Shortcodes are shortened versions of html code that work exclusively in WordPress. They make it quick and easy to add elements to your WordPress page. Shortcodes can be broken down into these categories: Theme, Plugin, Custom, and Built-in WordPress shortcodes.
Some theme developers create shortcodes for the users of their theme. The best way to learn if your theme has shortcodes and what they are is to visit your theme’s website. Some themes I’ve worked with have button shortcodes that display a button style that is unique to the theme. I’ve also seen shortcode for multi-column layouts where all the text in one column is within the shortcode tag.
[one_third]In between these two tags is where the content of one column goes in a 3-column layout
As with theme shortcodes, some plugin developers create shortcodes for that specific plugin and likewise it is best to visit the plugins website to know if they exist and what they are. I’ve seen a lot of form plugins that use shortcodes because lots of things can go wrong with forms if the code is off by a minor detail. But the shortcode reduces the form to a small snippet that can be copied and pasted to the page.
[form id=214] That small bit of code inserts the form and all of the forms’ settings.
Shortcode that you program yourself. If there is a feature you are imagining for your site but it doesn’t exist – you can create it. That’s a bit advanced though. If there is an element you want to add to your page that requires complex code you can simplify it with a shortcode to reduce the opportunity for error. For example, if there is a stylized button that will be used often within the site you can write the code within the functions.php file so that wherever you want to add the button, you just have to write simple tags like:
Example: Tell Me More
Built-In WordPress Shortcodes
WordPress has some shortcodes that work with every WordPress site. I used the built-in gallery shortcode for this site. The gallery shortcode has default options that you can change by specifying within the brackets. The options allow you to specify which images display within the gallery (ids=””), how many columns (columns=””) the gallery will display, the size of the image (size=””), and how to order the images within the gallery. There are a few other options as well.
[mygallery ids="22,31" columns="2" size="thumbnail" orderby="title" link="file"]
This would display the images with ids 22 and 31, in two columns, thumbnail sized, ordered by image title, and when an image is clicked, the user is led to the image file.
Here is a link to a list of all shortcodes that work with the basic WordPress installation: http://en.support.wordpress.com/shortcodes/