How to Add Author Notes to WordPress with Advanced Custom Fields

WordPress Author Notes using ACF

I recently reviewed a bunch of WordPress plugins that allow you to add notes to the post editing screen. While there are a few decent options out there, none of them did exactly what I was looking for. And I wanted a solution that was easy-to-implement, and used an existing tool that I was already using. Enter: Advanced Custom Fields (ACF, for short).

The plus side to using ACF is:

  • no additional plugins to install
  • customize what you can add to notes (simple text, WYSIWYG, media uploads, etc.)
  • restrict access to the notes to only certain users
  • determine which pages, posts, categories, tags, or custom post types display the notes field
  • add conditional logic to when the author notes are displayed

Let’s walk through it together…

1. Install Advanced Custom Fields

  • Pretty self-explanatory here. Search for “Advanced Custom Fields” and install the plugin by Elliott Condon.

2. Add New Field Group

  1. Click on “Custom Fields” in your left navigation
  2. Click the “Add New” button next to “Field Groups”

ACF - add field group

3. Determine Field Group Location

This is where you create a set of rules for when and where you want the author notes to display. I decided to show the notes on ALL posts, pages & custom post types, but only for admins. You could play around with this to get your desired effect. You could only show notes on certain post types, only show them for posts in specific categories or tags, certain page templates, only for draft posts… the options are nearly endless.

Update: You might also want to add…   and   Attachment   is not equal to   All … to exclude the notes from appearing on your images & other media.

ACF - location settings
The location settings that I prefer

4. Choose Field Group Options

Here’s where you’ll choose how the notes look on the editor screen. Your options here are:

  • Order No. – If you have other custom fields, this determines the order in which the notes will be displayed (relative to your other field groups)
  • Position – Display notes in the main column or the sidebar. NOTE: Individual users can move it around regardless of what’s chosen here.
  • Style – Whether or not you want a standard meta box surrounding your notes
  • Hide on screen – Choose meta boxes to hide when author notes are displayed. NOTE: I prefer to always leave these unchecked, and use the “Screen Options” tab to show/hide meta boxes.
ACF - option settings
The options that I prefer

5. Add the Author Notes Field

  • Click the + Add Field button.

6. Customize Author Notes Options

This is where you select the type of notes you want to be able to add, the name and description of your notes area, etc.

  • Field Type – Choose “Text Area” for plain text notes (no styling). Choose “Wysiwyg Editor” for styled notes, with options to add images, as well.
  • Field Instructions – An optional note to display below the “Author Notes” title
  • Required? – I like to keep this to no, but you could make notes required for all posts
  • Default Value – You’ll want to leave that blank
  • Conditional Logic – Leave on “No,” unless you want to get fancy with when the notes are displayed
ACF - Author Notes options
My simple setup for Author Notes

For Text Area Fields

  • Placeholder Text – Leave blank
  • Character Limit – I recommend leaving blank, but you could limit the number of characters if you wanted to
  • Rows – Determines height of <textarea> field
  • Formatting – You’ll probably want to set this to “No Formatting,” since you aren’t displaying these on the actual website

For Wysiwyg Fields

  • Toolbar – Choose “Basic” to allow bold, italic, strikethrough, lists, blockquotes, and links. Choose “Full” to enable ALL MCE buttons that are enabled for the content of your actual posts. I recommend “Basic.”
  • Show Media Upload Buttons? – If you want to upload files or add images, set this to “Yes.”

7. Taking It Further

You’re not limited to simply using a textarea field or a WYSIWYG box.

Add Multiple Fields

WordPress Author Notes w/ ACF - tabbed content
Use tabs to organize different types of notes

Create a “Text Area” field for text notes. Then create a “File” field to upload a PDF. Add an “Image” field to upload an image of a diagram that contains an outline of your post.

If you have target publish dates for when you’d like your posts to go live, add a “Date Picker” field to setup a “Publish On:” field.

Add a “Checkbox” field type to create a checklist of things the author needs to do before the post is ready to be published.

Add a “Radio Button” if you have multiple development stages that a post might be categorized under. Ex: “Just started” – “In development” – “Ready for review”

Organize Fields

If you have multiple types of content you’re adding to your author notes, think about separating them with ACF’s “Tab” field type.

I’d love to hear about your custom setup for author notes in the comments.


4 Commentson "How to Add Author Notes to WordPress with Advanced Custom Fields"

  1. /

    Great recommendation. No need to add yet another plugin if you’re already using ACF. Why did I never think of this before.

    Thanks Dave!

    → Reply
    1. (Author) /

      You’re welcome! Because ACF is a) powerful, b) widely used, and c) well-supported, I use it for as many things as I can (where it makes sense, of course).

  2. /

    Great tip, so simple when you have it pointed out like this! I was looking for a way to add SEO Notes into pages and products, mainly to show primary and related keywords.

    → Reply
    1. (Author) /

      Glad you found it helpful, Chris. I mainly use it for SEO notes as well, and sometimes for footnotes to other articles I want to reference. Happy note taking :-)

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