Wordpress leading whitespace fix


Ever got the infamous “xml declaration not at start of external entity” error instead of your RSS feed when using Wordpress?

Well, you’re not alone. I’ve spent couple hours tracking down which of the active Wordpress plugins/themes broke my RSS feed.

When the same situation repeated again on a different blog, my patience ran out… and I wrote this script that takes care of the issue once and for all.

If you suffer with the same problem, download the plaintext version and follow install instructions to free yourself from the whitespace tyranny. ;)


A plaintext version or you can simply copy & paste the script below.


Works with PHP5 only, as the headers_list() function is missing in PHP4 which makes output Content-Type detection impossible.


Either use this as auto_prepend in your .htaccess:

php_value "auto_prepend_file" /path/to/wejnswpwhitespacefix.php

or include it as first thing in Wordpress’ index.php file even before that “short and sweet” line:

// Short and sweet
define('WP_USE_THEMES', true);

Note: For the .htaccess way your AllowOverride must include Options (or better yet, be set to All); otherwise all you’ll be getting is Internal Server Error.

Hint from Eric Auer about tracking down the source of the bug

Recently I received following tip from Eric Auer {eric dot auer at mpi dot nl} which I post in it’s entirety here because it’s that good:

Dear Wejn,

thanks for writing wejnswpwhitespacefix.php! Apart from using it as FIX in the way described in your code, the fix can also be used as TOOL to DEBUG whitespace problems. Here is how:

  1. download your script

  2. do not put the include(“wejnswpwhitespacefix.php”); at the recommended location, but put it at a LATER place

  3. whenever the script is included BEFORE whatever sends the extra whitespace, it fixes the symptom. Otherwise, it cannot fix the symptom.

  4. move around the include and watch when there is, or is not, extra whitespace (eg. view HTML source or RSS XML)

  5. you found the offending PHP file :-)

In our case, I went via wp-blog-header.php, wp-load.php, wp-config.php to wp-settings.php and found that things broke at the moment when TEMPLATEPATH/functions.php got loaded. It turned out that our “devio” theme functions.php file had whitespace after a final ?> tag. Because outside the php tags, everything is raw content, that whitespace got added to every webpage and feed. Yuck! By either removing the whitespace or the whole ?> tag, the problem went away. Great!

Maybe this trick is worth mentioning in the “user manual” of your whitespace fix, for those who do not only want to work around the problem but find the source of it as well.

Regards, Eric



/* From: https://wejn.org/stuff/wejnswpwhitespacefix.php.html
 * ----------------------------------------------------------
 * Author: Michal "Wejn" Jirků {box at wejn dot org}
 * License: MIT
 * Version: 2.1
 * Changelog:
 * - Added better mime-type detection
 * - Now works even when C-T header not set
 * - Changed intro text to better target keywords
 * - [2.1] Added tip from Eric Auer
function ___wejns_wp_whitespace_fix($input) {
  /* valid content-type? */
  $allowed = false;

  /* found content-type header? */
  $found = false;

  /* we mangle the output if (and only if) output type is text/* */
  foreach (headers_list() as $header) {
  if (preg_match("/^content-type:\\s+(text\\/|application\\/" .
        "((xhtml|atom|rss)\\+xml|xml))/i", $header)) {
      $allowed = true;

    if (preg_match("/^content-type:\\s+/i", $header)) {
      $found = true;

  /* do the actual work */
  if ($allowed || !$found) {
    return preg_replace("/\\A\\s*/m", "", $input);
  } else {
    return $input;

/* start output buffering using custom callback */