Enabling and Disabling WordPress Widget Areas

There seem to be alot of blogs around the net that answer half this question, so while I remember how I did it, I thought I would put pen to paper (so to speak).

The Problem

I'm building a wordpress website of a classic "brochure" style.  That is to say pages for "Home", "About Us", "Our Products", "Another Page" etc... On each of the sub-pages (not the home page), the customer would like to display a column of  images but different images for each page.  The column of images, as you might expect, will be implemented using individual image widgets in the sidebar.

The Solution

I quickly determined that it would be better for me to be able to turn on and off widget areas rather than individual widgets.  This is because I had settled on using an image display widget that displays one image and therefore would  need many occurences of this widget for each page. So, I decided to define 6 widget areas.  Widget-Area-1 would appear on every page and then widget-area-2 to widget-area-6 could be turned on and off for each individual page. So first define the 6 widget areas in your themes function.php
  function SmartWidgets_widgets_init() {
   // Area 1, located at the top of the sidebar.
   register_sidebar( array(
   'name' => __( 'Widget Area 1', 'SmartWidgets' ),
   'id' => 'widget-area-1',
   'description' => __( 'Widget Area 1', 'SmartWidgets' ),
   'before_widget' => '<li id="%1$s" class="widget-container %2$s">',
   'after_widget' => '</li>',
   'before_title' => '<h3 class="widget-title">',
   'after_title' => '</h3>',
  ) );
  // Area 2, located below the Primary Widget Area in the sidebar. Empty by default.
  register_sidebar( array(
  'name' => __( 'Widget Area 2', 'SmartWidgets' ),
  'id' => 'widget-area-2',
  'description' => __( 'Widget Area 2', 'SmartWidgets' ),
  'before_widget' => '<li id="%1$s" class="widget-container %2$s">',
  'after_widget' => '</li>',
  'before_title' => '<h3 class="widget-title">',
  'after_title' => '</h3>',
  ) );
  // Area 3, located in the footer. Empty by default.
  register_sidebar( array(
  'name' => __( 'Widget Area 3', 'SmartWidgets' ),
  'id' => 'widget-area-3',
  'description' => __( 'Widget Area 3', 'SmartWidgets' ),
  'before_widget' => '<li id="%1$s" class="widget-container %2$s">',
  'after_widget' => '</li>',
  'before_title' => '<h3 class="widget-title">',
  'after_title' => '</h3>',
  ) );
  // Area 4, located in the footer. Empty by default.
  register_sidebar( array(
  'name' => __( 'Widget Area 4', 'SmartWidgets' ),
  'id' => 'widget-area-4',
  'description' => __( 'Widget Area 4', 'SmartWidgets' ),
  'before_widget' => '<li id="%1$s" class="widget-container %2$s">',
  'after_widget' => '</li>',
  'before_title' => '<h3 class="widget-title">',
  'after_title' => '</h3>',
  ) );
  // Area 5, located in the footer. Empty by default.
  register_sidebar( array(
  'name' => __( 'Widget Area 5', 'SmartWidgets' ),
  'id' => 'widget-area-5',
  'description' => __( 'Widget Area 5', 'SmartWidgets' ),
  'before_widget' => '<li id="%1$s" class="widget-container %2$s">',
  'after_widget' => '</li>',
  'before_title' => '<h3 class="widget-title">',
  'after_title' => '</h3>',
  ) );
  // Area 6, located in the footer. Empty by default.
  register_sidebar( array(
  'name' => __( 'Widget Area 6', 'SmartWidgets' ),
  'id' => 'widget-area-6',
  'description' => __( 'Widget Area 6', 'SmartWidgets' ),
  'before_widget' => '<li id="%1$s" class="widget-container %2$s">',
  'after_widget' => '</li>',
  'before_title' => '<h3 class="widget-title">',
  'after_title' => '</h3>',
  ) );
  }
  /** Register sidebars by running SmartWidgets_widgets_init() on the widgets_init hook. */
  add_action( 'widgets_init', 'SmartWidgets_widgets_init' );
Next we need a funtion that will turn off a given widget area.  Add this to your theme's function.php
  //register the Shortcode handler
  function xtreme_unregister_sidebar($sidebar) {
   unregister_sidebar($sidebar);
  }
Now is the clever bit, in each page we are going to define a custom variable "sidebar" that will define which sidebars to turn off.  This will be a comma delimited list of sidebar IDs (see the code above where each widget are is assigned an ID 'id' => 'widget-area-6', So in each page define your custom variable We then need to tell the theme to turn off these widget areas.  In your theme's sidebar.php you should find a line like this
<!--?php get_sidebar(); ?-->
Replace it with the following code;
  <!--?php
  $sidebarList = get_post_meta($post--->ID, "sidebar", true);
  if ($sidebarList!="") {
  $sidebars=explode(",",$sidebarList);
  foreach ($sidebars as $sidebar) {
  add_action( 'theme_sidebars', 'xtreme_unregister_sidebar' );
  do_action('theme_sidebars',$sidebar);
  }
  }
  get_sidebar();
  ?>
And that should do it! Please note: I'm not a wordpress guru.  I extracted this howto from  a number of different sources and would like to thank all those concerned for their help; Please let me know if you found this useful or of any improvements by adding a comment below.  Thanks!

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