Week 8: Adding Functionality with Plugins
What are Plugins?
WordPress plugins are add-on scripts that enhance what WordPress can do. Plugins can extend WordPress to do almost anything you can imagine.
We can manage our plugins through the WordPress dashboard. There are two methods for installing and activating plugins:
- Find and download a plugin ZIP file, unzip and upload its folder to /wp-content/plugins/, then activate it in the Dashboard at Appearance > Plugins.
- Go first to Appearance > Plugins, search for a plugin there, install and activate it.
Some plugins require further configuration through a settings page, and some work right out of the box. Plugins often need to add some scripts to the header or footer of your pages, so be sure to leave wp_head(); in the header template and wp_footer(); in the footer template.
Essential WordPress Plugins
The following list comes from Smashing WordPress, Chapter 11. Some of these plugins may have fallen out-of-date or out-of-favor since publication. Nevertheless, it's worthwhile to understand what each of these can do to add to the functionality and interactivity of your content-heavy, WordPress-based website.
You wouldn't ever want to use every single one of the plugins below at the same time on the same site. Plugins can eventually slow down your site because they add to the number of requests made to the server for each page load. Plugins can also cause conflicts with each other. Keep your plugins lean: use only the ones that are appropriate for your site content.
It’s all about the content; you want people to find it, get hooked, and then spend an afternoon enjoying your sites. Wikipedia does it with links, and so can you. It’s just a matter of making them interesting enough, and making it easy to dig into the archives. These plugins will help visitors get caught up in your content.
WP Greet Box (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wp-greet-box/): Whenever you get a new visitor from a social bookmarking site, it may be a good idea to introduce yourself, or rather your site, to this person. That’s what WP Greet Box does: it checks the referring URL and then outputs a message to the visitor. It can be something like, “Hi, welcome, please subscribe!” or something more tailored, like, “Welcome Digg visitor. Did you know I wrote a book on Digg? Get it here!” Very useful.
Yet Another Related Posts Plugin (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/yet-another-related-posts-plugin/): The “Yet Another” part of this plugin’s name is not only a flirt with code lovers out there, the amount of related posts plugins is staggering, and that makes it hard to find the gold nuggets in amongst the rubbish. In my opinion, this is a strong contender for the throne of related posts plugins, because it offers so many options and serves relevant links as well. In part this is thanks to the relevance threshold limits you can set, which means that a site with a lot of content can be harsher on what is deemed as related content, for example. Other features include related posts in RSS feeds, support for Pages, caching, and also a template system that could really do with being easier to use, but still offers nice customization options if you want to take things a step further.
Popularity Contest (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/popularity-contest/): Do you know what is popular on your site? If not, this plugin is the solution, and even if you do it is a great way to promote the stuff visitors obviously like to others by outputting popular post lists using the plugin’s widgets. Settings on how to weigh different things can make the plugin work even better.
Showing the most popular content on a site, especially if it is weighing in the time element (so that too old and outdated stuff doesn’t suddenly pop up), is a great way to lead visitors through the site.
WP-PostRatings (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wp-postratings/): WP-PostRatings is an excellent plugin for rating posts. There are several different grade images included, and you can choose where you want to output it by using the [ratings] shortcode, or by adding the plugin’s template tags to your theme. It also lets you get the highest and lowest rated posts, sorting by time or overall, as well as category and so on. It is, in short, a pretty versatile ratings plugin all in all.
GD Star Rating (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/gd-star-rating/): Another ratings plugin is GD Star Rating, which stands out with its support for several kinds of rating per post (stars and thumbs up/down for example), as well as ratings for comments. It also features one of the flashier settings pages I’ve seen and a bunch of advanced settings. Well worth a look if you need ratings functionality.
PollDaddy (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/polldaddy/): It should come as no sur- prise that the PollDaddy plugin fully integrates the hosted poll and service manager into WordPress, with the option of creating polls without having to leave the admin interface. Automattic owns Poll- Daddy, which is why it’s so integrated, and that’s at least one reason to consider this service as well since it has the backing infrastructure needed. If you want to get rid of all the PollDaddy links in your polls, however, you’ll have to buy a pro account, so if that’s an issue you may want to consider one of the native poll plugins instead.
WP-Polls (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wp-polls/): WP-Polls is a flexible poll plugin with archive support. You can either add it to your theme templates or use the widget to get the poll where you want it. It may take a while to set it up to fit your design, but it is a good alternative to the hosted PollDaddy solution.
Media most often means images when it comes to WordPress sites, and that’s the case on the plugin side of things as well. It’s not so strange when you think about it. After all, if you want to spread a video you put it on YouTube, right? That way it gets exposure and you won’t have to worry about bandwidth costs for your HD masterpiece.
NextGEN Gallery (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/nextgen-gallery/): NextGEN Gallery is a really cool gallery plugin that supports, well, a ton of things. You can have sortable albums, watermark your uploads, tweak the look with CSS, show a slideshow in the sidebar and localize it, it supports zip file uploads, and not to mention it lets your visitors browse your galleries in a smooth and user-friendly way. The admin interface is sleek, and you can easily get the short- code needed to display the gallery, much like you would with the normal gallery shortcode. This is, all said, one complete plugin.
The only caveat is that this plugin doesn’t extend the normal image upload functionality, but rather works on its own. Images are stored in gallery folders residing in wp-content/gallery/ and while that is all fine and dandy, it means that WordPress can’t find them in the Media Library. Also, when deactivating NextGEN Gallery, you’ll end up with a lot of shortcodes not being parsed anymore, hence not outputting the images, and since you can’t get to the images from WordPress that can be a problem should the plugin be discontinued. Worth thinking about, consequently. Still, though, a very cool and well-made plugin!
Lightbox Gallery (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/lightbox-gallery/): Lightbox Gallery adds the popular overlay lightbox effect to your gallery images, as well as making it pos- sible to open any image by adding the rel="lightbox" tag to the link. You can do the same by implementing any of the available scripts out there, but this does it for you. Be aware that there are some hardcoded links in this plugin at the moment, so if you have moved your WordPress install to a subfolder but run the actual site in the root folder you may run into broken navigational images and so on. Hopefully this will be remedied in the future, otherwise perhaps go with another option.
Shutter Reloaded (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/shutter-reloaded/): If you want to keep your lightbox overlay effects light then Shutter Reloaded is worth checking out. It checks for any link leading to an image file, and then gives it the lightbox treatment. Granted, it’s not as flashy as many of the other options out there, but still cool enough.
Podcasting (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/podcasting/): There was a time when podcasting with WordPress was synonymous with the PodPress plugin. Unfortunately it isn’t really maintained anymore, which makes it even sweeter that there’s a migration tool for PodPress users so that they can move to the Podcasting plugin. This plugin offers iTunes support and you can have both audio and video podcasts.
Short and sweet media plugins:
- fsThickboxAnnouncement (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/fsthickboxannouncement/) uses the Thickbox lightbox variant to overlay an announcement.
- jQuery Lightbox (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/jquery-lightbox-balupton-edition/) lets you add a lightbox-like overlay effect using jQuery and the rel="lightbox" to links leading to images.
- PhotoQ Photoblog Plugin (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/photoq-photoblog-plugin/) is another image plugin that keeps the images in its own structure, much like Next- GEN Gallery.
- AutoThumb (maff.ailoo.net/2008/07/wordpress-plugin-autothumb-phpthumb/) uses phpThumb to give you more control over the images, looking only at the sizes and filters you add to the image source.
- Featured Content Gallery (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/featured-content-gallery/) adds an image carousel meant to be used to promote featured content on a front page.
By far the biggest section in this plugin compilation is the one for administrative plugins. That’s probably because they range from backup solutions to statistics tools and WordPress admin fixes, as well as CMS-like functionality.
No Self-Pings (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/no-self-ping/): If you’re tired of seeing your own pings ending up on your own posts just because you’re linking internally, then this is a must-have plugin. In fact, it should be in every WordPress install out there in my opinion. If you want to crosslink internally, other than by the actual link in your post or Page, use a related posts plugin.
WP No Category Base (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wp-no-category-base/): WP Category Base gets rid of the default “category” in permalinks. You can customize it to say other things in the permalinks settings, like ‘topics’ or ‘products’, but you can’t do away with it altogether. This plugin fixes that, making domain.com/category/my-category become domain.com/ my-category instead.
WP-DB-Backup (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wp-db-backup/): You can never have too many backup solutions. This one uses the built-in WordPress pseudo-cron to e-mail you backups of the database or stores them on the server for you in case something goes wrong. No matter what other backup solutions you may be running already, I encourage you to add this one as well. Remember, it just backs up the database, and only the default tables and any ones you tell it to. Your uploaded files, plugins and themes will need a different backup solution. Hopefully this plugin will be shipped with WordPress in the future, as I’m sure it would help a lot of people.
Maintenance Mode (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/maintenance-mode/): A simple plugin that locks down your blog, displaying a message saying that the site is undergoing maintenance to every visitor except logged-in administrators.
Shockingly Big IE6 Warning (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/shockingly-big-ie6-warning/): Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 6 is a scourge, and the only reason to run is if your operating system is forcing you to. That would be Windows 2000, among others, but the thing is there’s nothing that stops users on these systems from installing any of the other Web browsers out there, it is just the newer versions of Internet Explorer that don’t work. With this plugin you can educate your visitors to that fact, and make the Web a better place. Also, it will surely mean a better experience of your site for the user as well.
Branded Admin (kerrywebster.com/design/branded-admin-for-wordpress-27-released): Branded Admin lets you customize the header and footer of the WordPress admin interface to better fit your brand. You may want to use the Branded Login plugin (kerrywebster.com/design/branded-login-screen-for-wordpress-27/) as well for even more customization.
Sidebar Login (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/sidebar-login/): If you want a login form in the sidebar (or any other widgetized area) but don’t want to hack the theme, then Sidebar Login is for you, doing just that, with no particular settings or anything. Sometimes it is that simple.
Theme My Login (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/theme-my-login/): The Theme My Login plugin replaces the traditional login page (wp-login.php) with a page in your theme in- stead. In other words, you get the login page integrated and therefore styleable, which can be a good idea if you want to give your users a login. You can also control where they’ll end up after login, and add a login form to any widgetized area. Pretty useful thing, that.
Contact Form 7 (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/contact-form-7/): There are numerous contact form plugins out there. One of the better ones is Contact Form 7, which can manage multiple forms and offers customization options. The plugin is also fully localized, so you can get it in your own language, which is always nice. While there are spam protection measures built into this form, it may be good to know that it works perfectly well with the Really Simple CAPTCHA plugin (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/really-simple-captcha/) mentioned elsewhere.
TDO Mini Forms (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/tdo-mini-forms/): This is a cool little plugin that lets you build your own forms for submission of content, which then end up in the WordPress database. You can use it to get user reviews or anything, really, and you can choose to trust some users to post directly, while others may have to be approved (which means that the posts they submit will be in draft status by default). The forms are highly customizable, and you can even have the users submit custom field values, or submit files. There’s also both simple questions and CAPTCHA as well as IP banning to help fight spammers flooding you with nonsense.
Google Analyticator (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/google-analyticator/): Google Analyticator makes it easy to get Google Analytics (google.com/analytics/) running on your blog without having to hack the theme’s template files. It even offers some stats in the admin interface, which is nice for those of you not addicted to checking the Analytics page ten times a day.
Google Analytics for WordPress (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/google-analytics- for-wordpress/): Another plugin for adding Google Analytics to your WordPress site without editing the theme files. Simple enough, with exclusions to make your statistics tracking more accurate.
WordPress.com Stats (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/stats/): If you’re used to the statistics served within the WordPress admin interface on wordpress.com, you’ll love WordPress. com Stats. It’s the same, but for your stand-alone WordPress install. Nice and simple, but not as much information as Google Analytics or any of the other “real” Web statistics options out there. Needs a (free) wordpress.com API key to work.
Broken Link Checker (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/broken-link-checker/): This nifty little tool keeps track of your links. When installed, it will browse through your blogroll, Pages and posts, looking for links that are broken. Then it lets you do stuff with them. Very handy, but I’m not sure I’d trust it to be running all the time. It does recheck every 72 hours by default, but you can have it check manually as well.
WP e-Commerce (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wp-e-commerce/): If you want to turn your WordPress site into a Web shop, or perhaps just enhance it to sell some merchandise, then WP e-Commerce will most likely be your first stop. The learning curve is a bit steep, but with some tweaking, both design-wise and settings-wise, you can get it to work the way you like. There is a lot of advanced functionality here, such as cross promotions, categorized products, and more. And if you want more you can always pay for the extensions, although the plugin will stand well enough on its own.
WordPress Simple PayPal Shopping Cart (tipsandtricks-hq.com/wordpress- simple-paypal-shopping-cart-plugin-768): A less advanced solution to sell stuff using a WordPress site is to implement the WordPress Simple PayPal Shopping Cart. Naturally, it connects to PayPal (only), and features a shopping cart for easy managing of products for buyers. You can add Add to Cart (or whatever text or image you want) anywhere you want by describing the product details in a shortcode fashion. That means that everything around the product, such as descriptions and images, will need to be managed manually.
The actual shopping cart can be added in a text widget, or anywhere you like really, which makes this plugin really flexible and easy to get working with just about any WordPress-powered site. Too bad it is PayPal only, but if you’re fine with that you really should check this one out.
Redirection (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/redirection/): Redirection lets you set up redirects from your blog, so that domain.com/smashing-company/ does a “301 moved” redirect to smashing-company.com instead, or whatever it is you need to do.
Pretty Link (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/pretty-link/): If you want to shorten your URLs for use on Twitter, or just hide your affiliate links (that’s naughty!), then Pretty Link is something to look into. Especially if you intend to roll things on Twitter and have a short domain name, because it even has the option to attach a “Pretty Bar”, in a manner similar to what Digg and others are doing. Pretty Link is your own URL shortener with options, basically.
Pods (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/pods/): Pods is a plugin aiming to make WordPress even more of a CMS. The developers call it a CMS framework, and that’s not too far from the truth. You can create content types, data structures, set up relationships and so on. Build- ing a site relying on Pods is sure to give you a lot of freedom. The only problem is it may be a bit daunting to get started with, especially if you’re used to the straightforwardness of WordPress itself. Worth a look if you need WordPress to be more CMS-like, though.
WPlite (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wplite/): To some, even WordPress may feel big and scary, especially if the only thing they need to do is publish a news post every month or so. That’s when WPlite comes in handy, because it lets you hide parts of the admin interface from different kinds of users, hence making WordPress look less of a beast. This can come in handy when doing static sites for companies in particular, so keep it in mind if you’re working with that sort of thing.
WordPress Download Monitor (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/download-monitor/): If you’re interested in how many times a certain file has been downloaded, say a WordPress theme you’ve released or an e-book you’re giving away, then you can monitor it with the WordPress Download Monitor plugin. It offers upload of files (but you don’t need to use that, you can just input the file URL), localization, categories, and easy addition of the downloads to posts and Pages. And statistics of course; that was the important part, after all.
WP-Custom (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wp-custom/): Custom fields may be great, but they are not the most user-friendly elements one can imagine having to educate clients to use. Or your fellow group bloggers for that matter, which is why WP-Custom is so great. It is basically a custom fields creator, but it outputs boxes that makes sense, no keys or values or anything, just a label and an input field.
Advertising Manager (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/advertising-manager/): Advertising Manager helps you with managing your ads, not to mention including them in your posts. The system recognizes and supports several ad networks, including the limitations they bring (the maximum three Adsense ad units per page comes to mind). There are also widgets so that you can place your ads in any widgetized area, which should be enough to get a lot of users to try this one out. It is a bit clunky at first, but honestly, compared to the fully-fledged ad managers out there this one’s a breeze to use!
FeedWordPress (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/feedwordpress/): FeedWordPress lets you syndicate feeds into your WordPress database and publish them as posts. At first glance that sounds like the RSS scraper’s dream, which it is of course, but it can also fulfill other purposes. Among other things it can power a “planet” Web site, which exists to pull together relevant content and then expose it to the visitors.
The plugin can be used for a lot of things; theoretically you can transform your WordPress install into a lifestreaming monster by sorting posts into appropriate categories and such.
Just so you’re clear, scraping other people’s content is bad mojo. Don’t do it; write your own or obtain permission.
Members Only (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/members-only/): Members Only restricts viewing to registered users only; everyone else will be asked to login. When logged in you can redirect the user anywhere you like, so this works perfectly well with the P2 theme (wordpress.org/extend/themes/p2) if you need internal collaboration running on WordPress. There is even a setting for private RSS feeds.
A mixed bag of administrative plugins:
- Woopra Analytics Plugin (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/woopra/) is perfect for Woopra users, just as the Google Analytics ones are for Analytics users.
- Random Redirect (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/random-redirect/) creates a link that will send the user to a random post on your site.
- Post Editor Buttons (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/post-editor-buttons/) is a cool little plugin that lets you add your own buttons to the HTML part of the write post editor.
- TinyMCE Advanced (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/tinymce-advanced/) adds more features to the visual editor in WordPress.
- Viper’s Video Quicktags (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/vipers-video-quicktags/) makes it easier to add videos from a number of sites, as well as to upload your own.
- Flutter (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/fresh-page/) is a CMS plugin that lets you create custom write panels as well as adding image functionality.
- More Fields (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/more-fields/) lets you add any number of fields and customize the Write/edit pages within the admin interface.
- Private WP 2 (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/private-wp-2/) limits your blog to logged-in users only, redirecting the ones not logged in to the login form.
Spam and Comment Management Plugins
Battling spam is important, and managing the comments in itself is important too. The following plugins will hopefully help.
Akismet (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/akismet/): Akismet is joined at the hip with WordPress and is one of those plugins that tackles the ever-present issue of comment spam. To use it you’ll need an API key from wordpress.com, which means you’ll have to be a user there. There are also some commercial licenses available, see akismet.com for more. You may also want to complement it with other spam-stopping plugins, or at least try out a few others if you find that a lot of spam is getting through.
If you’re spending a lot of time fiddling with spam of any kind, you may want to give this plugin a go. It works perfectly well alongside Akismet for example, so there’s really no reason not to give it a try if you need some help combating the spambots.
TypePad AntiSpam (antispam.typepad.com): TypePad AntiSpam is Six Apart’s answer to the Akismet plugin, and it works in a similar way. Just like with Akismet it works against a server that logs and analyzes all spam, including the comments you mark as spam, and hence it “learns” all the time. Both the plugin and the necessary API key for your TypePad profile are free, so should Akismet fail for you, then this is worth a shot.
Really Simple CAPTCHA (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/really-simple- captcha/): CAPTCHA is one of those annoying “fill out what it says in the box to prove that you are human” things, and while you can argue that they aren’t really user-friendly, sometimes you need to adopt desperate measures to stop spammers and other exploiters. This plugin really isn’t about just slapping a CAPTCHA on your comments, for example, but rather it is meant to be utilized when you need a really simple CAPTCHA check. Works well enough in most cases.
Get Recent Comments (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/get-recent-comments/): The recent comments widget that ships with WordPress isn’t exactly exciting, and besides it tends to fill up with trackbacks anyway. The Get Recent Comments Plugin is an excellent replacement, with adjustable layout, Gravatar support, cached output, order options, no internal pingbacks, and a lot more. If you’re going to display the most recent comments, then this is an excellent solution.
IntenseDebate Comments (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/intensedebate/): There are two hosted comments solutions that are competing for serving your reader’s opinions, and IntenseDebate (www.intensedebate.com) is the one owned by Automattic. If you want to use IntenseDebate, this is your tool.
Disqus Comment System (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/disqus-comment- system/): The leading hosted comment service is Disqus (disqus.com) and naturally it is easy enough to get it running on your WordPress site using a plugin. If you’re running Disqus you may also be interested in the (unofficial) Disqus Widget plugin (wordpress.org/extend/ plugins/disqus-widget/), which shows off statistics for your Disqus comments.
CommentLuv (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/commentluv/): CommentLuv is a plugin that checks the applied URL for an RSS feed, and shows the latest update with the comment- er’s comment. It also connects to the ComLuv Web site (comluv.com) for more features such as link tracking. Luckily, the whole thing is pretty customizable because the default solution isn’t very pretty, including bug buttons and such.
BackType Connect (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/backtype-connect/): The Back- Type Connect plugin checks the social Web for talk that is related to your blog posts, and publishes it as comments on your post. So if your mammoth article garnered a lot a buzz on Twitter, this will show up on your post as well. Pretty cool, but it can also be really messy when mixing both traditional comments and comments from, in particular, microblogging systems due to the 140 character limit. Use with care and make sure that your readership is savvy enough to understand what’s going on.
Social Networking Plugins
The social Web is a concept, and you’ve got a ton of profiles to the left and right. Each social book-marking tool has its own submit link, and while you can just add them all to your theme (which we’ll get to later in the book), you can also rely on a plugin. It’s all connected these days, after all. So why not add a little bit of the social Web to your site? Show off your Twitter and let your visitors submit your content to Digg. You can do most of that directly in your theme with some custom code (usually found on the various social networking sites’ tools pages), but if you want to take a shortcut or add some extra social Web flair, then these plugins may help.
Lifestream (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/lifestream/): The Lifestream plugin easily adds lifestreaming features to your WordPress site. Just install it and set up what online accounts and RSS feeds it should fetch data from, and then you can include it using a shortcode on a Page, for example. You can also customize each element thanks to CSS classes being added, and there is built-in support for several of the largest social media properties out there, although just about anything with an RSS feed will work. And, of course, it is ready for localization as well as being constantly updated, which makes it an interesting option for those of you wanting to lifestream from within WordPress.
Twitter Tools (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/twitter-tools/): Twitter Tools connects your WordPress blog with Twitter, and lets you send tweets from the blog to your account. A simple enough settings page makes this a breeze to set up, and you can even control how the tweets you’ve sent should be tagged and handled on your own site. This means that you can have an asides category and send everything posted in it to Twitter, or the other way around.
Tweetable (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/tweetable/): Tweetable is a really cool plugin that lets you tweet from your WordPress admin, among other things. It auto-posts to Twitter as well, with optional Google Analytics campaign tags if you’re curious about the stats, and there’s even a widget to display your latest tweets and a TweetMeme (www.tweetmeme.com) feature. A must to try for any Twitter junkie using WordPress.
ShareThis (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/share-this/): Sending posts to social bookmarking sites is popular, and adding this functionality to each and every post on a site, well, that’s a reasonable effect of this. ShareThis is more than just a plugin, it is a service that hosts your submit form, which means that you can get stats and everything if you sign up for an account.
The only thing to keep in mind here is that any third-party element will rely on that party’s ability to serve the data. In other words, if the ShareThis server is slow or even unavailable, then so is some or all of your sharing functionality.
Add to Any: Share/Bookmark/E-mail Button (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/add-to-any/): This plugin integrates the hosted AddToAny.com sharing button. You may also want to look at the Subscribe button as well, if you like this service: wordpress.org/ extend/plugins/add-to-any-subscribe/.
More social stuff:
- Wickett Twitter Widget (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wickett-twitter-
widget/) is a simple widget that shows your tweets.
- Twitter for WordPress (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/twitter-for-wordpress/)
is another widget used to show off your tweets.
- Sociable (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/sociable/) is a popular social bookmarking plugin that adds links to your site.
Subscription and Mobile Plugins
The classification on this one may seem a bit weird at first, but think about it. Most smartphones have had RSS support for quite some time, and a few high end “regular” mobile phones as well. The natural next step is we will start to consume more and more content through mobile devices.
Align RSS Images (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/align-rss-images/): Images floating to the left and right on your site may be pretty to look at right there, but for RSS subscribers that same image will be in the midst of everything. You can just skip floating images, but that’s a shame. Better to use Align RSS Images to parse the WordPress default align code (being alignleft and alignright) and swap for HTML equivalents to make things look good. No settings needed, just install and forget about it.
RSS Footer (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/rss-footer/): RSS Footer adds a line at the beginning or at the end of every item in your RSS feed. This means that you can insert a copyright notice to make things harder on the scrapers, or promote your site or other products to readers that prefer the feed to the original site. Very handy and easily customized.
Disable RSS (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/disable-rss/): This plugin does just one thing and one thing only: it disables the RSS feeds from a WordPress install. This can come in handy in static sites where RSS doesn’t fulfill any purpose whatsoever.
Subscribe2 (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/subscribe2/): Subscribe2 is a really powerful plugin. It lets your users subscribe to your updates and hence get notifications via e-mail as per the settings you have. Perhaps you want to send a digest on a per-post basis, daily, or weekly. You can also send an e-mail to registered users, much like a traditional newsletter, if you will. The settings are easy enough to manage, as are the e-mail templates, so you can get started early on. As always, when it comes to sending e-mails, all hosts may not play nicely, so you should pay attention and do some tests to make sure that everything is being sent the way it was supposed to. Also, there is always the risk of being branded as a spammer in the eyes of ISPs, so use with caution.
MobilePress (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/mobilepress/): MobilePress is a cool plugin that serves a mobile theme rather than your regular one when the user is visiting from a mobile device, such as an iPhone for example. You can tell the plugin in which cases to serve the mobile theme and when not to, and there’s even a theme interface similar to the standard one in WordPress so that you can create a mobile theme that fits your brand. An excellent choice for any- one expecting visitors from a mobile phone, which is just about anyone these days, right?
More mobile plugins:
- WordPress Mobile Edition (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wordpress-mobile-edition/) is another plugin that gives your site a mobile interface when the visitor is using a mobile device.
- WordPress Mobile Pack (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wordpress-mobile-pack/) is yet another solution for mobile visitors.
SEO and Search Plugins
What’s good SEO and what’s bad is hard to tell, except for the basics of course, which are pretty much agreed upon. The whole idea is to help people find content, and that’s what this is all about.
All in One SEO Pack (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/all-in-one-seo-pack/): This plugin adds more settings for your posts so that they’ll be better optimized for search engines. A lot of people swear by it, and there’s no doubt that it will help, even if you just leave it doing its thing automatically. To really push it though, you should fine-tune each post all the time.
Google XML Sitemaps (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/google-sitemap-generator/): Google XML Sitemaps will create a compliant XML sitemap for your WordPress install, and then update it whenever you publish something new, or edit something old. This will help search engines crawl your content, which is a good thing. The plugin will even attempt to tell them that your sitemap is updated.
Better Search (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/better-search/): The built-in search functionality in WordPress is lacking, to say the least, which is why many users turn to plugins or Google Custom Search Engine (google.com/cse/). Better Search tries to change things by tuning the search, as well as adding popular searches and heatmaps. Since it automatically replaces the built-in search, it is easy enough to give a go.
Search Unleashed (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/search-unleashed/): Search Unleashed adds a bunch of settings and options for WordPress search functionality, such as keyword highlighting and extendable search engines. It also highlights incoming traffic search queries from sites like Google, so if someone searches for “Apples” on Google and visits your site as a result, Search Unleashed will highlight “Apples.” The plugin is localized and you can even give priority to various parts of posts and Pages, as well as getting all those shortcodes properly searched should you rely on that. And best of all, no database changes! Give it a go, this is one of the better search plugins out there.
HeadSpace2 SEO (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/headspace2/): One of the more user-friendly SEO plugins out there is called HeadSpace2 SEO. It features great setup pages, and does more than just tweak the metadata and descriptions. You can, for example, have it manage your Google Analytics settings, which is nice. Whether this is a better choice than any of the other SEO options out there or not probably depends on what you want to achieve and how you go about it, but it is certainly the most user-friendly one.
Robots Meta (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/robots-meta/): Having a robots.txt for the search engines to crawl is a good thing, and Robots Meta helps you set one up by giving you simple settings for categories and other types of archives. Handy for SEO knowledgeable people, for sure.
Global Translator (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/global-translator/): Global Translator adds flags to your site using a widget, and then the user can get the site translated into their language. That is, if you enabled it and the translation engine used (Google Translate, Babelfish, and so on) supports it. Caching and permalinks for better SEO are among the features.
And then some more:
- Search Everything (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/search-everything/) is another search plugin with keyword highlighting and heavily expanded search parameters.
- GD Press Tools (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/gd-press-tools/) is not for the faint of heart. The plugin adds a lot of customizing to everything from meta tags to custom fields and cron, so use with caution.
- Breadcrumb Trail (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/breadcrumb-trail/) is a breadcrumb script that lets you insert a breadcrumb link by adding the plugin’s template tag. Similar to Yoast Breadcrumbs (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/breadcrumbs/).
Code and Output Plugins
There are literally thousands of plugins to choose from in this category, and while a lot of them overlap, and quite a few fulfill almost no purpose whatsoever, there are some that don’t fit in any- where in the preceding sections but are still worth mentioning. Most of those are related to custom code, or are just small quirky things that can spice up a site by outputting the content differently. In other words, this is quite a mix.
SyntaxHighlighter Evolved (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/syntaxhighlighter/): If you ever need to post chunks of programming code in your posts and on your Pages, from simple HTML to massive chunks of PHP, you know that the built-in parsing will get you in trouble. Sure, there are pastebins and the like, but why not solve this problem by adding the SyntaxHighlighter Evolved plugin, which not only takes care of your precious code, but also highlights it accordingly? It is styleable as well, so you can make the code boxes fit your content. Very neat. There are a bunch of other plugins that do similar things, but this one always performs.
Blog Time (coffee2code.com/wp-plugins/blog-time/): Blog Time outputs the time of the server in timestamp mode, either via a widget or the custom blog_time() template tag. It’s not a clock, it’s just the timestamp, which can be pretty handy sometimes.
WP-Cumulus (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wp-cumulus/): Tired of your slack 2D tag cloud? Get one in 3D with WP-Cumulus and its rotating Flash rendition of the tag cloud. Flashy and fun, if nothing else, but I wouldn’t recommend using it as the main navigation tool.
wp-Typography (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wp-typography/): The wp-Typography plugin will improve your typography, obviously, which means that it will fix things such as not line-breaking unit values, give you prettier quote marks, dashes, and things like that.
Widget Logic (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/widget-logic/): This plugin is as simple as it is brilliant. It adds one tiny little field to every widget, and that field takes conditional tags. That means that you can add checks like is_single() to any widget, which makes the site really simple to make dynamic.
WP Super Cache (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wp-super-cache/): This is the must- have plugin for any WordPress site experiencing a lot of traffic, but not wanting to go all haywire with the hardware. It lets you set up caching of your site, which means that it will serve static files rather than query the database all the time. If you plan on hitting the frontpage on Digg with your techblog and are on a share-hosting account, WP Super Cache will keep you online. It’s a must-have, and better maintained than its predecessor, WP-Cache . The only caveat with WP Super Cache is that it will cache dynamic output as well, which means that your most recent comments may not actually be the most recent ones anymore. You can handle that by controlling what should and shouldn’t be cached, but just be wary of it.
Query Posts (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/query-posts/): Query Posts is a really cool widget that lets you build your very own WordPress loop in the sidebar, without even having to know any PHP! It can be a very handy way to get custom output in the sidebar, or any other widgetized area really. It integrates nicely with the Get the Image plugin (wordpress.org/ extend/plugins/get-the-image/), which lets you grab an image from the post’s content, a custom field, or even an attachment.
Short and sweet:
- WP-DBManager (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wp-dbmanager/) helps to keep your database up to speed, with repairs as well as backing up.
- Exec-PHP (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/exec-php/) lets you execute PHP code in posts, Pages, and text widgets. Make sure you don’t let anyone who doesn’t know what they’re doing loose with this!
- WP-PageNavi (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wp-pagenavi/) enhances the page navigation feature. Several styling settings are present, but you need to add the plugin’s template tag to your theme files for it to work.
Some Other Nice Plugins
Here are a few more plugins that I use:
- Codepress Admin Columns allows you to customise columns on the administration screens for posts, pages, media, comments, links and users with an easy to use drag-and-drop interface.
- Online Backup for WordPress can automatically backup your WordPress database and filesystem on a configurable schedule and can incrementally send the backup compressed to their online vault where you can later retrieve it. Backups can also be emailed to you or produced on-demand and downloaded straight to your computer.
- Social Connect allows your visitors to comment, login, and register with their Twitter, Facebook, Google, Yahoo, or WordPress.com account.
- wp-jquery-lightbox is a drop in replacement for LightBox-2 and similar plugins. It uses jQuery to save you from the JS-library mess in your header.
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Category Listing Page
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