The WordPress Professional: Extracting Email Addresses

I’ve been building websites since the early 1990s.  That was long before WordPress appeared in 2003, so I was building websites with HTML, PHP, and a whole bunch of other packages I would rather not remember even if I could.

It took diligence, perseverance and a phenomenal memory to hand-code websites back then, along with a healthy serving of motivation. Fortunately, I had all four, the motivation being the need to earn a living.

When WordPress came along, I thought it was a piece of, well, shit.  Initially, it was because it couldn’t do a lot of things that I could do with my hand-crafted code.

The big problem with hand-crafted code, however, is that the website would often die with the original author because most of us were, well, shitty at documenting our own code. You see, we didn’t need the documentation because we all had those phenomenal memories.

Unfortunately, as we get older, memory becomes less dependable. I finally threw in the towel in 2008, and started using WordPress which was, not coincidentally, when WordPress started to become a viable alternative to hand-crafted code.

(For those of you who don’t know – and if you don’t, why are you reading this article? – WordPress is a website authoring too, which means that it is a bunch of pre-written HTML and PHP routines that, together, make websites websites.)

None of my old, hand-crafted websites are still online. The companies have gone out of business, or hired someone else to build websites with functionalities that I didn’t include in the original design.

I still occasionally build websites for other people, but I have found that to be a frustrating occupation when you are dealing with people who don’t understand the internet, but think they do.  I also maintain several of my own websites, but it’s more of a hobby than an occupation, with the definition of a hobby being a job you don’t get paid for.

Because I am an old hands-on programmer, my websites don’t look or act like the ones that come out of the box, so to speak, because I don’t use themes (that’s what they call a WordPress design) the way they are designed to be used.  I customize everything but I don’t write code any more.

In order to write code well, you have to keep writing code all the time.  Use it or lose it.  You have to keep at it because things change all the time and lines of code that worked last month might not work next month. The people who maintain WordPress and the themes that run on WordPress spend a lot of time and money making sure that their designs are backwards compatible, but that doesn’t always work out as advertised either.

So, today, with some extra time on my hands, I decided to start a series of articles about some of the tricks I use to make WordPress do things that WordPress doesn’t think it knows how to do.  The series is called WordPress tricks, and here’s the first one:


The short answer to that question is: don’t do it.

You can download WordPress plugins that claim to do this for you but, when I have tried to do that, it turned out that you have to buy the ‘PRO” version in order to download email addresses.

This is how WordPress plugins work. They give some basic functionality free of charge but, when you want to use the plugin for the specific purpose you wanted the plugin for, it almost always turns out that you have to pay for the privilege.

That’s fair enough. They put in the work and they should get paid for the work they have done.

What no one tells you are the underhanded tricks that professionals use but never share….so here’s how to download your user email list free of charge.

If you have a WordPress site, you have an item on your menu called USERS. (If you don’t have a WordPress site, I don’t know why you are reading this article.)

If you click on USERS, you will get a list of all of the people who are authorized to log onto your website. (Depending on how your site is set up, you might also get the names and email addresses of everyone who has visited your website.)

Now, if you want to extract the email addresses from the USERS list, here’s what you do:

  1.  Highlight the first name on the list by using the left button on your mouse or pointing device.
  2. (Mac users: figure it out.)
  3. Pull your mouse or pointing device down the page until you have highlighted all of the names on the page
  4. Right click on the highlighted area and select Copy.
  5. Switch over to any nspreadsheet program, and paste that segment of the  list into the first cell of a spreadsheet.
  6. Scroll down to the bottom of the page, where the data runs out.
  7. Go back to the USER page, switch to the next group of addresses and do the same thing again.
  8. Do this until you run out of email addresses to copy….and you’re done.

Why would anyone want to do this?

Well, in my case, since we are about to relaunch BindleSnitch soon, we wanted to clean out all the dead wood – the members who are not active on the site – from the User Management System, but we didn’t want to throw away their email addresses because email addresses are worth money to marketers….and we are all in marketing these days, in one way or another.

Now, if you have several hundred thousand email addresses, this is going to take a long time but, if you have that many email addresses, you also have other people to assign to the extraction process, and you can afford to buy the software that does this automatically.

This article was for everyone else.

Let me know if this trick helps you out.


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