be run when the button is clicked;
  • arg2 (string) (optional) is the closing tag;
  • access_key (string) (optional) is a shortcut key for the button;
  • title (string) (optional) is the HTML title;
  • priority (int) (optional) is a number representing the position of the button in the toolbar;
  • instance (string) (optional) limits the button to a specific instance of Quicktags.

Now let’s suppose we’d want to add the tags required by a syntax highlighter like Prism, and we’d like to provide the editor toolbar with buttons that prints the following markup:

<pre><code class="language-php"></code></pre>
<pre><code class="language-css"></code></pre>
<pre><code class="language-html"></code></pre>

To accomplish this task, we need to add the following code to the main file of a plugin:

function my_quicktags() {
	if ( wp_script_is( 'quicktags' ) ) {
	<script type="text/javascript">
	QTags.addButton( 'eg_php', 'PHP', '<pre><code class=\"language-php\">', '</code></pre>', 'p', 'PHP Code', 100 );
	QTags.addButton( 'eg_css', 'CSS', '<pre><code class=\"language-css\">', '</code></pre>', 'q', 'CSS Code', 100 );
	QTags.addButton( 'eg_html', 'HTML', '<pre><code class=\"language-html\">', '</code></pre>', 'r', 'HTML Code', 100 );
add_action( 'admin_print_footer_scripts', 'my_quicktags' );

admin_print_footer_scripts is an action hook used to print scripts in the admin page’s footer. The callback function checks whether the quicktags script is in use, then prints the JS code.
This script adds three more buttons to any instance of the Quicktags in the admin panel, as shown in the image below.

The image shows our new custom buttons
The image shows our new custom buttons.

Adding buttons to the editor toolbar is relatively straightforward, but we can do more with the Quicktags API. For example, we can pass the QTags.addButton method a callback function to run when the user clicks on the corresponding button. Consider the following code:

function custom_quicktags() {

	if ( wp_script_is( 'quicktags' ) ) {
	<script type="text/javascript">
	QTags.addButton( 'eg_callback', 'CSS div', css_callback );

	function css_callback(){
		var css_class = prompt( 'Class name:', '' );

		if ( css_class && css_class !== '' ) {
			QTags.insertContent('<div class="' + css_class +'"></div>');
add_action( 'admin_print_footer_scripts', 'custom_quicktags' );

css_callback is a custom JS function to run when the user clicks on the custom button. In our example, the function prompts an input box to allow users to set a class name for a div element.
The QTags.insertContent method will print the specified string into the editor textarea.

The callback function of our example prompts an input box to allow users to set a class name
The callback function of our example prompts an input box that allows users to set a class name.

So far, we’ve been adding quicktags to the WordPress editor in admin pages thanks to the admin_print_footer_scripts action. If you’d have any editor instances in the site frontend, you should hook the callback function to the wp_print_footer_scripts action instead.

Anyway, in production, you should consider enqueueing your JavaScript files to WordPress registered scripts, as explained in How to Enqueue your Assets in WordPress. A helpful tool to build custom quicktags is the Quicktags Generator by GenerateWP.

Overriding Quicktags Settings

The Quicktags API provides a method to add new buttons to the toolbar. WordPress allows us to remove buttons as well, thanks to the quicktags_settings filter.

function my_quicktags( $qtInit, $editor_id = 'content' ) {
	$qtInit['buttons'] = 'strong,em,link,block,del,ins,img,ul,ol,li,code,more,close';
	return $qtInit;
add_filter( 'quicktags_settings', 'my_quicktags', 10, 2 );

The callback function keeps two arguments: $qtInit is an array of settings, and $editor_id is the editor’s unique ID. In our example, $editor_id defaults to ‘content’ — the ID of the editor textarea in editing post pages.

Note that tag names in the quicktag list are separated by commas not followed by blank spaces.

This function will override default settings and can be used to remove all buttons from the toolbar as well:

function my_quicktags( $qtInit, $editor_id = 'content' ) {
	$qtInit['buttons'] = ',';
	return $qtInit;
add_filter( 'quicktags_settings', 'my_quicktags', 10, 2 );

We’ve assigned a comma as a value for the ‘buttons’ element of the $qtInit array. An empty string won’t work as expected, and default settings won’t be overridden.

Including the WordPress Editor Into Front Pages

Available from version 3.3, the wp_editor function provides an easy way to include the WordPress editors anywhere on the site.

The function is defined in wp-includes/general-template.php file as follows:

wp_editor( $content, $editor_id, $settings = array() );
  • $content (string) (required) sets the initial content of the editor;
  • $editor_id (string) (required) sets the id attribute for the textarea and TinyMCE editor (can only contain lowercase letters and underscores);
  • $settings (array) (optional) an array of arguments.

The array of arguments allows setting a lot of configuration parameters for both editors. A specific argument can pass settings directly to Quicktags (see the full list of arguments in the Codex).

As an example, you may want to include the editor in a page template. Consider the following example:

$content = '';
	$editor_id = 'mycustomeditor';
	$settings = array( 
		'wpautop' => false, 
		'media_buttons' => false, 
		'quicktags' => array(
				'buttons' => 'strong,em,del,ul,ol,li,block,close'
wp_editor( $content, $editor_id, $settings );

These few lines of code print an empty editor with the id of ‘myeditor’ and the specified buttons into the text editor’s toolbar.

  • The wpautop argument is set to false so that the <p> elements will be used to wrap paragraphs into the editor.
  • The media_buttons argument is set to false so that the user can’t upload media files.
  • The quicktags array determines the buttons to show in the text editor toolbar.

For the WordPress text editor, the main difference between the wp_editor() function and the quicktags_settings filter is that the function applies to a specific instance of the editor. You can use it to include new editors anywhere on the site (like page templates), while the quicktags_settings filter filters all existing instances and can’t be used to generate new editor instances.

The complete code of the examples above is available on Gist.

Enhancing WordPress Text Editor With AddQuicktag Plugin

If you need a tool to add buttons to the WordPress text editor quickly, AddQuicktag is the plugin for you.

AddQuicktag is a free plugin that allows users to add custom button to the WordPress text editor
AddQuicktag allows users to add custom buttons to the WordPress text editor.

The plugin provides an option page accessible from the Settings menu. On this page, the admin user can add custom buttons and remove existing buttons.

AddQuicktag allows configuring the editor specifically for posts, pages, and other editor-enabled textareas (comments, text widgets, and so on).

The plugin adds Quicktags to the visual editor, as well. Just check to »Visual» option, and the visual editor will show a Quicktags pulldown menu with your custom buttons.

The second section of the AddQuicktag option page is dedicated to built-in quicktags configuration. In this section, it’s possible to remove buttons in specific textareas.

Three buttons have been removed from the editing pages text editor
Three buttons have been removed from the editing pages text editor

The final section provides additional functionalities to the editor toolbar. The first row of options enhances the default code button, providing a select menu that sets a CSS class for the code tag depending on the selected language.

The second row provides two buttons that encode and decode special chars (htmlentities).

Advanced AddQuicktag features
Advanced AddQuicktag features


If you are a developer, you may find it helpful to add a theme or plugin-specific features to WordPress editors. The Quicktags API and many filters and functions provide valuable tools to add value to our products. And if you’re not a developer, you can configure WordPress editors as well, thanks to several plugins available for free in the WordPress Plugin Directory, like the AddQuicktag plugin presented in this post.

Do you have any other ideas about valuable features to add to the WordPress text editor?

Carlo Daniele Kinsta

Carlo is a passionate lover of webdesign and front-end development. He has been playing with WordPress for more than 20 years, also in collaboration with Italian and European universities and educational institutions. He has written hundreds of articles and guides about WordPress, published both on Italian and international websites, as well as on printed magazines. You can find him on LinkedIn.