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Notify Your Theme Users About Updates in their Dashboard

Last Updated on April 19th, 2021

Published on November 4th, 2011


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If you have a WordPress theme on the WordPress.org repository and you update the theme, everyone with your theme installed gets a notification in their dashboard that they can update the theme. But what if you host your themes on your own site – free or commercial ones? Thats where today’s tutorial comes in – I will show you how to add automatic notifications when a new version of your theme is available and direct people how to upgrade from within their dashboard.

Thank you to the following ThemeForest authors who very kindly worked on the code and allowed me to share it , João – Unisphere and Chris – Contempo.

What it Looks Like

As you can see from this image, when an update to your theme is available, a new menu item gets added at the top saying “New Updates” – when the user clicks that they are taken to a page telling them what version update is available. You can then give them instructions on how to do the update and finally underneath is a changelog where you can list the changes each time you make an update available.

How it Works

It’s quite simple, you will need two files – notifier.xml which carries the changelog and latest version of your theme number, you store this on your server and if the version number is higher than the version the user has installed then it triggers the update notification.

The other file is update_notifier.php you include this file within your theme directory and call it from the functions.php file – it points to the xml file on your server.

1. Create Notifier.xml

Save the following code as notifier.xml, enter your current theme version and host it on your website somewhere :

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<h4><strong>v1.0.x</strong> 1/14/2011</h4>
<li>Enter any changes here</li>
<h4><strong>v1.0.x</strong> 1/10/2011</h4>
<li>Enter More Changes Here</li>
<h4><strong>v1.0.x</strong> 1/5/2011</h4>
<li>Enter More Changes Here</li>

2. Create update_notifier.php

Save the following code as update_notifier.php and put the file in your theme directory.


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* Provides a notification everytime the theme is updated
* Original code courtesy of João Araújo of Unisphere Design – https://themeforest.net/user/unisphere

function update_notifier_menu() {
$xml = get_latest_theme_version(21600); // This tells the function to cache the remote call for 21600 seconds (6 hours)
$theme_data = get_theme_data(TEMPLATEPATH . ‘/style.css’); // Get theme data from style.css (current version is what we want)

if(version_compare($theme_data[‘Version’], $xml->latest) == -1) {
add_dashboard_page( $theme_data[‘Name’] . ‘Theme Updates’, $theme_data[‘Name’] . ‘<span class="update-plugins count-1"><span class="update-count">New Updates</span></span>’, ‘administrator’, strtolower($theme_data[‘Name’]) . ‘-updates’, update_notifier);

add_action(‘admin_menu’, ‘update_notifier_menu’);

function update_notifier() {
$xml = get_latest_theme_version(21600); // This tells the function to cache the remote call for 21600 seconds (6 hours)
$theme_data = get_theme_data(TEMPLATEPATH . ‘/style.css’); // Get theme data from style.css (current version is what we want) ?>

.update-nag {display: none;}
#instructions {max-width: 800px;}
h3.title {margin: 30px 0 0 0; padding: 30px 0 0 0; border-top: 1px solid #ddd;}

<div class="wrap">

<div id="icon-tools" class="icon32"></div>
<h2><?php echo $theme_data[‘Name’]; ?> Theme Updates</h2>
<div id="message" class="updated below-h2"><p><strong>There is a new version of the <?php echo $theme_data[‘Name’]; ?> theme available.</strong> You have version <?php echo $theme_data[‘Version’]; ?> installed. Update to version <?php echo $xml->latest; ?>.</p></div>

<img style="float: left; margin: 0 20px 20px 0; border: 1px solid #ddd;" src="<?php echo get_bloginfo( ‘template_url’ ) . ‘/screenshot.png’; ?>" />

<div id="instructions" style="max-width: 800px;">
<h3>Update Download and Instructions</h3>
<p><strong>Please note:</strong> make a <strong>backup</strong> of the Theme inside your WordPress installation folder <strong>/wp-content/themes/<?php echo strtolower($theme_data[‘Name’]); ?>/</strong></p>
<p>To update the Theme, login to your account, head over to your <strong>downloads</strong> section and re-download the theme like you did when you bought it.</p>
<p>Extract the zip’s contents, look for the extracted theme folder, and after you have all the new files upload them using FTP to the <strong>/wp-content/themes/<?php echo strtolower($theme_data[‘Name’]); ?>/</strong> folder overwriting the old ones (this is why it’s important to backup any changes you’ve made to the theme files).</p>
<p>If you didn’t make any changes to the theme files, you are free to overwrite them with the new ones without the risk of losing theme settings, pages, posts, etc, and backwards compatibility is guaranteed.</p>

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<div class="clear"></div>

<h3 class="title">Changelog</h3>
<?php echo $xml->changelog; ?>


<?php }

// This function retrieves a remote xml file on my server to see if there’s a new update
// For performance reasons this function caches the xml content in the database for XX seconds ($interval variable)
function get_latest_theme_version($interval) {
// remote xml file location
$notifier_file_url = ‘https://yoursitehere.com/notifier.xml’;

$db_cache_field = ‘contempo-notifier-cache’;
$db_cache_field_last_updated = ‘contempo-notifier-last-updated’;
$last = get_option( $db_cache_field_last_updated );
$now = time();
// check the cache
if ( !$last || (( $now – $last ) > $interval) ) {
// cache doesn’t exist, or is old, so refresh it
if( function_exists(‘curl_init’) ) { // if cURL is available, use it…
$ch = curl_init($notifier_file_url);
curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_RETURNTRANSFER, true);
curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_HEADER, 0);
curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_TIMEOUT, 10);
$cache = curl_exec($ch);
} else {
$cache = file_get_contents($notifier_file_url); // …if not, use the common file_get_contents()

if ($cache) {
// we got good results
update_option( $db_cache_field, $cache );
update_option( $db_cache_field_last_updated, time() );
// read from the cache file
$notifier_data = get_option( $db_cache_field );
else {
// cache file is fresh enough, so read from it
$notifier_data = get_option( $db_cache_field );

$xml = simplexml_load_string($notifier_data);

return $xml;


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Edit the update_notifier.php file on line 57 and change : https://yourwebsite.com/notifier.xml to the location of your file on your hosting.

3. Include with your functions.php file

The final step is to include the update_notifier.php file in your theme’s functions.php file, so open and add the following line :


I put my file in a directory in the theme folder called “includes” so obviously change that if you put yours in a different location.

And there you have it – a nice easy wasy to keep your users updated about changes to your theme.

Oliver Dale is the founder of Kooc Media, An Internet Company based in Manchester, UK. I founded WPLift in 2010.