WordPress

WordPress plugins I think are great

Wordpress plugins 2012

This blog is made with WordPress, and I use a number of plugins to extend the core functionality. Here I’m going to go through the plugins I use on this blog, explain what’s great about them, and why you should use them too.

It’s been a great learning experience making a theme from scratch and learning all the ins and outs. However, there are times when I find there are some things WordPress doesn’t do so well (at least for my needs), and that is where plugins come in to help us out. There is a huge library of plugins to choose from thanks to all the developers who contribute to it, and these are the ones I have discovered to be very useful to me:

Akismet

Wordpress Akismet plugin

View plugin page

This is by far the most time saving and stress-reducing plugin on my list. It comes with the default installation of WordPress, and all you have to do is activate it. Do it before you do anything else to your WordPress site.

Akismet picks up on comments submitted to your site which it thinks is spam and places them in the spam queue. It’s spot on as far as I’ve experienced; I occasionally look in the spam queue just to double check that no legitimate comments have been placed in there, but none have been yet, so I definitely trust it.

As of right now, Akismet has stopped 875 spam comments from appearing on my site. That’s a whole lot of spam (just wish I had that many real comments!).

WordPress Twitter Bootstrap CSS

Wordpress Twitter Bootstrap CSS plugin

View plugin page

I love Twitter Bootstrap, it creates a great style base for any website, which for form styling alone is fantastic for me, and I wanted to use it on my blog.

This plugin allows you to keep up to date with the most recent version of Twitter Bootstrap by just updating the plugin, and not having to manually upload all the files yourself when a new version is released. You can turn on or off inclusion of the javascript libraries and responsive CSS, if you do not require these. There is also a place to compile LESS, which I haven’t used yet, but will certainly investigate soon.

PS Disable Auto Formatting

Wordpress PS Disable Auto Formatting plugin

View plugin page

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like it when auto-formatting happens in a CMS when you are supposed to be directly editing in ‘HTML’ mode. I know it’s trying to be helpful by adding <p> tags around everything, and is probably useful to people who often forget to put them in, but I want optimum control of my content, I know how an HTML document is formatted correctly and I don’t want tags creeping in where they’re not needed or wanted.

This plugin is a godsend, as it stops that happening. Now I can just mark up my document however I want in the editor and WordPress doesn’t interfere. All you need to do is install and activate the plugin, and it’s good to go.

Tabs in Post Editor

Wordpress Tabs in Post Editor plugin

View plugin page

Following the same vein as the plugin above, this is just a really simple plugin which allows the [tab] key to be used in the editor. This is especially useful to me, as I have a lot of HTML, CSS and javascript snippets within <pre> tags dotted around the blog, and to keep them looking tidy, I like to space them appropriately without having to press the [space] bar a zillion times. Just install, activate, and it’ll be ready.

Add Meta Tags

Wordpress Add Meta Tags plugin

View plugin page

Strangely, WordPress doesn’t have a way of adding meta data to posts and pages in the default installation, so I found this plugin which does it beautifully.

It adds custom fields for meta keywords and description which can be applied to any post or page so unique custom keywords and description can be input for every single one, and it also allows you to compile your own global list of meta tags (for example, an author tag), which will be added to every page within your WordPress site.

If you don’t want to manually write a description and keywords for every single post or page, the plugin can generate a description automatically from the first couple of sentences of your posts, and pick up on the names of the categories and tags that have been assigned for the keywords.

WP Facebook Open Graph protocol

Wordpress Facebook Open Graph Protocol plugin

View plugin page

A handy plugin to convert any meta tags you have set on your site or blog to Open Graph format. It also allows you to set a default image for your site, with fallback to other images contained within a page, so that when people share your content on Facebook, Google Plus or LinkedIn, your links will look polished and contain the information you want them to see.

Breadcrumb NavXT

Wordpress Breadcrumb NavXT plugin

View plugin page

WordPress doesn’t have any way to display a breadcrumb trail for a site or blog, so a plugin is needed to achieve this functionality. This is the one I use, and it works brilliantly for what I need.

You need to go into whatever template files you want to add a breadcrumb trail to and paste in a PHP function where you want it to appear; then you just need to go to the settings for the plugin and set it up how you require. There are quite a few options in the settings, but mine is set up really simply with minimal options ticked, and have applied it to the post, page and category templates.

Widget CSS Classes

Wordpress Widget CSS Classes plugin

View plugin page

I found as I was developing my theme, that I didn’t want the widgets in my sidebar to all look the same. However, I couldn’t see an obvious way of adding a class to individual widgets so that I could reference them separately in my stylesheet and style them differently. This plugin makes it possible to do this.

If this plugin is installed and activated, when you go to the widget area in the WordPress editor, beneath each widget will be a text box where CSS class names can be placed. Multiple classes can be placed in here if necessary.

In the settings for the plugin, it allows you to choose class names that will then appear as a drop down menu beneath each widget instead of being a text box if you want to more rigidly control which classes can be added. There is also an option to turn on or off the addition of IDs to each widget.

Image Focus Point

Wordpress Image Focus Point plugin

View plugin page

This plugin is very useful to me with the setup on my blog, as on each post page is a 740 x 200 pixel main image illustrating the article, and this same image is brought through from each post to the homepage, category page and search page as a 120 x 120 pixel cropped thumbnail image. Luckily, WordPress is clever and can crop this down for me to show a section of that larger image and doesn’t just shrink it in a bizarre manner.

My problem was that when cropped, the focus of the image often set to a very unremarkable part, therefore leading to a very uninteresting thumbnail. So, I needed a way to change the central focus point so that I could select a better part of the image to be shown as the thumbnail.

This plugin allows you to do just that; when you select a featured image for a post, you can set the focus point as coordinates of the image. There is supposed to be a way of doing it by pressing ‘edit’ and then moving a point to where you want it, but that doesn’t seem to work for me, so setting the coordinates are just fine and allow me to do what I require.