Automatic Updates For Private And Commercial Themes

Update 2017-06-20: This library has been deprecated. Please use PUC instead. It’s more current and it supports both themes and plugins.

This is a PHP library that lets you add automatic update notifications and single-click updates to any WordPress theme. It’s purpose is to be easy to integrate for developers and to provide a familiar experience to theme users. From the users’ point of view, update notifications generated by this library will look and function just like those displayed by WP itself.

Dashboard screenshot

An update notification for a theme not hosted on



This library is licensed under the GPL and is distributed free of charge. If you find it useful, consider making a donation. Commercial licensing (e.g. for projects that can’t use an open-source license) is available upon request.

Quick-Start Guide

There are two things you will need to do:

  1. Create a publicly accessible “metadata file” that describes the latest version of your theme.
  2. Add the update checker to your theme and tell it where to find that file.

First, the metadata file. Open your favourite text editor and copy the following JSON code into a new file:

  "version" : "2.0",
  "details_url" : "",
  "download_url" : ""

Replace the placeholder values with your own data. As you can probably guess, version is the version number of your theme. details_url specifies the page that the user will see if they click the “View version 1.2.3 details” link in an update notification. Set this field to your “What’s New In Version 1.2.3” page or the theme homepage (tip: if you notice that your page looks strange when viewed from the WP dashboard, see this comment).

Finally, download_url is the URL where the latest version of the theme can be downloaded. This field is optional. If you leave it out, the user will still get an update notification when a new version comes out, but there will be no “update automatically” link. They’ll have to download and install the update manually.

Upload the metadata file to your website. You can use any directory and file name you like; just remember that the file URL should be accessible from wherever someone might install your theme.

Next, lets add the update checker library to you theme. Copy the “theme-updates” directory from the client library to your theme. Then add the following to your functions.php:

//Initialize the update checker.
require 'theme-updates/theme-update-checker.php';
$example_update_checker = new ThemeUpdateChecker(

Again, replace the placeholders with your own settings. The first argument should be the name of your theme’s directory. For example, if your theme lives in /wp-content/themes/my-theme/, use “my-theme” here. The second argument should be the URL of the metadata file you just created.

Congratulations, your theme now supports automatic updates 🙂 The update checker will automatically query the metadata file every 12 hours, checking to see if a new version is available. If it finds one, it will display a standard theme update notification on the Dashboard. Your users will be able to install the new version with a single click.

The ThemeUpdateChecker class

Class constructor
The library is configured by passing a number of arguments to the ThemeUpdateChecker constructor. They are, in order :

  • $theme –  The theme directory name, sometimes called the “slug”.
  • $metadataUrl – The URL of the theme metadata file.
  • $enableAutomaticChecking – Enable/disable automatic update checking. If set to FALSE, you’ll need to explicitly call the checkForUpdates method to, err, check for updates. Defaults to TRUE.

Manually trigger an update check. This is useful if you want to do update checks on your own schedule. checkForUpdates has no parameters and does not return anything. If you want to actually retrieve the latest update, use requestUpdate instead.

Retrieve update information from the configured metadata URL. Returns either an instance of ThemeUpdate, or NULL if there is no newer version available or if there’s an error.

The update checker stores various update-related bookkeeping data in a DB option. Call this method to delete that data. This is can be useful is your theme provides some kind of “uninstall” feature.

Register a callback for filtering query arguments. Whenever the update checker needs to retrieve the metadata file, it will first run each filter callback and attach the query arguments that they return to the metadata URL. This lets you pass arbitrary data to the server hosting the metadata. For example, commercial themes could use it to implement some kind of authorization scheme where only paying users get automatic updates.

The callback function will be passed an associative array of query arguments and should return a modified array. By default, the update checker will append the following query arguments to the URL:

  • installed_version – the currently installed version of the theme.

This method takes one parameter – the callback function.

Register a callback for filtering arguments passed to wp_remote_get. The callback function should take one argument – an associative array of arguments – and return a modified array or arguments. See the WP documentation for details about what arguments are available and how they work. This method takes one parameter – the callback function.

Register a callback for filtering theme info retrieved from the metadata URL. The callback function should take two arguments. If a theme update was retrieved successfully, the first argument will be an instance of ThemeUpdate. Otherwise, it will be NULL. The second argument will be the corresponding return value of wp_remote_get (see WP docs for details). The callback function should return an instance of ThemeUpdate, or NULL. This method takes one parameter – the callback function.

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306 Responses to “Automatic Updates For Private And Commercial Themes”

  1. asmita says:

    Hi, Janis! I did check the zipping process twice and managed to get it right. Thank you so much !

  2. chris says:

    Hi! Thanks for your code! In a theme update system, how i can display Details info on updates page?
    In my JSON url appear “details_url” but isn’t show on the update page in a wordpress installation.
    Many Thanks

  3. Jānis Elsts says:

    Does it work with the example theme?

    Also, I’d recommend switching to my PUC library. It supports both plugins and themes, it’s more recent and better tested. It’s also mostly compatible with the theme-only update checker.

  4. chris says:

    Thanks! I test it 🙂

  5. andres saavedra says:

    A query the theme-update-checker.php does not change remains the same way

  6. Jānis Elsts says:

    Sorry, can you rephrase that question? I’m not sure what you mean.

  7. John says:

    Good scripts! But the theme updater doesn’t work with WordPress 4.8
    I have tested the example theme and my theme, there’s no update notification display at the appearance page.

    Not sure what I’m doing wrong.

  8. Jānis Elsts says:

    The script might be out of date. Try this library instead. It’s more up-to-date and it supports both themes and plugins. The setup is very similar; see the example code.

  9. […] 同学们都知道,提交到WordPress官方的主题可以自动检测更新,还支持在线一键更新。那对于WordPress主题开发者来说,如果主题没有提交到WordPress官方,是否也可以让主题拥有该功能呢?答案是肯定的,最近倡萌在w-shadow.com上看到了相关文章,并且已经在 Htwo_pro 主题测试成功,一起分享下。 […]

  10. Justin Griswold says:

    Any chance the library could be incorporated into a plugin? Since the old library broke, we have to update ~50 sites manually to PUC. I’m guessing it might not be allowed/accepted in the WordPress plugin repo, though?

  11. Jānis Elsts says:

    There’s not much a chance of that, no. At least not one built by me. Other developers are of course welcome to incorporate this update checker into their own plugins 🙂 I wouldn’t be too surprised if it turned out that someone had already done something like that.

    Also, this library is mainly intended for projects that live outside the official repository.

  12. […] Automatic Updates For Private And Commercial Themes | の「Client library」からphpファイルのダウンロード、テーマディレクトリに設置 […]

  13. dad says:

    I want to show the new shell photo when the update shell wants to. What should I do?
    See the link below. Doesn’t show?:

  14. Jānis Elsts says:

    I think that image is usually a theme screenshot. Try adding a “screenshot.png” image to your theme.

  15. dad says:

    I added it but it didn’t show up again. Help me plz??

  16. Jānis Elsts says:

    The screenshot file needs to be part of the already installed theme and not just the update. Make sure that the screenshot is in the theme directory.

  17. Scott says:

    I am using you code but I have found that after an update of the theme has been carried out th theme is still listed on the Dashboard>Update page.
    I have updated the style.css with the new version number.
    Is there another location that is needed to be updated?
    Thank you for your help. (great code)

  18. Jānis Elsts says:

    Make sure that the new version number in style.css matches the version number in the JSON metadata. If those are different then an update might keep showing up.

  19. hassan says:

    I used this method but it didn’t work .. Can you help me

  20. Jānis Elsts says:

    This theme-specific update checker is out of date, please try this one instead:

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