What Is the Admin Bar in WordPress and What Can It Do?

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First-time users often ask, what is the admin bar in WordPress, and what can it do for them? In short, it’s a floating dark grey toolbar that gives you quick and convenient access to key features. It appears at the top of any web browser once you’re logged into the WP Dashboard. This handy toolbar stays open the entire time you’re logged in or until you disable it.

Only authorised users logged into their WordPress account can see the Admin Bar. Some prefer not to use it and remove the entire toolbar from view.

Making Sense of the Admin Tools

The WordPress Admin Bar shows both icons and text on larger screens. On smaller mobile devices, you may only see the icons, but it’s the same bar.

WordPress Admin Bar as seen on larger screens (icons and text).

WP Admin Bar as seen on smaller, mobile screens (icons only).

Not All WP Admin Bars Are Equal

This WordPress tutorial explores the default Admin bar. If yours looks different, someone has customised it (more on that later). The standard bar displays 6 useful icons for Administrator level login. They give quick access to regularly used admin screens in the WP Dashboard.

Let’s look at each of the 6 Admin Bar tools, starting from left to right.

#1 WordPress logo

Hovering over the WP logo reveals a popup menu. It offers links to the WordPress website, documentation, support and feedback (see next image). The Feedback Forum is where you can request new WordPress features and leave constructive criticism.

#2 Speed dial icon

Hovering over the speed dial icon also reveals a popup menu. The menu items give quick access to the following areas, Dashboard, Themes, Widgets, and Page Menus. 

#3 Paintbrush icon

Clicking the paintbrush icon takes you to the theme’s customisation page in Live View.

#4 Arrow circle icon

Hovering the mouse over the circle arrow icon lets you know if there are any pending plugin updates. Clicking it takes you to the WordPress Updates screen in WP Dashboard.

#5 Speech bubble icon

Clicking the speech bubble icon takes you to the Manage Comments Screen in WP Dashboard.

#6 Plus (add) icon

Hovering over the + icon reveals a popup menu. This menu offers quick links to the Add New Post, Add New Media, Add New Page, and Add New User screens in WP Dashboard.

Customised Admin Bars

Users can add, delete, and modify the Admin Bar to make it more personal and relevant. Some plugins auto-add menu shortcuts to the bar to access their settings and functions. Administrators can remove plugin add-ons from all user profiles if necessary.

Visible plugin links on the admin bar

Below are 2 plugin additions to the standard WP Admin Bar. The one on the left is for SEO Yoast and shows menu shortcuts to its most used features. The one on the right is for W3 Total Cache. W3TC has menu links to various settings screens when you hover the mouse pointer over it.

How to Customise Your WP Admin Bar

There are 2 ways to customise and take more control of your WP Admin Bar. One is by using a plugin (recommended). The other is to add code to the Themes functions.php file.

Adminimize plugin

The Adminimize plugin is a powerful tool. You can use it to control both the front (website) and admin (Dashboard) areas of WordPress. This plugin also lets you completely disable the admin bar or simply remove any toolbar features not needed.

Log in to your WP Dashboard.

Go to Plugins -> Add New.

You’re now at the Add Plugins screen.

  1. Type Adminimize into the search box
  2. Verify the plugin’s compatibility with your version of WordPress
  3. Click the Install Now button

After a few seconds, the Install Now button text changes to Activate.  Click it.

WordPress automatically takes you to the Plugins page. 

Find the Adminimize plugin and click its Settings link.

You now have two options, Admin Bar Back End, and Admin Bar Front End.

Clicking either of these links takes you to the Admin Bar options screen. It’s a simple box-ticking control panel that lets you select which items to display and those to hide. You can also customise the Admin bar for each of the WordPress user access roles.

Modify the functions.php file

You can add links by adding code into the theme’s functions.php file.

WARNING! MAKE A COPY OF THIS FILE BEFORE YOU PROCEED.

 Go to Appearance -> Theme Editor from the Dashboard side menu.

You might see the message below if it’s your first time accessing the Theme Editor.

Click ‘I understand’ to continue.

Open the functions.php file by clicking the Themes Functions link on the right.

Click anywhere inside the content window.

Use the keyboard CTRL + End shortcut to go to the end of the file.

You can now copy and paste code snippets into the functions.php. For example, to add or remove links, hide the bar from specific users, or customise it in some way. You can write your code if you know how. Alternatively, there are sites online that offer free code snippets.

Click the blue Update File button to save the changes once you’re done.

Below is a code snippet example that only displays the bar for Admin and Editor users. It’s not visible for those logged in as Author, Contributor, or Subscriber.    

Adminimize vs functions.php

The manual procedure is essentially what the Adminimize plugin does for you. There’s no reason to open the functions.php unless you want to make modifications not offered by the plugin.

How to Close the WP Admin Bar

Not everyone wants the floating WP admin bar sitting above their website or blog. You can make it invisible if you find it a distraction. This procedure works for all WP user roles.

Log in to your WP Dashboard.

Go to Users -> All Users from the side menu.

Click the User Name link of the person you want to hide the Admin Bar for.

You’re now taken to the Edit User screen.

  1. Remove the tick (check) from the ‘Show toolbar when viewing site’ box.
  2. Click the Update User button to save the changes

You can make the Admin bar visible again at any time by re-ticking the box.

Closing Comments

The WP Admin Bar can be incredibly convenient. Best of all is that Administrators can personalise it for themselves and other users with different levels of access. Plugins offer the most straightforward control, or you can modify the functions.php file for further customisation.

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