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How to Customize the WordPress ToolBar

Craig Buckler


This article is part of a series created in partnership with SiteGround. Thank you for supporting the partners who make SitePoint possible.

I have a love/hate affair with the dark grey toolbar introduced in WordPress 3.3. (It was previously named the Admin Bar in WordPress 3.1 and that name stuck for many — including the API authors!). Looking at the positives, the toolbar provides a consistent set of quick links when you’re viewing the administration panels or the live website. That said, it can cause problems when creating themes or confuse site editors who think everyone can see it.

WordPress toolbar

Fortunately, it’s easy to change the toolbar. We’re going to achieve it using a custom WordPress plugin, but you could also consider adding identical code to your theme’s functions.php file.

The WordPress Admin Bar API

The WP_Admin_Bar class provides the following methods:

  • add_node() — creates a new menu item (or child menu item) on the toolbar
  • remove_node() — remove a menu item from the toolbar
  • add_group() — allows toolbar items to be grouped into distinct sections
  • get_node() — returns a Toolbar object with the properties of a single toolbar item.

We’re going to use add_node() and remove_node() in our new plugin…

Create a New Plugin

Create a new file in the WordPress wp-content/plugins/ folder named admin-bar.php then add the following plugin header:

Plugin Name: Admin Bar
Plugin URI: https://www.sitepoint.com/
Description: Modifies the WordPress admin bar
Version: 1.0
Author: Craig Buckler
Author URI: http://twitter.com/craigbuckler
License: MIT

You can now activate this plugin in the WordPress administration panel. It won’t do anything yet but you can make additions, save then refresh to view the updates.

WordPress activate plugin

Remove the Entire Toolbar

Add the following line to the plugin code to remove the toolbar:

// remove admin bar
add_filter('show_admin_bar', '__return_false');

Save then refresh to check that it’s gone!

Remove Toolbar Items

Presuming you haven’t removed the toolbar, you can remove existing items with the remove_node() method. For this, we need to create a new function named update_adminbar() which is passed an WP_Admin_Bar object ($wp_adminbar). This function is called when the admin_bar_menu action hook is activated:

// update toolbar
function update_adminbar($wp_adminbar) {

  // remove unnecessary items


// admin_bar_menu hook
add_action('admin_bar_menu', 'update_adminbar', 999);

In this example we’re removing the:

  • the “About WordPress” menu which is rarely necessary for post editors
  • the “Customize” theme editor, and
  • the “Comments” link (perhaps because we’ve disabled comments).

Save admin-bar.php then refresh to verify it worked.

remove WordPress toolbar items

You can remove any item by passing its ID to the remove_node() method. The ID can be found in the HTML source:

WordPress toolbar item IDs

Find the HTML ID then remove “wp-admin-bar-” from the start of the string to give you the toolbar menu ID name.

Add New Toolbar Items

The add_action() hook we called above sets a priority of 999. Any new menus we define in update_adminbar() will appear at the right-hand end of the toolbar after all other items. You can set a lower priority to use a different position. The WordPress logo has a priority of 10 with each additional toolbar item adding another 10 to that total. Therefore, using a priority of 11 would add items to the right of the WordPress logo, e.g.

add_action('admin_bar_menu', 'update_adminbar', 11);

We’ll leave the priority at 999 because we’re removing items which have to be added before we can remove them!

Next, we’ll add two new menu items which link to the SitePoint home page and the SitePoint Community Forums. The add_node() method accepts an associative array which defines a single toolbar item:

  • id — the toolbar item ID (required)
  • title — the toolbar item text. HTML tags are also permitted.
  • parent — the ID of the parent node (if the item is part of a sub-menu)
  • href — the link href attribute
  • group — makes the node a group (boolean). Group nodes are not visible in the toolbar, but nodes added to it are.
  • meta — an array of further link attributes: class, rel, onclick, target, title and tabindex. A special html value can set the HTML used for the node.

We can therefore add the SitePoint main menu and Forum sub-menu item in our plugin’s update_adminbar() function:

// update toolbar
function update_adminbar($wp_adminbar) {

  // remove unnecessary items

  // add SitePoint menu item
    'id' => 'sitepoint',
    'title' => 'SitePoint',
    'href' => 'https://www.sitepoint.com/',
    'meta' => [
      'target' => 'sitepoint'

  // add Forum sub-menu item
    'id' => 'spforum',
    'title' => 'Forum',
    'parent' => 'sitepoint',
    'href' => 'https://www.sitepoint.com/community/',
    'meta' => [
      'target' => 'sitepoint'


// admin_bar_menu hook
add_action('admin_bar_menu', 'update_adminbar', 999);

Note: [] declares an array in PHP 5.4 and above. If you’re using a previous version, replace it with array().

Save admin-bar.php then refresh to see the new toolbar:

Customized WordPress Toolbar

You should now be able to create the perfect WordPress toolbar for every project!