First off, thank you to everyone for your patience. I took two weeks off of the bootcamp. One week due to lack of perceived interest on my part and another because I… erm… forgot. Whoops! But I’m back this week with talk of that most mystical feature of WordPress, the one that more often than not draws people over from their safe cocoons on Blogspot… PLUGINS.
They’re at the same time scary and exciting. Exciting because they allow you to do all sorts of fun things from displaying blog post titles in fancy custom fonts to inserting pictures right from your flickr account without ever having to leave your “Write Post” screen to beating down nasty spam comments so you never even have to look at them. Plainly put? Plugins can do virtually ANYTHING. (Well, maybe not wash your dishes for you, but that might feature in an upcoming WordPress version.)
First… the basics. You need to have an ability to upload files to your blog directory on your server. This means plugins aren’t a part of WordPress.com. Whether you use FTP or your host’s file manager upload utility, it doesn’t matter. Just as long as you can upload files.
Next, you need to find plugins that will work best for you and your blog. You can find a lot of awesome ones at the WordPress Plugin Directory. The bonus to this site (other than it being “official”) is that when the developer releases an update for the plugins you downloaded from here, you’ll have the ability to “automatically” upgrade your plugin. But I’ll get into that later. Another good place to look for plugins is googling “best wordpress plugins”. You’ll get tons of results for blog posts that discuss favorite plugins. After a while, you’ll see the same 10 or so plugins discussed and you’ll know those are ones you probably want to have. Just beware: some of these posts may be several years old and may discuss plugins that don’t exist anymore or don’t work for the most recent version of WordPress.
Once you have a plugin you’d like to add to your blog, download it to your desktop and then (since most plugins come in .zip format), unzip the file using your favorite zip utility. You’ll most often have a folder so if you use FTP, chances are you can just upload that entire folder as is to your “wp-content/plugins” folder on your blog server. This article over on WordPress.org explains far better than I ever could the basics of installing plugins, so check it out if you need more assistance (or feel free to contact me, if I’m not busy I could lend a hand).
Once your plugin is uploaded, go to your “Plugins” page in the admin interface (hint: it’s next to “Settings” on the righthand side in the latest version). You’ll see a page that looks something like this:
Down at the bottom of the page, you’ll see your new plugin listed and there’ll be an “Activate” link to the right of the plugin title.
Click it and voila! Sometimes plugins will have their own settings that need to be tweaked, so just look under “Settings” in your admin panel and the plugin should be listed there. As always, refer to the plugin’s webpage (often the name of the plugin on the Plugins page links to the plugin webpage) for support if you need help with anything.
All that said, I have an even EASIER way to install plugins (which is probably I have so many of them on this blog). I use a plugin called the One Click Plugin Updater. It requires some fiddling with folder permissions as well as the standard upload I detailed above, but it is WORTH IT in the end. What it does is makes it so you don’t have to FTP or upload another file again in order to add plugins to your blog (themes too, but we’ll cover that in another Bootcamp).
Once installed, you just go to your “Plugins” page (like you see above) and select “Install a Plugin” from the submenu. On the page you’ll have the option to “Install From URL” or “Install from File”.
For the first option, you just need to copy the link to the zipfile you wish to to install in the “URL” field and click “Install” (obviously, this is a plugin not a theme so you can ignore the “Type” field). That is all. You will then see a message like this:
You can either click the “Activate the plugin” link there or go activate it fron the Plugins page like I showed above.
The other option on the “Install a Plugin” page is to install from a file. It looks like this:
In this case, you can take a plugin zipfile that you have downloaded to your computer and browse to it. Once selected, click install and voila! After that, it’s the same process as above to activate the plugin and you’re on your way.
BUT, it can be even EASIER. If you use Firefox, there is an add-on that goes along with this plugin called the “One-Click Installer for WP“. it allows you to right click on a plugin download link and install directly to your blog, avoiding even the “Install a Plugin” page.
After you click on that, a window open in your browser displaying the “Install a Plugin” page and this message:
Once you select “Yes, Install It”, the rest of the activation process is the same as above. COULD IT BE ANY EASIER? I really don’t think so. So run, do not walk, and get this plugin for yourself. If you need another reason? It gives you messages when a plugin has an update available a la WordPress’s annoying update reminder with one important difference: there is a link to automatically download and install and activate the updated plugin all in one click. NICE.
Do you still need somewhere to start? Then I’m going to list out the Plugins I Cannot Live Without. These are plugins that I always make sure will work with new versions of WordPress before I upgrade because I cannot fathom having my blog without them.
And these plugins are new (and some old) favorites of mine that are quickly becoming some of my favorites:
And there you have it. Plugins! God bless them. They’re just fabulous.
Next week I’ll probably cover Designing WordPress, unless you all would rather I cover another topic first. So tell me: 1) What’s your favorite plugin? (or if you don’t have a WordPress blog, what kind of plugin would you like to have?) and 2) What would you like to see me cover next time?