So you’ve just installed your shiny new WordPress blog and you know it’s going to make you into the next Internet sensation but your wondering ‘What’s next? How can I make this blog MY blog? How can get it to do everything I want to do? Well, how about some customization to make that blog YOUR blog. Customizing WordPress is really easy. Want a new theme? Visit your Dashboard, click ‘Add New Themes’ under ‘Appearance’ in the left hand menu then click ‘search’. Don’t worry about entering search terms or specifying any requirements. Just click ‘search’, find a new theme, preview it and install it if you like it. But if you really want to improve your WordPress blog then you’re going to need some plugins.
Plugins help differentiate blogs from their competition. Want to make your blog a gallery? Fine, install a plugin. Want to add a shopping cart? Install a plugin. Want to add some PHP? Add a plugin. It’s that simple.
WordPress has literally thousands of plugins available for it. Most WordPress plugins can be downloaded from WordPress.org and a few can only be downloaded from their author’s website.
The plugins downloaded from WordPress.org are checked for bugs and security issues by WordPress staff so it is generally safer to get your plugins directly from wordpress.org . There is no guarantee that a plugin downloaded from WordPress.org is secure from exploits or free from bugs but they are a lot safer than plugins downloaded elsewhere.
Plugins occasionally interfere with one and other and, when they do, you should disable one of the conflicted plugins. If a plugin makes your blog inaccessible you should delete it from the wp-content/plugins folder via your server.
Set out below is a complete list of all the plugins I have tried and found useful and safe enough to plug into my blogs and my customers’ blogs. Like all plugins, these are easy to install. You can either download them to your desktop, unzip them to a common directory, compress them all into one big zip file, upload it to your blog’s wp_content/plugins directory then unzip it before you activate them from your WordPress Dashboard; or you can view your blog’s ‘Plugins’ panel, browse for your plugins by name and install them through your blog’s plugin API. The latter option is easier but be careful you install the correct plugins and not ones with similar names and different functionality.
Each of the plugins listed below here has been tried and tested by me in WordPress 2.9 and WordPress 3.0 Multi Site. Earlier versions of these plugins were tested on earlier versions of WordPress 2 (2.1 to 2.8, I think); they worked then and will probably work now but I can’t guarantee it.
So What Do These Plugins Do?
These plugins will help you customize your blog’s layout, improve its search engine ranking, increase user interaction, simplify social network broadcasts, make the post editor more usable, simplify adding ads to your site, help you automate article writing through RSS feeds, datafeeds and CSV imports (useful for galleries and news bulletins) and so much more. See the index table below to get a better overview of what is on offer here.
Quick Note About Ads
You can use the Text Widget (in widget enabled themes) to display ads in your blogs sidebar, or anywhere else that widgets can be placed within you theme. Take a look at the Free PHP Ad Banner post here for a cool method of adding ads to your site.
If you have any plugin recommendations then please post them in the comments. I’ll check out all recommendations and add them to the list if I find them useful and trustworthy.
All these WordPress plugins are free. The name of each plugin links to the relevant WordPress.org installation page. Simple:Press is the only plugin name that does not link to a WordPress.org plugin page. Simple:Press links directly to its author teams’ support pages
Plugins can be resource hungry so only activate the ones you need to make your blog do what you want it to do. Too many active plugins will slow down your blog’s page request response times.
WordPress Multi Site Bug Alert
Before you use a widget to allow you to place ads into your sidebars you should consider whether a regular Text Widget might be better suited to the job. There is a WYSIWYG Text Widget plugin that can help you style text widgets. Generally, only use an ad server or plugin if you want to display different ads to different users as determined by location, IP address, web browser, operating system etc… The WYSIWYG Text Widget plugin is described under Miscellaneous plugins. Contextual, in text, ads work better than banners.
OpenX is an ad server plugin. More powerful than the Ad Buttons and more complex too. OpenX is a plugin that requires the OpenX ad server to be installed before it can be used. It provides browser geolocation, IP and referrer detection and targeting; it permits ad release, display and expiration times to be set and much much more. I highly recommend this product. I’ve written more information about it here. The OpenX Server can be downloaded here. Requires a browser to have Java enabled for the ads to display. Ad blockers will prevent ads from displaying.
Ad Buttons provides something very much needed by WordPress: a method of adding and managing ad banners. It works as a widget. It isn’t limited to adverts: you could easily use it to display images. It collects stats to measure views and clicks and has a built in geo location service for targeting ads at surfers from specific locations. Settings are configured through the Ad Buttons link at the bottom left-hand-side of the Dashboard page.
Linkerator enables you to define links for keywords without the hassle of editing posts to change the links attached to those keywords. Very useful for advertising.
Pretty Link adds a URL shortening panel to your blog’s Dashboard. URLs are shortened using the TLD of the blog. The pro version of the plugin lets you offer the URL shortening service to your site’s visitors. I prefer the “Redirection” plugin (detailed below).
By default, WordPress lists your pages, categories and links in alphanumeric order and there’s no built-in option to change that order. Lucky for us the self proclaimed geek at GeekyWeekly has created a few add ons to change all that:
My Page Order makes it possible to order your pages however you want them via a drag-n-drop editor accessed through your Dashboard’s Pages section.
My Link Order makes it possible to rearrange your links however you want them via a drag-n-drop editor accessed through your Dashboard’s Links section.
My Category Order makes it possible to rearrange your links however you want them with a WYSIWYG drag-n-drop editor accessed through your Dashboard’s Posts section.
AZIndex creates an index of all a blog’s posts which are then displayed on a page. Highly configurable but has a few display quirks. This is the only simple solution for creating an index of a site’s posts that I have discovered which does not require tons lots of page edits. It works, and that’s good enough for me.
Theme My Login provides a login and profile widget for the side bar. Looks very nice and if you use the Avatars plugin it will also show a logged in users profile picture. Other benefits of this plugin are that you can customize the login page and registration email. You can see it in action on this site.
BNS Login puts a small admin panel log-in box in the footer of your blog’s pages. No set-up required, just install and activate.
Yet Another Related Posts Plug-in (YARPP) uses an algorithm to scan an article on your site and automatically selects related articles from your site then displays a link to the related articles below the scanned article. Good for SEO for the same reason as Random Pages Widget. Good for visitors because it helps them navigate your site. Settings are altered in the Dashboard under the Settings section.
Random Pages Widget displays links to random articles from your site in your site’s side bar. Good for SEO in that it helps search engines to index more of your site when they follow the links displayed by Random Pages. Don’t be fooled by people who say search engines dislike dynamic content – this is the Internet: it’s built to be dynamic. This plugin’s settings are accessed through the Appearance Widgets.
Advanced Random Posts Widget displays a list of random article links with an image next to each of them. The images can have their sizes constrained (i.e you can specify image display sizes) and a default image may be specified to represent those posts that are without an image. A small modification to this plugin will force it to display random (linked) images without post titles being displayed next to them (I’ll post a link to my edited version of this plugin soon). Visit the plugin creator’s homepage for more details of how to use it (here).
Pixopoint Menu replaces a theme’s default navigation bar (the top bar menu) with an editable and rearrangeable one. The interface is drag-n-dropable (in the same way as with the “My Page Order” plugin) and any web page or post can have a link to it added into the Pixopoint Menu; menu items can be created as drop-downs; and a secondary menu may also be added.
PHP Widgetify adds a PHP Text Widget to the ‘Widget’ section of your blog’s ‘Appearance’ panel. The widget allows text and html usage as well as php code execution. Any PHP code placed into this widget must be tagged as PHP i.e between <?php and ?> tags otherwise the code won’t execute.
Shortcode Exec PHP lets you create your own shortcodes using php. A shortcode is a common method of executing code and plugins within WordPress blogs. Shortcodes usually take the form [shortcode-name] or [shortcode-name variable=""]. Shortcode Exec PHP adds a new option under ‘settings’ in your blog’s Dashboard by which you can effectively create your own plugins. Any number of user defined shortcodes can be created.
Widget Logic makes it possible for you to control the pages that individual widgets display on. It ads a ‘Widget Logic’ option to all widgets which lets you target a widget to a particular page or post.
Advanced Random Post places a user defined number of random posts onto your blog’s home page. This is not like the widget bar random post plugins, or the post footer random post plugins. Advanced Random Post displays post not a link to the post. Features include options to specify the number of random posts to display, to specify their position relative to the non-random (your most recent) posts, and to state a prefix to the random post’s title (e.g Random Post).
The WordPress Bar gives your blog the DiggBar look. It places a utility bar across the top of your blog. It lets you turn your website into a short URL service and it provides social network links, title and logo branding and multiple bar color options.
Make money with your blog by turning it into a shop with one of these easy to use shopping cart plugins.
My Own Little eBay Shop Currently an alpha production (May, 20th 2010), this plugin lets you feed your ebay shop into your WordPress blog. Features product and page caching.
WP e-Commerce is a fully featured shopping cart for your WordPress blog. Suitable for selling products, services and issuing fees. Has plenty of presentation options to aid the customization of its appearance. Has a few bugs and is overly complex to use. Its developers promise future releases will be better.
eShop is a good alternative to WP e-Commerce. It is easy to add products to it since it lets you turn any post or page into a sales page. Unfortunately it does not have a bulk upload facility (e.g. via CSV) or an alternate means of adding items (other than through post and page creation). I expect this plugin to advance greatly over its next few releases. Ideal for those with only a few items to list and those who want to blog and advertise products but not have a full and over-complex store such as WP e-Commerce.
WP-DBManager is indispensable to any WordPress blog user who needs to regularly backup, restore, repair and optimize his/her database. Easy t use and can be disabled between uses.
Search Reg-Ex allows blog admins to safely edit the content of their WordPress databases. It’s uses a simple search box which permits regular expressions. Edits can be tried before they’re committed. Read the instructions before using it and use WP-DBManager to backup your database before you make any changes.
See also WP Optimize
CSV Importer imports Comma Separated Value (CSV) files into posts. Imported posts can include a schedule date for publication.
WP CSV Pig is a simple to use datafeed importer. It’s a new plugin and is very basic but it does work.
Mass Page Maker is the only free CSV importer that I know of that lets you create a page template using short tags into which the content of a CSV file may be imported to create posts. Each posts can have a unique publishing time scheduled.
TinyMCE Advanced provides a WYSIWYG drag-n-drop configuration tool for TinyMCE (the default WordPress visual editor) and makes visible the functionality that WordPress hides.
Autofields automatically completes the Excerpt and Image (custom) fields of the Posts editor. Options are set under Settings.
Zemanta is quite a useful little plugin. It scans your posts as you write them and suggests images, tags and news & reference links that might improve the look and usability of your posts. It also suggests your blog posts to other Zemanta users so they can link back to your blog; and suggests their posts to you so you can link to them and, hopefully, get a trackback. Once installed, some of the settings may be changed through Dashboard>Plugins>Zemanta Configuration but most settings may only be configured via the Zemanta website which you can register with when you edit or create your first post with this plugin installed (it’s free).
MapPress lets you put Google maps into your posts directly from your text editor. Nice and easy to use, type in an address, change the size and look of the map it displays, add your own markers, press the MapPress button and there you are: an interactive Google Map.
User Switching. How many times have you created multiple accounts for your blog so that you can post under different usernames? It’s not unusual for webmasters to do that and what a pain it is to constantly have to log out and log in to change user accounts. Thankfully the User Switching plugin makes blasts all that logging in and out into history. With this plugin all one need do is view all users and select “switch to”.
FD Word Stats adds word count, sentence count and readability statistics to your post editor. Nice to look at and really only useful to people like me who like to know how much typing they’ve done. The stats are displayed in the gray area at the bottom of the post editor.
TinyMCE Excerpt makes it easier to add HTML attributes in the post excerpt section by providing a WYSIWYG TinyMCE editor for it.
Simple Select All Text Box does exactly as it says – it provides an outlined box to contain text which becomes highlighted when the box is clicked. At the moment, this does not add a TinyMCE button to the editor.
Magazine Columns lets you split your post content into evenly spread columns. Up to five columns can be created next to one and other and the page can be split in its entirety else the columns can be interspersed between various page sections. Best way to understand that is to download it and try it. The plugin places its editor buttons into the HTML editor not the visual editor.
Upside Down Text adds a new shortcode for the editor which allows text to be inverted printed to the screen.
Real-Time Find and Replace. Have you ever wanted to change the default text or image of plugins, syndicated RSS feeds and/or imported datafeeds? Maybe you just want to remove the links in your theme’s footer. Real-Time Find and Replace allows blog administrators to easily replace or edit text, HTML, PHP and anything else that’s printed to the screen without making database, post and theme edits. Content is replaced as it is served so both bots and site visitors see the same end product. No permanent changes are made so they can easily be undone simply by deleting re-write rules. This plugin is very useful for removing links placed onto blogs by third party plugins and content.
SEO WordSpinner wouldn’t it be nice to be able to change the content of your posts each time they are viewed? The practice is called “content spinning” and some webmasters use this technique to force search engines to spider their sites more frequently because they’re spoofed that the content is dynamic and regularly updated. Content is also spun when a webmaster wishes to provide content for duplication across many websites – it’s handier to have content automatically re-written per view than manually re-written upon request. There are many other reasons for spinning content too. SEO WordSpinner is a free plugin that uses short tags to allow content to be spun.
Simple Pull Quotes. A pull quote is a block of text with a fancy layout that is usually placed to the left or right within a main body of text. A pull quote block usually has a large open quote graphic to its top left, just behind the text it contains. They often used to draw attention to a particular line of text. I usually write a CSS class to create pull quote text blocks but this plugin makes it easy to add a pull quote with short tags.
Page Flip Image Gallery. Ever seen those nifty book style galleries that animate the pages as the turn? Now you can have your own with this excellent page flip image gallery. Create or import jpeg’s and swf files from WordPress’s built in media library or the NextGen gallery. Each book has it’s own set of configurations. Not compatible with Viper’s Video Quicktags (the page flip book will not show when Viper is installed). It has a flaw which some might consider a benefit: it uses Flash so visitors must have Flash enabled before they can view the gallery and search engines cannot index the images; some will consider this a bonus because visitors cannot easily download the images without permission. I recommend Pyramid Gallery FX over this plugin because Pg FX is not reliant on Flash and falls back to the regular WordPress Media Gallery when a browser cannot view the gallery served by PG FX. After more testing I will likely remove the Page Flip Image Gallery plugin from this list.
Pyramid Gallery FX has to be seen to be believed. It’s like Page Flip Gallery but better. It provides more gallery effects and customizations and is not limited to displaying graphics as a page flip book. It does not rely on Flash so is preferred by Google and other search engines and it is totally free. It also falls back to the WordPress Media Gallery when browsers cannot view the gallery (or images) displayed by itself.
FV WordPress Flowplayer is the only real, free option for non-commercial and commercial sites that wish to display FLV, MP4 and H.264 movies whether self-hosted or not. The player is easy to configure and uses short-tags to embed movies into posts and pages. Short tag usage is explained in its settings panel. It places a button in the visual editor to make it easy to insert videos into your posts.
Stream Video Player is another video streaming option. It works like FV WordPress Flowplayer. This player uses an edited version of the JW Media Player script and can utilize JW Media Player plugins. Stream Video Player is not suited to commercial sites unless you wish to purchase a JW Media Player license to allow you to use it on commercial sites (JW Media consider any form of advertisement as proof of a commercial site).
Cleaner Gallery improves WordPress’s inbuilt gallery function in two ways: one, it cleans up the unclean XHTML code which assists SEO; two, it adds support for 16 light-box type gallery scripts which means your pictures don’t have to be plain and boring anymore.
Showtime Slideshow displays all images attached to a post or page as a slide show with sleek page transitions. Uses a configurable [ showtime ] short tag. The slideshow is displayed as a Flash gallery. No need to worry about people who do not use Flash because it defaults to the regular WordPress media gallery when Flash is unavailable.
Lazyest Gallery provides a simple image gallery that integrates well with many Thickbox type scripts . It uses JQuery to display slideshows so Flash support isn’t a worry. All thumbnails are automatically created when images are uploaded, captions can be added, it can be used as a widget to display random images in the sidebars and it does much more besides. Now works with WordPress 3.
WP JW Player is a replacement for the standard JW Player. The difference being that WP JW Player doesn’t require an expensive license when used on commercial websites. In fact, it requires no payment for its license. I prefer the FV WordPress Flowplayer plugin (detailed above) however this plugin has a functionality that some might find advantages – it pulls in specified RSS feeds to match the video. It is generally only usable along with the Tubepress.Net plugin.
NextGEN Gallery is a remarkable feet of innovation that combines into one plugin the functionality of many, many WordPress gallery plugins. With it, you can embed galleries and slideshows into your posts with easy-to-use short tags (bulletin board code like tags). This plugin can cause some websites to bload really slowly – disable the PicLens integrator (Gallery>General Options>Activate PicLens/CoolIris support) to help improve load speed; if that does not help, you might be better to use a different gallery plugin (perhaps, Lazy Gallery).
Vipers’ Video QuickTags adds video embedding buttons and enhanced video embedding functionality to the TinyMCE editor. The added buttons are for YouTube (including playlists), Google Video, DailyMotion, Vimeo, Veoh, Viddler, Metacafe, Blip.tv, VideoPress aka WordPress.com Video, Flickr videos, Spike.com/IFILM, and MySpaceTV and (more important to DIYers) Flash Video Files (FLV), QuickTime (MOV, etc.), Generic video files (AVI, MPEG, WMV, etc.). The Flash video option requires the JV Flash Player which costs money when used on sites that display ads and affiliate links (commercial sites). The FV WordPress Flowplayer plug in (above) compliments this one. Please be aware that this plugin can cause some sites to act sluggishly. This plugin is largely obsolete now that WordPress supports video embedding natively for many of the Internets video upload sites (e.g for YouTube you now need only place the video URL into a post or page and WordPress will automatically show it. The only catch is that such videos cannot be justified within a post).
WP Optimize makes it easy to clean-up and repair the WordPress database as-well-as to remove the endless post revisions as created by WordPress autosaves.
It’s here that I must show gratitude to theitjuggler who left a comment about the lack of WordPress blog optimization plugins listed here.
Not all webmasters write all their own content, not all webmasters write most of their own content, many webmasters use RSS feeds to display content from other websites. The process of using an RSS feed to auto write articles is called RSS syndication. It is useful for news articles, useful for a scrolling news ticker, useful for adult webmasters and very well appreciated by lazy webmasters. If you’ve ever wondered why so many websites have such similar content well now you know that RSS syndication is to blame.
I don’t use RSS syndication on this site but I do use it on one or two of my adult sites. If I did use it on a site like JournalXtra then I’d use it for a newsfeed ticker or in a special category called syndicated articles (mmm, I might do that…).
Feed WordPress is my favorite syndicator. It’s easy to set-up, looks nice and is simple to use and configure for individual feeds. It struggles with some feeds but there’s a cure for that. Settings are accessed under Syndication at the bottom left-hand-side of the Dashboard page.
WP-o-Matic is not so configurable as Feed WordPress but will syndicate RSS feeds that Feed WordPress struggles to use. Settings for this add-on are found under Settings.
Multipress Autoblogging takes content from RSS feeds, Google Blog Search, YouTube, Flickr, 3 article directories (eZine, iSnare and Articlebase), Yahoo News and Yahoo Answers. This plugin is less resource hungry than most feed readers, features timed post release, post layout configuration and the ability to fetch only posts that contain a specified key word. I highly recommend this plugin. The free version is no longer available. I use this plugin for most of my autoblogs; I highly recommend it. You will need the invite code JHH7KL644GHLFSS to access the download page.
WP Scraper will scrape information from other websites and repost it in your blog. A good use for this is collecting exchange rates or weather information for live updates (although most sites provide RSS feeds for those purposes); could even be used to fetch content from another blog or site you own. A bad use of this is ripping off other website authors’ article’s, posts and other content type. Use with caution to copyright and moral violation of other webmasters’ work.
Import HTML Pages is an extremely powerful way to convert an old handwritten HTML website into a WordPress blog. It reads HTML pages and converts them into blog posts or blog pages. It will take a complete site directory, a complete web page or part of a web page as restricted by specified start and end HTML tags (e.g <div id=”start”> to </div> etc…).
Tubepress.net imports YouTube videos as individual blog posts. The imported videos can be auto selected according to a specified tag, tags or tag-line; alternatively a preset range of favorite YouTube videos can be imported. When this plugin is used in conjunction with WP JW Player it will embed the videos without the tell-tail YouTube video player.
Please be careful when using WordPress security enhancements
It’s not uncommon for well meaning administrators to install security enhancements only to discover they’ve locked themselves out of their blogs. Things to watch are those plugins that restrict admin access to particular IP addresses and anything that removes the default admin user account which is required for some plugins to function. Don’t blindly follow security advice without first checking its validity.
WordPress Exploit Scanner checks your blog’s code and database entries and reports possible security compromises. Useful for ensuring your blog hasn’t been hacked or picked-up a virus. Copyright Proof provides a means to digitally certify the author and time of publish of a post. It works in conjunction with the Digiprove server. To certify authorship of old posts one must enter them as though editing them and click the update button.
Blog Copyright puts a copyright statement into the footer of your WordPress themes. The footer might need manually editing to center the copyright notice (it isn’t difficult and if you tell me which theme you’re using I’ll help you do it). Settings are in Blog Copyright under Settings.
RSS Footer puts any text or html into the bottom of all posts in RSS feeds. Ideal for placing adverts and a backlink to your website and post to ensure that site scrapes point back to you as the original post source.
What good is a blog if it has no traffic? Well, I suppose that depends on the blog’s purpose; but for many, many people their blog is their way to fame, fortune and sex (…maybe not…). These WordPress SEO plugins are important for ensuring your blog is listed in search engines and that those search engines are automatically updated with your blog posts whenever you write them (so they know to send their crawlers to visit).
XML Sitemap Feed automatically builds and updates your site’s sitemap. Multi-Site compatible. Produces Google News compatible sitemaps too.Sitemaps are created at domain.tld/sitemap.xml, sub.domain.tld/sitemap.xml, domain.tld/news-sitemap.xml and sub.domain.tld/news-sitemap.xml.
SEO Ultimate install it, activate it. That’s about all you need to do to it. Individual page and post settings can be configured on the post editor screen. View the settings tab to in the WordPress admin menu to add or remove SEO options.
Header-Footer. Fed-up with editing template headers and footers to add HTML code or scripts each time you install a new or update your WordPress theme? Use this plugin to insert those code and script snippets for you so you don’t need to edit your theme each update or installation.
SEO Friendly Images automatically adds the alt and title tag attributes to the images you upload to WordPress. Why is this important? Most search engines rely on text. They crawl web pages for text content. Generally, the only searchable information most search engines collect about images are their alt=”" and title=”" descriptions and their names (eg picture-one.jpg). The better the image descriptions the more visitors they’ll attract from search engines.
Redirection makes it easy to manage 301 redirects and monitor 404 page errors. This plugin works from within WordPress so you don’t have to mess around with your htaccess file. The settings for this plugin are put into your Dashboard’s Tools section. Using this plugin is as simple as entering the URLs for the old page and the new page into the plugin’s configuration page. Also see ‘Pretty Link’ under ‘Advertisement Facilitation’. Has a slight compatibility issue with WordPress 3 MS (not sure about the non-MS version) – page modifications cause the plugin to redirect all site visitors to the edited page! The fix requires the manual removal of redirects set up on the domain root “/” by visiting Tools>Redirection>Groups (select Modified Posts) then remove any redirects that contain a source URL of a forward slash (/) only.
Google Analyticator. There are many website statistics gathering and statistics analyzing plugins available for WordPress. I use Google Analyticator because it integrates Google Analytics into blogs without the need for manual theme editing and it tracks outbound link clicks. It’s easy to set-up and it adds a Google data widget into the blog Dashboard.
WordPress.com Stats displays your blog’s access and exit stats. It logs referrer information and the search terms used to access your blog. Quite thorough and reliable. Requires a WordPress.com API key (same as with Akismet).
All those posts, all those social networking sites, what a marriage they would make and how many visitors would the wedding bring? But how do you pair them quickly and easily? Simple, use one of these social networking plugins.
Shorten2Ping automatically broadcasts your articles to up to 46 social networks via Ping.fm (includes Twitter, MySpace, Aim, Blogger…). It also has a separate option for only Twitter for those who prefer not sign-up for a Ping.fm account. The post format is customizable through the Shorten2Ping options under Settings. URL shortening is offered too.
SexyBookmarks provides attractive animated links to social bookmarking and networking sites (including Ping.fm) and allows people to email the site’s page link and subscribe to its comments RSS feed. This is the bookmarking plugin used on this site. In my opinion, this plugin has overtaken the old Sociable plugin by miles.
WP Greet Box greets visitors with customizable greetings messages targeted according to their place of origin. Messages display at the top of posts and/or pages. The main purpose of this plugin is to encourage visitors from search engines, social networking and bookmarking sites to subscribe to your RSS feed and/or help your posts go viral by re-bookmarking and broadcasting them. Google for this site or visit it through StumbleUpon and you’ll see how this plugin works.
WP FollowMe places a small rectangular box at the side of blog pages which promotes your Twitter account. Nice and attractive, this is a newly created plugin and isn’t without faults – the current version (2.0.4) is fully Flash based and doesn’t work on all servers. If this problem affects you then the workaround is to install version 2.0.2 which is available from its WordPress plug in page (look for Other Versions below the red Download box.). I will update when this issue is fixed.
FD Feedburner automates the task of redirecting WordPress’s regular feed to the Feedburner feed. All you need do is install it, activate it, create your Feedburner feed by visiting here (if you don’t already have one) then enter your Feedburner feed’s URL into the plugin’s setting’s form. Simple. Feedburner (not the plugin) can be set up to ping search engines, blog sites and directories whenever a post is created (turn off WordPress’s own ping service if you use Feedburner to send your pings).
Give your visitors different ways to show their presence and speak to you.
Target Visitors does two things: puts a customizable visitor greeting message at the top of pages and posts; and, when visitors come via search engines, it highlights their search terms in the page text.
Avatars is a cute little plugin that allows your visitors to upload and display their own avatar next to their comments. Better still, it allows article writers (that’s you and I) to upload and display our own avatars too. Best of all, it’s really easy to set-up: just install it, activate it then create an “avatars” folder in your WordPress directory on your server. Settings accessed under Users in the Dashboard.
GD Star Ratings allows visitors to rate (with stars), approve or disapprove (with a thumbs-up/down) your articles. Lots of settings but none to worry about. The star and thumb graphics are customizable from a nice set of predefined options. Settings are accessed through the Dashboard under GD Star Rating on the bottom left-hand-side of the page.
Simple:Press is a WordPress forum that integrates within WordPress themes i.e you won’t need to find separate (lookalike) themes for the forum. It’s easy to install; never-the-less, read the installation guide or you might get it wrong. The settings are a little unusual in that what’s usually called a “board” in most forum software is here called a “forum” (sort-of) – you’ll understand once you’ve installed it. One very important note about this one is that there are 4 editor types for post authoring but none will be visible to users (anyone but the main administrator) until either the administrator has forced all users to use the same editor else (if he/she hasn’t) each user has set his own editor type after registering to use the forum. The editor settings can be changed in Forum>Components>Editor Options (accessed through the WordPress Dashboard). Update: I’ve been informed by the guys at Simple:Press that this bug has been fixed in version 4.2.
BuddyPress is a large plugin designed to turn WordPress blogs into social network platforms like Facebook. It works well in both WordPress 2.x and WordPress 3 but has one drawback when used with Multi Sites – it can only be Network Activated which means it takes over your blog network in ways that might not be appreciated by individual blog users.
Mingle lets you create your own social network like Facebook, Twitter and Linkdin. It’s easy to set up, integrates well, and looks nice too.
WP Hover allows hoverlets (overlay pop-ups that appear when certain content is hovered-over with a mouse pointer) to be created. The hoverlets can contain any content type from videos and images to plain old text. This is also very useful for creating non-intrusive pop-up ads.
Contact Form 7 is exactly as it sounds – it provides a framework for creating contact forms with captchas. Multiple contact forms can be created using an intuitive (not extremely so) interface. The contact forms can be put into a single page or added to posts using short-tags. The captcha service is provided by Really Simple Captcha.
Global Translator displays a collection of flags in your theme’s sidebar through which visitors can choose the language of your text. Don’t worry, you don’t need to learn a new language to write the translated pages as the translations are automatic through one of several online translators. The plugin will quietly work away to translate your pages even when they’re not being requested by visitors. Translated pages are cached for later retrieval. Using this plugin can increase your site’s global reach by opening it up to people who do not speak your blog’s native language. Good for SEO. Sometimes page redirects and permalinks interfere with access to cached translated pages. Options can be changed through the Dashboard under Global Translator.
TinyMCEComments furnishes the WordPress comment box with a WYSIWYG TinyMCE editor that looks like a cut down version of the visual post editor used by authors to write their blog posts. The layout of the editor is customizable.
Subscribe to Double-Opt-In Comments lets your readers and commenters subscribe to receive emails whenever a new comment is added to a post that interests them.
Highlight Search Terms does exactly as it says – it highlights the words in a post that were entered into a search engine and resulted in the post’s URL being returned in the search results that lead its visitor to it.
Comments with OpenID lets blog visitors and users sign in to comment on a post using their openID details.
These next plugins fit into none of the above categories so I’ve decided to lump them all together. Doesn’t mean they’re not as useful as the others it just means I couldn’t be bothered to create single entry categories for them :)
WP-Chameleon does two things: one, it spins post content, and, secondly, it lets you post spun articles to multiple blogs with one click (ideal for article marketers). In other words, this plugin lets you write a post, spin it and submit it to multiple blogs and it lets you display spun content to your site’s visitors.
WordPress Download Monitor do you need to monitor your downloads or do you want download page? This is the best free download plugin I’ve seen for WordPress. It enables webmasters to upload files for download, title and describe those files, add a thumbnail and charge for the download if required. Further, downloads can be password or user restricted. Integration of downloads into pages, posts and widgets is via short tags. The short tags are explained on the plugins homepage. You can see its use as a Download page here on JournalXtra.
WordPress Business Directory Manager is a permalink supporting link directory. Nice to look at, has a captcha, plenty of configuration options and collects its own snapshots.
WPtouch iPhone Theme. This is not as obvious as it sounds: it installs a theme that makes a blog easier to view with an iPhone, Android or Other PDA. The theme only becomes visible when the site is accessed via a PDA so it isn’t seen by non-PDA visitors. PDA users have the option to disable the theme and use the site’s default one.
WYSIWYG Text Widget. How many times have you added a text widget into your sidebar and thought, I wish I could spruce this up and add things to it like I do a regular post? No? me neither until I found this little plugin and thought, my gosh, that’s so clever no one else has ever thought of it! Yep, this plugin lets you author and edit your text widgets the same way as you do a regular post i.e it gives you TinyMCE text Widgets.
WP-Auto Trackback Sender. I’ll probably get flamed by serious bloggers for giving this plugin ad space but it is a useful plugin to some bloggers. A trackback (or pingback) is a link between two blogs that is automatically posted in the comment section of a post on one blog that has been linked to in the post of another blog. For example, Blogger A writes a post that links to Blogger B’s blog. Blogger B’s blogging software picks up on Blogger A’s link and so places a trackback (link back) to Blogger A’s post among the comments of the post that blogger A has linked to. Trackbacks are often abused by spammers to artificially increase the number of links that point back to their blogs. WP-Auto Trackback Sender is one of those plugins that artificially increases trackbacks to the website that uses it. I want to make it clear that I do not use spam tactics (or this plugin) with JournalXtra.
WP User Online logs blog visitors over a specified time period. Comes with a widget which can display the user names of logged in visitors, then total number of blog users, the number of viewers of the page that displays the widget, and it differentiates between bots and people.
Yet Another Multi-User Site Manager lets Multi Site blogs set a domain’s name servers (DNS records) as being the DNS of the blog’s server so that sub-domains may be reached by a top level domain name and that domain name displays in browsers in place of the sub-domain it points to.
When you create a new WordPress site, instead of individually installing plugins and themes you can just copy another WordPress site’s plugin or theme directory to the new WordPress site’s plugin or theme directory, respectively (wp-content/plugins/ and wp-content/themes/).