Home » The Saturday Series » How To Blog » The Best Plugins (2/10)

The Best Plugins (2/10)

Wel­come to my new “How To Blog” series! In this series, I’ll try to put my knowl­edge to good use and shed some light on the basic of blog­ging. You will learn how to set up a self-hosted blog, what are the must-have plu­g­ins, how to attract read­ers, how to mon­e­tize your blog etc. I’ll pub­lish a new “How To Blog” post every Saturday.

One of the rea­son I fell in love with Word­Press was because of the thou­sands of plu­g­ins avail­able to help me enhance my blog, cus­tomize it, tweak it or do basi­cally any­thing I wanted.

For those who use other blog­ging plat­form… don’t click away! Some of these plu­g­ins were adpated for Blog­ger etc. And any­way, maybe it will decide you to switch to Word­Press! (just teas­ing you…)

So, what’s a plugin?

A Plu­gin is a group of php func­tions that can extend the func­tion­al­ity present in Word­Press. These func­tions may all be defined in one php file, or maybe spread among more than one file. (source: Word­Press Codex)

Installing a plu­gin is very easy. You have two ways of doing that:

  • Man­u­ally: down­load the plu­gin from its loca­tion (usu­ally from the page of the plu­gin cre­ator or from a plu­gin library). Save it on your desk­top. It will very often be zipped, so you need to unzip it, still on your desk­top. Then, you will need to use FTP to upload to the “wp-content/plugins” direc­tory on your web­server. The plu­gin will then appears on your “plu­g­ins” list in the Word­Press admin inter­face. Now, you need to acti­vate it: click on “enable” and… voilà!
  • With Oneclick: Oneclick is a plu­gin and a Fire­fox exten­sion that allows you to install plu­g­ins with just… yeah, one click. Note that you must first install the plu­gin via reg­u­lar FTP. Once this is down, you just need to “right click” on the down­load link of the plu­gin you want and about two sec­onds later, you will be redi­rect on the “plu­g­ins” page of your Word­Press admin where, magic, the plu­gin will be listed. This is extremely cool!

Don’t for­get that some­times, plu­g­ins authors put their plu­gin files in dif­fer­ent fold­ers. For exam­ple, if you down­load the “mycool­plu­gin” and unzip it, you will see a file named “mycool­plu­gin”. But the actual plu­gin files could be in a sub­file named “mycool­plug­i­n­ac­tu­alph­p­files”. If you don’t see the plu­gin even though you fol­lowed all the upload­ing steps, dou­ble check that.

In my first few months as a Word­Press user, I was a vic­tim of the well-known “download’em all” syn­drom — that’s how you end of with 50 plu­g­ins, half of them being bro­ken or not in use. Took me a while to down­size my impres­sive plu­gin list and keep all the best, but I think I got it now. Here are my all-time favorite:

Akismet: this plu­gin is bun­dled with Word­Press by default. It’s a pow­er­ful auto­matic spam killer, and it’s one of the best.

All In One SEO Pack: this plu­gin saved my life. As some of you know, I’m pretty SEO chal­lenged and can’t be both­ered to tweak my blog for it. This plu­gin does the job for me: pretty perma­links, key­words, descrip­tion for search engines… SEO for dum­mies like me!

Com­mentluv: this plu­gin is a great way to say thanks to your reader, and if you have ever com­mented on my blog, you have most likely seen it in action. Com­mentluv check the feed of the com­ment author and scrape the last post they wrote and dis­plays it under their com­ment. Smart, eh?

Coun­ter­ize: this plu­gin is for the stats addicts… and aren’t we all! I tested a lot of stats plu­g­ins before I set­tled for that one and I found it very accu­rate and easy to read.

Extended Live Archives: archives are a very impor­tant aspect of a blog. When new read­ers visit, they like to check old posts as well and we have to make their life easy. I hate archives by months or by year because read­ers don’t really know where to start — I like when archives show at least old posts’ titles. ELA saved my life: it shows archives by date, by cat­e­gory and also dis­plays the posts’ title. You can see it in action on this blog: archives.

Flick­rRSS: who doesn’t have pic­tures to show? Flick­rRSS dis­plays your pic­tures way in a nice styl­ish way… and you can cus­tomize the CSS. You can see the plu­gin in action on this blog, check out the side­bar bottom.

Flu­ency Admin: for those who switched to Word­Press 2.5 but aren’t big fan of the new admin inter­face, Flu­ency Admin is your solu­tion. This is the most prac­ti­cal and styl­ish admin I have seen in a while… Because it’s very new, there are still a few bugs (mostly some unsup­ported wid­gets like Sim­ple Tag) but there’s a work around.

Lep­rakhauns Word Count: a sim­ple plu­gin that adds a word count to your “write post” page. It works with­out reload­ing the page.

Main­te­nance Mode: this plu­gin adds a splash page to your blog that lets vis­i­tors know your blog is down for main­te­nance. Mean­while, as an admin, you have full access and can play with your blog CSS and php.

One Click: the famous plu­gin I was men­tion­ing ear­lier… to try it is to adopt it. Who likes to FTP files anyway??

Pop­u­lar­ity Con­test: this plu­gin will help deter­mi­nate which ones of your posts are the most pop­u­lar (using perma­links view, num­ber of com­ments, num­bers of ping backs etc.). You can keep the data for your­self or dis­play it. The “most wanted” sec­tion you see in my side­bar is made with this plugin.

Sim­i­lar Posts: this plu­gin will dis­play a list of posts related or sim­i­lar to the cur­rent post. You can para­me­ter the plu­gin. I use this one on my blog, see it in action below each post!

Was­sup: another one for stats addict… Was­sup dis­play all kind of vis­i­tor stats (real time) in a ded­i­cated page in the admin inter­face. Very interesting!

Data­base Backup: you know it, always back up your blog reg­u­larly… this plu­gin does a great job of back­ing up your data and you can even sched­ule reg­u­lar back-ups.

So, where to find other great plu­g­ins like these ones? The offi­cial Word­Press Plu­g­ins Direc­tory is a good start. I also like the Word­Press Plu­gin Data­base. Look also for list of “must have” plu­g­ins in your favorite blogs (like mine!). So far, one of the most exhaus­tive I found was at Mash­able, who teaches you to be a Word­Press God with this amaz­ing list of 300+ Tools For Run­ning Word­Press. I must admit I haven’t tested them all… And finally, don’t for­get to be curi­ous about the blogs you read reg­u­larly: which kind of plu­g­ins do they have? How do they dis­play…? What’s the cool… I see here? Don’t hes­i­tate to con­tact the blog admin­is­tra­tor who will usu­ally be happy to tell you how he/ she did it!

See you next week for part III of the How To Blog series!

15 comments

  1. Thank you Zhu for the word on plug-ins.
    (They were always a socket to me.)
    Akismet in par­tic­u­lar has been use­ful,
    hav­ing stopped over 15,000 spam mes­sages
    in the past year. 15,457 to be exact.

    Seraphines last great read…Hell Week, Part 6: Kiss of Death

  2. Hi Zhu,
    Your “How to Blog” series is great. Those infor­ma­tions are very use­ful and all of them are new to me as I’ve been using blog­ger all the while. At least, if I want to switch to Word­Press one day, I won’t get into the “download’em all” syn­drom as you’ve done the research for us. Thanks for sharing.

    zun­nurs last great read…A yearn to return

  3. Hiya, firstly can I say how lovely your new pro­file photo is. You have the most amaz­ing smile :-)

    Sec­ondly, thanks for this infor­ma­tion. I am look­ing for­ward to you future tips and advice. I am seri­ously think­ing about mov­ing from Blog­ger to Word­Press as now that I have been blog­ging for about a year I am begin­ning to find blogspot limiting.

    As one of the very fist blogs I vis­ited a year ago, I have always enjoyed your writ­ings, your art & design and your opin­ions. You have always been a source of inspi­ra­tion and encouragement.

    Keep up the won­der­ful work :) and I’ll cer­tainly be back for week 3.

  4. This should be use­ful for peo­ple like me who aren’t tech savvy and still need to learn a lot. Thank you Zhu. ;)

    Celines last great read…Orange Glow

  5. Thanks for your sup­port with the Lep­rakhauns Word Count Plugin.

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