Plug it in, plug it in!8/2/2010 9:00 AM By Jeff B
Now, one of the most amazing things about WordPress is how extensive it is. Owing to its free, open source nature, a very large, talented community has sprung up around WordPress, and at this point, thousands of plugins exist for the software. It used to be quite difficult to find them, but some time ago, Automattic (the makers of WordPress) set up a great directory for all of the plugins and themes created by the WordPress community and released freely. It should be noted that there are commercial plugins and themes, but these tend to be very high-powered pieces of software. By and large, most plugin and theme authors release their creations freely.
With that said, you’re welcome to peruse the WordPress Plugin Directory and the WordPress Free Themes Directory on your own, but here are some favorites this writer uses daily on his own site as well as client websites.
- Akismet: This one comes bundled with every WordPress install, and if you’re going to enable comments on your blog, is a must. It’s an anti-spam measure, and no matter how little traffic you receive, if you’ve got comments enabled, the spammers will find you. So turn it on, and follow the instructions, or disable comments entirely.
- Comment Relish: Continuing with the comments bit, this one is quite a delight. Upon commenting on another writer’s blog one day, an email materialized in this writer’s mailbox, thanking him for the comment. Upon asking how this was, the other blogger pointed out this plugin. A really great way to keep your audience engaged!
- Dunstan’s Time Since: This one is pretty nifty. It can replace all of the time and date stamps on your posts with relative timestamps. So instead of “June 30th, 2010”, it would say “Yesterday”. Quite cool!
- flickrRSS: If you’re a flickr user, this is the plugin to have. It can display any photostream, either using a widget or by inserting its PHP function into your template. You can see it in action in the left sidebar of [ berkleebassist ].
- GigPress: The ultimate plugin for the working musician. Head on over and read all about it; this one’s got way too much awesome going on to be contained in this list.
- Google Analyticator: Hopefully, you’ve already learned about Google Analytics and are eager to make sure your WordPress install has things properly included. Well, this is the plugin for you!
- Google XML Sitemaps: Going along with the previous plugin, this one ensures your blog is well-received by Google’s search engine and indexed kindly and accurately. Highly recommended.
- iMax Width: Very useful if you plan on shuffling through lots of themes, or if you are deploying WordPress for an end user with little to no HTML knowledge, this guy ensures that no matter what image is inserted into a post or page, it does not exceed a certain size. Very handy to ensure layouts don’t break!
- Lightbox Plus: There are a lot of lightbox plugins out there for WordPress, but this, after much searching, appears to be one of the best. Highly recommended.
- pageMash: Probably the easiest way to reorganize the order of your pages, set the hierarchy, and hide certain pages from the site navigation / page lists. While WordPress’s new custom menu system makes this less essential than it once was, still an excellent tool for managing your pages.
- Redirection: Brilliantly useful if you change a post’s or page’s name, as it ensures that the old URL redirects to the new one. It can also monitor 404 errors and easily allow you to craft redirection rules for these missing or incorrect URLs.
- Relevanssi: WordPress’s built-in search is very simple, but this brilliant plugin juices things up and empowers the search to be relevance-sorted, instead of chronologically or alphabetically sorted, as is the default.
- SEO Ultimate: We could spend a whole article talking about SEO Ultimate, and we will. Stay tuned.
- Simple Tags: Juices up the built-in tagging system, offering more autocomplete options, a listing of commonly used tags, and tag suggestions both from within your own tags and from external sources.
- Twitter Tools: There are a number of plugins to integrate Twitter into your WordPress install, but this is a favorite and long-time contender.
- W3 Total Cache: Another crucial but very complex plugin, we’ll discuss this one in a later article.
- WordPress Admin Bar: A very nifty piece of work; places a global menubar across the client side of your site whenever you’re logged in as an admin. Makes getting to the edit area for a post or page quite simple.
- WP-DBManager: The best database management and backup plugin out there, period. Get it, set it up to back up your DB, and forever feel safe from blowing things up.
- wp-Typography: This one is quite nifty, even if it sometimes causes conflicts. It can hyphenate your text (vital if you’re planning on doing justified text like this blog), create proper ordinals (like this: 1st), and wrap your ampersands, quotations, all-caps text, and numbers in spans to style them separately from other things. Check it out if you want some spiffy typography.
- WPtouch iPhone Theme: Last one on this list, you want to cater to your iPhone / iPod Touch viewers, and this is one of the best ways to do it, short of crafting your own mobile template. They’ve got a paid pro version that was just released, some very cool upgrades to the free version.
Quite a list, I know, and there are plenty of other plugins that could have been included, but we’ll leave off there for now.