WordPress plugins are additional bits of software that can be installed to work with WordPress. There are many kinds of plugins – some change radically how WordPress behaves, others simply add or expand functionality. You don’t need to be a programmer to use plugins – most install simply and easily, and are then configured as if part of the core WordPress package.
Here are some of the plugins that I find useful.
- Akismet – so useful that it now normally comes installed with WordPress. It filters comments that people post for spam, and puts anything suspicious to one side for you to check before it appears on your WordPress site.
- Contact Form 7 – allows people to contact you directly through a webform. Much better than having a link to your email address. Integrates with Akismet, for spam-filtering.
- Social Login – allows people to login (to comment, or – if authorised – to post) using their Facebook/Twitter/Google/LinkedIn identities (amongst others). They can do this with a single click of a button, rather than having to type in a username and password. Makes your site much more friendlier for visitors, and also adds a “trusted source” for you – I allow people with social logins to comment immediately, but anyone commenting for the first time by just entering an email address has their comments put to one side for me to check them. It can be daunting to set up, as it involves registering with the service that makes it all work; but that is free, and actually not that difficult. Well worth it.
- Blog Update Reminder – Set up your blog to remind you to post. Fully configurable. I have mine set to email me if I don’t post for 14 days, then a reminder every 3 days after that. Excellent for keeping the blog habit going.
- NextScripts: Social Networks Auto-Poster – Automatically post new blog entries to your Social Network accounts. (Note: Some networks require the Pro version, which is expensive. However, Facebook and Livejournal (and Dreamwidth) are supported by the free basic plugin)
- WPtouch Mobile Plugin – Adds a special easy-to-use theme for mobile users. Looks professional, utterly brilliant, easy to set up.
- Quick Featured Images – Some WordPress Themes, and some of the above plugins (in particular, NextScripts and WPTouch), make use of the WordPress Featured Image; an image you set for each post, representative of the post. The Featured Image is a core part of WordPress, but is easy to forget to use. Quick Feature Images allows you to set up rules to automatically pick a Featured Image, if you do not select one manually.
- Easy Add Thumbnail – Whereas the previous plug-in ensures that any future posts should have a Featured Image set, this plugin goes back and takes care of those thousands of posts you made before you even knew Featured Images existed. Very easy to use – nothing to do but install it. When WordPress tries to display a post without an existing Featured Image, this plugin will set the Featured Image to the first image it finds in the post. It might not always be the best image, but it will usually be better than nothing, and you can always manually change the image anyway. Posts without images will be unaffected.
Another cool WordPress plugin: If your theme or cross-poster uses featured images, it can be a drag if the post you are writing contains only a video. Do you add a spurious image, just to get a featured image?
This plugin solves that, it automatically sets the video’s thumbnail as the post’s featured image.