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When to use `WP_Query`, `query_posts()`, and `get_posts()` in WordPress

3 min read
Published on 5th June 2023

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When working with WordPress, you'll often need to fetch posts from your database. WordPress offers several methods to do this: WP_Query, query_posts(), and get_posts(). These methods may seem interchangeable, but there are important differences in how they work and when you should use them. In this article, we will explore these differences and provide examples of how and when to use each method.

Understanding WP_Query

WP_Query is the most flexible and powerful method of querying posts in WordPress. It's a class that lets you create your own custom queries.

When creating a new instance of WP_Query, you can specify a variety of parameters in the query arguments to control what posts are returned and how they're sorted.

$args = array(
    'post_type' => 'post',
    'post_status' => 'publish',
    'posts_per_page' => 5,
    'orderby' => 'date',
    'order' => 'DESC',
);

$query = new WP_Query( $args );

while ( $query->have_posts() ) {
    $query->the_post();
    // Display your post content here.
}
wp_reset_postdata();

WP_Query is generally the best choice when you need to create complex custom queries. It doesn't interfere with the main query, and it doesn't affect the global $post object if used correctly with the wp_reset_postdata() function.

Understanding query_posts()

The query_posts() function is used to modify the main query of a page. It does this by replacing the main query after it has run, which is typically not what you want and can lead to confusing results.

query_posts('posts_per_page=5');

while (have_posts()) {
    the_post();
    // Display your post content here.
}
wp_reset_query();

The main problem with query_posts() is that it overwrites the main query. This means that it's not suitable for multiple loops on the same page and can lead to issues with conditional tags or pagination.

For this reason, query_posts() is generally not recommended, and it's often better to use WP_Query or get_posts() instead.

Understanding get_posts()

The get_posts() function is a simpler way to fetch an array of post objects. It's less powerful than WP_Query, but it's simpler to use and doesn't affect the main query.

$args = array(
    'posts_per_page' => 5,
);

$posts = get_posts($args);

foreach ($posts as $post) {
    setup_postdata($post);
    // Display your post content here.
}
wp_reset_postdata();

The get_posts() function is perfect for when you need to fetch a list of posts and display them on your page, especially if you don't need the full power of WP_Query.

Conclusion

WP_Query, query_posts(), and get_posts() each have their place in WordPress development. While WP_Query offers the most flexibility and is generally the best choice for complex queries, get_posts() provides a simpler way to fetch posts without affecting the main query. On the other hand, query_posts() is generally best avoided due to its potential to cause issues by overwriting the main query.