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Formating readme.txt for WordPress Plugins 🔫

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I was inspired by Pippin’s post from 2012  about properly formating readme.txt for WordPress plugins and I decided to refresh it a bit. I tried to contribute to the official Plugin Readmes instructions on repository, but the editorial team said to send it over to them, and then they will rewrite the docs themselves. So I started writing on slack but since it just got bigger and bigger, I decided to write this article here instead.

If you’ve already published on or plan to do so, your plugin or theme is required to provide a so-called “readme.txt” text file. This is required because the repository parses it with Markdown language and draws all appropiate information from it, which is then displayed on the public repository. The header of that file also controls all aspects of the title, tagging, author, donate link etc. for your plugin or theme.

This is Pippin’s introduction into the article and for what I can tell, nothing has really changed here. However,  in the old days you had to write the file from scratch or download an existing wp plugin and copy it’s readme. Today, we have more options. We can use the plugin readme generator and put the result through the readme validator to check it.

Below I will share examples for each type of markdown and section.

Adding links

Use markdown syntax to add a link to your readme.txt file, for example:

Tip: Do NOT leave empty space between the ] and (  brackets because it won’t work.

Alternately HTML also works:

Using HTML for links enables you to include other attributes such as target.

Another tip: Be careful with the target attribute because it can mess up the popup window that’s shown within wp-admin when the user clicks on “View Details”.

Adding screenshots

Adding screenshots of your plugin can be done by adding a “Screenshots” section to your readme.txt. Here is an example:

Then you can use SVN to add the images that correspond to each of these descriptions, for example:

Notice that the file type doesn’t matter, only the file name (e.g. screenshot-1 ) is important. That is, the number specified in the screenshot name corresponds to the description number.

Alternately you can use the following syntax if you want to host the images at an external location (i.e., instead of bundling them with your plugin files):

A benefit of this technique is that you can name the image files whatever you want, and change the images quickly without having to update your plugin or use SVN.

Note also that you can include other information in the “Screenshots” section, but it will not be displayed by default at the Plugin Directory. It may be useful for sharing more information to any users who are reading the readme.txt directly.

Display screenshots in browser

If you are including screenshots in your plugin, you may notice that they are downloaded to the user’s browser when clicked from your plugin page. To prevent the download, and instead get the images to display in the browser, run whichever of the following commands applies to your image(s):

These commands set the MIME types for ALL images of type (e.g. .gif .jpg .png), so they will definitely cover all of your screenshots. But you can also target individual images like so:

Etc., so that you apply the mime-type to whichever specific screenshots are desired. After doing so, your screenshots and other images will be displayed in the user’s browser instead of getting downloaded to their local drive.

Adding video

To add a video to your plugin’s readme.txt, you can use the following syntax:

Or simply include the video URL on its own line:

As far as I can tell, this technique uses WP’s oEmbed feature. So the video must be hosted at a supported location. Other options may be available. Check the WP Codex for more information.

Adding Banners & Icons

To add banners and icons, create the following image files:


  • This: (jpg|png) just means that you can create the files in either JPG or PNG format
  • As the path suggests, you want to add these files to your plugin’s assets/ directory
  • You can also add an SVG-format icon if desired

Add popout text

To add a popout text box, precede the text with a right-angle bracket:

That will display the line of text in a light-grey colored box. To box multiple lines, you can do this:

This is useful for making content “pop” on the page.

Adding other images

To add other images elsewhere in the readme/documentation, use <img> tags, for example:

UPDATE: At the time of this edit (21 Aug 2019) Images are not longer supported in the readme file.

Tip: Autoplay GIF’s are not allowed inside WP docs and I’ve also noticed that GIF’s aren’t displayed in the description either. Therefore avoid GIF’s!

Separate plugin name and title

You can have a different name and title for your plugin. Consider the top part of most readme.txt files, they look something like this:

Notice the “Plugin Name” is different than the plugin title (as specified via the top line).. that is the trick to naming your plugin something unique. So in this example, the plugin title will be used when searching for new plugins via the “Add New” screen in the WP Admin Area), while the “Plugin Name” is used to identify the actually installed plugin itself (so it will be used on the Plugins screen to identify your plugin in the list of plugins).

Create Lists

Unordered (bulleted) lists use asterisks, pluses, and hyphens  ( *, + and) as list markers. These three markers are interchangeable; this:

Ordered (numbered) lists use regular numbers, followed by periods, as list markers:

Formatting text

To format text as strong, emphasized, and so forth, use markdown.

Example readme.txt file

This is an example of the readme.txt file feel free to fork it on Github Gist and re-use it.

Final Thoughts

As I get more and more involved in the WordPress community and #polyglots on slack, this article will be used as a starting point to rewrite the Plugin Readmes section in Docs.

Over time I will add more markdown examples and definitely some screenshots. Anyone iTs welcome to comment and share any suggestion or trick that they use for readme.txt

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