Finding and Linking to Adjacent Posts with Same Custom Key/Value Pair in WordPress

Today I continued working on merging multiple custom post types back into regular posts, and differentiated them with a custom key/value pair. Some of these old post types would link to their adjacent siblings – videos to previous and next videos, cartoons to previous and next cartoons, etc. With these posts no longer being a custom post type, a video would be linking to whatever post preceded it, which would be an article, cartoon, or any number of things – this wasn’t good.

I wasn’t thinking this would be too much of an issue, after all, don’t we have the freedom to provide constraints to functions like previous_post_link() and can’t we tell functions like get_posts() to return only posts whose ID is greater than or less than the current post id? I was wrong on both assumptions – kinda. You do have the freedom to create some constraints on previous_post_link(), but only at the category level. That means if I wanted videos to only link to videos, I would have to use category names as some form of post type declaration, and I’m not about to do that. As for get_posts(), you cannot use any less-than or greater-than logic in relation to the present post ID.

What now? The solution I ended up going with was found in filters, specifically a custom filter tied to the “posts_where” filter. This idea comes from the WordPress documentation on the query_posts() function which provides an example of how to get posts whose date is within a timespan.

So the filter I ended up creating looks like this:

function filter_where_prev( $where = '' ) {
  global $post;
  return $where .= " AND ID < " . $post->ID;

I should note that that this code does in fact reside within single.php. The post id used will be from whatever post is presently residing in the $post variable. Next, we add this filter onto WordPress’ native filter. We’ll do this via the add_filter() function.

add_filter( "posts_where", "filter_where_prev" );

At this point we can now leverage the inherent power of the query_posts() function to tie things up. Remember that I wanted to restrict my results to posts that contain a specific key/value pair. Fortunately, this is something that query_posts() can indeed help me with:

query_posts( $query_string . "&meta_key=foo&meta_value=bar" );

Be sure to set your desired order and orderby criteria as well. I’ve left those out of my example for brevity.

With our new query established, we can proceed to run through our own micro-loop:

if ( have_posts() ) :
  while ( have_posts() ) : the_post();
    // Do whatever you like here
    // <li><?php the_title(); ?></li>

Once we’re done building a list of references to older (or newer) posts, we need to clean up a bit. We don’t want future queries to use our filter, so we need to remove that. Additionally, we should reset our query as well:

remove_filter( "posts_where", "filter_where_prev" );

Voila! That’s it. Now to do this for both the previous and next items, I had to create two filters. Be sure to remove any filters you create immediately after using them, and always reset your query!

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