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Merge Tags and Conditional Shortcodes


Gravity Forms has a powerful macro they call Merge Tags which allows you to display form content, user meta data, post data and other information like the entry submission date. There's also conditional shortcodes which you can use to allow simple IF statements. Both merge tags and conditional shortcodes are supported in PDF templates, and together they make a powerful combination.

Template Tutorial – Part 2

The Hello World Gravity Forms form

In Template Tutorial – Part 1, we showed you the very minimum needed to create a PDF template. In part 2 we're going to utilise merge tags and conditional shortcodes in a template. Before you begin you will need to download the Gravity Forms form (right click and 'save link as') we'll be working with and import it into your website. Once done, submit a new entry for the newly-imported Hello World form.

Merge Tags

Mergetags in a Gravity Forms Notification

Gravity Forms field-type merge tags use the format {[Field Name]:[field_id]}. Keep in mind, the Field Name isn't required, so {:2} is a valid merge tag, and advanced fields can have a slightly different format – the first name in a Name field is displayed as {:20.3}.

When you first start using merge tags, the simplest way to write them is by editing one of your form's notifications and then using the merge tag selector to the right of the Message field. Just copy and paste the merge tag to your PDF template.

Once you're comfortable with how certain fields are formatted it becomes easy to write your own: {Email:5}, {:5}, {First Name:4.3} or {:4.3}.

In our hello-world.php template we're going to add a new line below the <h1> tag and include our form's merge tags:

<h1>Hello World</h1>

<p>You're from {Where do you live?:3}, {Name (First):1.3}? How cool is that!</p>

After uploading the template, when you view the Hello World PDF for the entry you created earlier, it will include the Gravity Forms data. All Gravity Form fields can be displayed in the PDF this way.

Conditional Shortcodes

Conditional Shortcodes allow you to output different content in the PDF based on a user's response. The structure of the shortcode is relatively simple, with four required attributes including: action, merge_tag, condition and value. See the Gravity Forms documentation for full details on its usage.


When your value contains any of the following characters <, >, ", ' or & you'll need to use the WordPress function esc_html() to get the desired result. Example: condition="is" value="<?php echo esc_html( 'Honey & Spice' ); ?>"]

In our hello-world.php template, we're going to add conditional shortcodes which will output a small fact about where the user lives. If a user selects Earth, only the Earth fact will be displayed. Below the line we just added we'll include the following:

<p>You're from {Where do you live?:3}, {Name (First):1.3}? How cool is that!</p>

[gravityforms action="conditional" merge_tag="{Where do you live?:3}" condition="is" value="Earth"]
<p>The birth-rate on Earth has dropped almost 25% in the past 50 years due to colonisation of the solar system.</p>

[gravityforms action="conditional" merge_tag="{Where do you live?:3}" condition="is" value="Moon"]
<p>The lunar colony was first established in 2115 with a population of 200. Now it supports over 900,000 people.</p>

[gravityforms action="conditional" merge_tag="{Where do you live?:3}" condition="is" value="Mars"]
<p>Mars was the second body to be colonised in the solar system in 2135, 20 years after the moon.</p>

[gravityforms action="conditional" merge_tag="{Where do you live?:3}" condition="is" value="Titan"]
<p>Titan's colony is only recently established. You're one of only 500 people currently living there!</p>

When you view the Hello World PDF, it will now conditionally display one of the four facts. Then edit the Hello World entry and changing the Where do you live? field value. When you view the PDF again, a different fact will be displayed.

Download the completed Hello World PDF template for Part 2.