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Sidebar, Widgets

Widgets and the no-widgets paradox

When you haven’t activated any widgets for your sidebar* (in Appearance>Widgets), each theme displays its own default set of sidebar items. That’s why when you start a blog you see some items in your sidebar but if you go to Appearance>Widgets you see no widgets listed under “Sidebar” (before the latest update things were even more puzzling to beginners: there was a notice saying “you’re using 0 widgets”).

[* “Sidebar” for brevity: actually (depending on the theme) = the sidebar, or one of the sidebars, or a bottombar, or even the header.]

Once you activate any widget, the default set is cancelled. Beginners are invariably (and justifiably) taken aback by this: they activate a widget, expect to see it in the sidebar in addition to the items already present, and instead end up with that widget alone.


• If you want all the default sidebar items of the theme you’re using and no more than that, you need do nothing.

• If you want to remove some of them, what you must actually do is add the ones you really want by activating the relevant widgets. Same thing if you want some or all of the default ones plus additional ones.

• If you want nothing in a sidebar, then in most themes the way to do it is activate a blank Text widget. In some themes, however, the content of text widgets is enclosed in a frame, so a blank text widget will give you an empty frame in the sidebar instead of an empty sidebar; in that case activate a blank RSS widget instead. (For no sidebar at all instead of blank sidebar: there are a couple of themes in which the sidebar can be deactivated, plus a few themes that don’t show, or can be made not to show, the sidebar on static pages – see here.)

Other things to note:

• Widgets are normally activated (in Appearance>Widgets) by dragging them from the “Available Widgets” module to the “Sidebar” module (when you reach the right spot, a dashed rectangle shows up). They can be arranged in any order you wish, both when you initially activate them and afterwards (again by dragging them above or below others).

• Some users experience difficulties with dragging. If that’s the case, you can click “Screen Options” (while on the Widgets screen) and tick “Enable accessibility mode”: that will produce a more surefire “Add” tab to the right of each widget name.

• The default sidebar items of a theme are artificially generated from the theme’s underlying files: in some cases they are not identical in look and/or function to the standard widgets common to all themes.

• The default sidebar set varies from theme to theme. So if you haven’t activated any widgets yourself, you may get a different set of items when you switch from one theme to another.

• If you have activated one or more widgets, and switch from a theme to a similarly designed one, the widgets will remain in place; otherwise they may move to “Inactive”, and you must move them back to “Sidebar”.

Update Nov. 2011: A few of the newer themes are free of the issue analyzed in this post: they have no default sidebar items, and they simply don’t display the sidebar unless you add widgets yourself.

Please don’t paste code in comments – see comment guidelines.


65 thoughts on “Widgets and the no-widgets paradox

  1. Hey Panos. Glad I found your blog from your response to one my posts on the Ideas Forum. This is a great tip you have here about Enable accessibility mode. Very often I go to add a widget and when I start dragging it, somehow it disappears. It’s a real pain in the neck. Since I don’t normally click on things when I don’t know what they are (in fear of screwing up my entire blog) I would never have clicked the accessibility mode. I’ll stay here and see what other issues you have the answers for. Thanks for the post and thanks again for helping me in the forum.

    Posted by ileaneb | October 5, 2009, 05:30
  2. Hi, and you’re welcome. Hope you’ll find more answers (I accept questions too)!

    Posted by Panos | October 5, 2009, 22:06
  3. Thanks a lot… your answer was great!


    Posted by hugoalfredohinojosa | October 7, 2009, 21:10
  4. @hugoalfredohinojosa: You’re referring to a reply in the forum. You’re welcome, but I still don’t see any links in your sidebar, so I don’t know if and how I helped.

    Posted by Panos | October 7, 2009, 22:58
  5. Dear Panos, this is my first aproach to the blog service, so I’am going slow on things…

    the widget LINK each time i try to use it, i says it is not available… so I dont know what else to do, I have been puting some other stuff i wanted and so forth, also i would like to put some images in the side bar but it only allows me to put one at the time… where can I see more coments on that?

    Thanks, and yes you have been kind to help.

    Posted by hugoalfredohinojosa | October 8, 2009, 07:46
  6. 1. “Says it is not available”? Never seen that or heard of such a thing. Where does it say so? Please tell me exactly what you’ve been trying.

    2. If you want several images in one widget, you must use a Text widget instead of the Image widget; codes here. But this is probably more complicated: you’ll probably need extra coding for spacing them, and you must first upload them via Media > Add New to get URLs for them.

    Posted by Panos | October 8, 2009, 09:26
  7. Panos and HH,
    Maybe I can help here. You can also load your images to Flickr and use the Flickr widget to add them to your blog. One word of caution – the Flickr widget adds only the most RECENT images uploaded in Flickr by default (I had this problem and contacted Support which is how I know) so carefully choose your images before uploading to Flickr. I hope this is helpful.

    Posted by ileaneb | October 8, 2009, 12:34
  8. I did it…


    Panos and Ileaned

    Best Regards


    Posted by hugoalfredohinojosa | October 9, 2009, 08:34
  9. Hello again, can somebody help to move the font in my blog?


    Posted by hugoalfredohinojosa | October 22, 2009, 00:00
  10. Hi again. Not sure what you mean by “move the font”. Maybe check this for starters:

    Posted by Panos | October 22, 2009, 08:46
  11. Thanks PANOS,
    always helping…

    Best Regards


    Posted by hugoalfredohinojosa | October 27, 2009, 08:52
  12. You’re welcome!

    Posted by Panos | October 28, 2009, 06:36
  13. Dear Panos,

    As always here I am asking you something…

    I have three pages in my blog, but now I want to add a fourth one with the same amount o text, but I’ve not been able to do so… each time I try it will only allow me a short amout of text… I’ve tried uploading it and also tried copying and pasting the info but still wont allow me to do so. Each time I try to upload the document and publishing it, will only show the name of the file on the page and nothing else.
    Any help will be welcome.
    Best regards


    Posted by hugoalfredohinojosa | November 22, 2009, 20:20
  14. Dear Hugo Alfredo, you’re most welcome here, and I’m glad if I can help, but I can’t help if I can’t see the problem. Publish the fourth page so I can see and try to figure out things.

    Posted by Panos | November 23, 2009, 03:07
  15. Dear Panos,

    I’ve published the fourth page, and you will see that even if its the same amount of text it can only be published the first part of the text to (it gets cut): …Las escenas «cero» son parte de la historia del Padre con…

    this part should be: Las escenas «cero» son parte de la historia del Padre con la Niña extraña.
    Como recomendación, sería necesario pensar en la «Tesis del Simulacro de Jean Baudrillard…
    and so forth

    So as you can see I don’t know why can´t I publish more… as same as the other two pages that have the exact amount of text as this new page that I want to create.

    Thanks for your help


    Posted by hugoalfredohinojosa | November 23, 2009, 07:45
  16. Dear Panos,

    After trying to publish the page, i opened it HTML and copied it… it turns out that i pasted it in the page I wanted and it worked… I think that the word document was corrupted…

    Now everything is normal again, sorry for the inconvenience.

    Best regards


    Posted by hugoalfredohinojosa | November 23, 2009, 08:25
  17. All is well then!

    Using Word isn’t a good idea. Even when it won’t mess things up, it will probably introduce unnecessary stuff. This page of yours, for instance, is ok now, but its code needlessly repeats the same font-type declaration in each and every paragraph. If you copy-paste from Word, better paste to the html editor (so that you’ll only get the raw text) and format the text afterwards, using the editor tools.

    Posted by Panos | November 23, 2009, 10:45
  18. Dear Panos,

    Thanks for your help and also for teaching me something new as always. I’ll get to learn how to use the html editor from now on…

    Best regards and thanks for being so kind.


    Posted by hugoalfredohinojosa | November 23, 2009, 18:00
  19. Dear Panos,

    Hope I’m not bothering you but, I have a question…

    I have been trying to add subpages and childpages to my blog, but when creating the page, it won’t give me the options, it will only appear the parental page and doesn’t give me more options. I have visited a lot of discussion forums but I don’t seem to understand nothing… Almost all of them give the same answers and I even seen tutorials but when trying to do things myself, I cant see the same tools in my blog…

    Hope you’re fine,

    Best regards


    Posted by hugoalfredohinojosa | November 30, 2009, 07:33
  20. @hugoalfredohinojosa: Ok, let me give it a try! When you’re on the page editor screen, there should be an “Attributes” box next to or below the main edit box. The first item in the Attributes box is “Parent”: click the dropdown and select the page you want to set as the parent of the one you’re creating. If you cannot see the Attributes box, click “Screen Options” (upper right corner) to activate it.

    Posted by Panos | November 30, 2009, 09:08
  21. Dear Panos,

    I now see where I was wrong. Thanks a lot for your help…. thanks again… and hope not to have bother you with my questions.

    Best regard as always,

    And thanks for your kindness

    Your blog friend


    Posted by hugoalfredohinojosa | December 1, 2009, 07:51
  22. Dear Panos,

    Thanks a lot for all your help with my blog this year,

    Best Regards,


    Posted by hugoalfredohinojosa | December 30, 2009, 06:57
  23. I just recently had this problem, but I couldn’t simply drag the widgets back into inactive because I had modified my sidebar pretty heavily.

    I found if you go under Appearance Editor, to the sidebar file, and simply delete the first PHP tag, which is:

    and then delete the tag , it ignores the widgets application and simply displays what you have under your CSS and HTML.

    Posted by jackwandrag | May 12, 2010, 00:43
  24. ok in my above comment, those tags disappeared. The first one to delete is:
    ?php if ( !function_exists(‘dynamic_sidebar’)
    || !dynamic_sidebar() ) : ?

    and the second is:

    ?php endif; ?

    Posted by jackwandrag | May 12, 2010, 00:45
  25. @jackwandrag: Thanks, but this blog is about blogs, not self-hosted ones. Different software…

    Posted by Panos | May 12, 2010, 06:14
  26. Even after following your advice, I still can’t get one of the theme default sidebar items off my home page. It doesn’t show up anywhere else on the site..just the home page. Check out and let me know how I can get rid of the “Our Price” side bar item. Your help is greatly appreciated. Thanks!

    Posted by krissimmons | August 4, 2010, 17:45
  27. Sorry, I can’t help. My blog is about wp.COM blogs while yours is self-hosted: different software.

    Posted by Panos | August 4, 2010, 18:37
  28. You did a great help to me. I’ve removed unnecessary blogroll links using Text Widget. Thanks a lot. Now on I ask only you If encounter any problem with WP.

    Posted by chanduramse | February 4, 2011, 14:41
  29. @chanduramse: You’re welcome. But you’re not right: there are several experienced volunteers in the forum, all of them perfectly capable of answering questions like yours. It’s just that the first reply you got in that thread was by an inexperienced member.

    Posted by Panos | February 4, 2011, 22:55
  30. I have been frustrated for months about not being able to add images to my sidebar. Thanks so much for your help – I am no longer frustrated – and I have images in my sidebar. I also don’t feel stupid anymore (thought it was me).

    Posted by ttkach | February 7, 2011, 04:32
  31. You’re welcome. No it’s not you, it’s lots of people, because this quirk is totally counter-intuitive.

    Posted by Panos | February 7, 2011, 09:06
  32. Dear Panos, I have a problem with my blog… I still have my blog, but I also upgraded and now have one more called I’m having problems right now… every time a I try to put an image in a new post this comes out: Unable to create directory /home/u68629/domains/ Is its parent directory writable by the server?

    I was wondering if you could help.


    Posted by hugoalfredohinojosa | February 11, 2011, 00:28
  33. Hi Hugo, but no I cannot help: I know nothing about self-hosted blogs. Try the forum perhaps?

    Posted by Panos | February 11, 2011, 05:14
  34. Hi Panos,

    Is it possible to remove the RSS search from the top of the structure theme? it is in the way of my header, and I cannot figure out how to get rid of it. I have purchased the CSS upgrade and tried some other solutions that I searched but it is still there!


    Posted by petamichaelides | February 15, 2011, 12:21
  35. Hi,
    You mean the whole strip that contains both the search box and the RSS icons. You need to add this to your CSS:

    .headerright {display:none;}

    PS For future questions check point 2 here:

    Posted by Panos | February 15, 2011, 14:40
  36. Dear Panos,

    Sorry I took a lot of time to answer, thanks, I will try in a forum.

    Best wishes,


    Posted by hugoalfredohinojosa | February 28, 2011, 22:35
  37. Thanks for your help. Problem solved!

    Posted by Barnaby Brown | March 11, 2011, 14:52
  38. @BB: You’re welcome (although I don’t know if and how I helped you)!

    Posted by Panos | March 11, 2011, 23:59
  39. hi panos , do you know anything about this in my topic and how / where i can insert a code

    Posted by harry the handy man | April 1, 2011, 22:38
  40. thank you panos,i thought it was a search engine + i cannot install it as there is no room for it

    Posted by harry the handy man | April 2, 2011, 15:12
  41. You’re welcome.
    But even if it was a search engine, you don’t need to verify your blog.

    Posted by Panos | April 3, 2011, 05:50
  42. panos sorry to be a bother, i saw this working in a wordpress blog but it must have been altered

    Posted by harry the handy man | April 7, 2011, 00:18
  43. Doesn’t seem possible, since it requires javascript, except maybe if another widget site offers a flash version. Can you link to the blog where you saw it?

    Posted by Panos | April 7, 2011, 09:00
  44. i read the bottom of the site it’s powered by wordpress

    Posted by harry the handy man | April 7, 2011, 17:01
  45. Ah, that means it’s, not

    Posted by Panos | April 8, 2011, 04:52
  46. ta again panos

    Posted by harry the handy man | April 8, 2011, 20:48
  47. Excellent explanation. Glad I post this post. Thanks for sharing

    Posted by Tom Fuszard | June 29, 2011, 18:10
  48. Thanks! The post was written to serve as a reply in the forum, because many users are puzzled by this quirk (quite rightly so).

    Posted by Panos | June 30, 2011, 02:39
  49. Will put a cartoon book up on kindle few days. Want to put book cover upper left corner of blog so when you press it, it goes to Same on about page . Can you explain how to do that? Thank you.

    Posted by Carl D'Agostino | September 8, 2011, 13:34
  50. Upper left corner in the blog linked to your name is the blog title. Do you mean top of right sidebar, or are you talking about a different blog?

    Posted by Panos | September 8, 2011, 13:43
  51. Mark Petruska for example on his blog MARK MY WORDS you will see book upper right corner of daily post pic of his book “No time for Kings” Hit the book and it goes to his book on amazon. My skills are very primitive and my posts are hand made things scanned and posted and when my tech guy comes over next day or so he will put up the 80 pages cartoon book on kindle. Then it takes a brief time for amazon to pick it up and then we will put book cover pic on blog upper right corner like Mark’s. I am so very thankful for your consideration. Perhaps you will like my cartoons on blog posts. You may care to reply my email: [address removed – P.]. I am in Miami. Thank you. Carl D’Agostino

    Posted by Carl D'Agostino | September 8, 2011, 14:36
  52. So you mean the top of the sidebar.

    a) Edit the image in an image editing application to downsize it to the right dimensions (for the theme you’re using, maximum 169px wide).
    b) Upload it to your blog via Media > Add New and copy the URL you’ll get.
    c) Go to Appearance>Widgets, drag an Image widget to sidebar, paste the URL of the image in the Image URL field, paste the URL of the page you want it to link to in the Link URL field, Save.

    Or you can use a Text widget instead of an Image widget – see here:

    Posted by Panos | September 8, 2011, 19:23
  53. Hi Mr
    How to delete native rss widget from Header in Albeo theme.

    Posted by M. Abbassa | September 17, 2011, 17:26
  54. Sorry, not possible without the paid Custom Design upgrade.

    Posted by Panos | September 17, 2011, 18:34
  55. Thanks again.

    Posted by M. Abbassa | September 17, 2011, 19:25
  56. You’re welcome – sorry my reply isn’t the one you would have preferred…

    Posted by Panos | September 17, 2011, 20:10
  57. Hi Panos:
    I just forward the question on, and I hope you can explain it. This is related to the blog. There is a difference between the footer widget that appears on the showcase tamplate and the single post. The question is, what features can display a widget only appear on certain page/post only? Whether the feature is created through the Custom Design Upgrade, or only through the writing of a text widget? How to make it? Thank you,

    [ thread here: – P.]

    Posted by Om Kicau | November 27, 2011, 07:02
  58. You mean Lance’s blog:
    (Ian Stewart and Lance Willett are the guys in charge of adapting themes for

    When you do CSS editing, you target a specific element using the corresponding selector, and change it using the appropriate properties and values. For example, if you want to make all visited links orange, the CSS would be:
    a:visited {color:#f50;}

    Instead of changing an element globally, as in this simple example, you can limit the change to a certain part of the blog, for instance change it in posts only, or in the sidebar only, or on a particular page only; you do that by adding the selector for that part of the blog before the other selector. And changing an element includes hiding it.

    So, Lance’s first footer widget area includes the gravatar widget, but since on the showcase page he’s put it in the showcase sidebar, he’s hidden it from the footer on that page only. The CSS he’s added is this:
    .page-template-showcase-php #gravatar-3 {display:none;}

    Posted by Panos | November 27, 2011, 14:06
  59. @Panos:
    Thank you for your explanation….
    Best regard…

    Posted by Om Kicau | November 27, 2011, 19:41
  60. how can i add share this widget on my wordpress blog?

    Posted by Rahul Roy | December 1, 2011, 13:43
  61. I am trying to remove widgets from my blog.

    The instructions tell me to go to the “Sidebar” but I am just a beginner and have no way of knowing where this “Sidebar” is.

    Could you please guide me to it?

    Thank you.

    Posted by lewislafontaine | February 26, 2012, 20:51
  62. It’s mentioned three times in the post: you go to Appearance > Widgets.

    Posted by Panos | February 27, 2012, 00:03
  63. Why do simple when can be complicated?
    Thank you

    Posted by ObïOxOïdO | March 9, 2012, 12:46


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