As many of you are aware, I switched to the excellent WordPress blogging and content management system on April 1 (and had been using WordPress internally for several months previous as I developed and staged the new version of the site). I have been extremely happy with the system, and have found it much easier and friendlier to use for my day-to-day web site needs than the Joomla system I had used previously.
I have been quite impressed with WordPress’s capabilities, especially in the newly-released 2.5 version. I had to spend a lot of time hacking Joomla to my liking, but WordPress pretty much arrived ‘right’ for my purposes out of the box. Features that WordPress lacked were easy to add through its plugin architecture, and—to my pleasant surprise—I didn’t have to make any plugins myself. For everything I wanted to do, some other kind soul in the WordPress community had already done it. I’m writing this entry to thank the creators of the WordPress plugins I have made use of and, hopefully, drive them some well-deserved traffic. If you have a WordPress blog (or are considering creating one), give these excellent plugins a look!
Layout and Usability
- AStickyPostOrderER—The name is a mouthful, but the plugin is gold. In my poetry collections, I like to present the poetry in a particular, non-chronological order. WordPress defaults to displaying everything in chronological order, no matter what. Using AStickyPostOrderER, I can put my poetry in the order I want. This will also be put to good use, now and then, when I need to display on old post on the home page for some reason.
- MiniMeta Widget—While I was able to re-open comments to all with the WordPress upgrade (due to the anti-spam plugins below), I still wanted users to be able to register for accounts and quickly/easily sign in and out. The MiniMeta Widget adds the username/password boxes I have in the upper part of the right column and allows for quick, easy login and logout by registered users (the default WordPress functionality just links off to a separate login page).
- —I was worried about my little ‘have a quote’ area at the bottom-right of the site, since this was a built-in Joomla function that seemed to be missing from the more blog-oriented WordPress feature set. Thankfully, there is Quotes Collection. This plugin provides a slick interface for me to add, modify, and remove quotes from my list, as well as the sidebar widget that randomly selects and displays a quote.
- —By default, WordPress lumps comments (that users leave on content) and Trackbacks/Pings (links to sites that link to that content item) together in one giant list. There are several plugins available to separate them back out, but Separate Comments & Pings seemed the most flexible for my use. I’ve set up trackbacks/pings to appear as a simple list above all comments, but the layout/display possibilities are nearly endless and controlled by your individual template.
- Better Blogroll—The default WordPress blogroll (links) widget displays ALL of your links. The Better Blogroll widget, which you see near the bottom-right of each page, allows me to display a certain number of my links at random rather than my full list. I made one small change to the code of this plugin to make the intro paragraph text align better in my sidebar.
- —Since I’m not displaying all my links on the sidebar all the time (per Better Blogroll), WP-Links fills the gap. This plugin allows me to create a full links page (see under the ‘Miscellaneous’ menu) that displays my complete blogroll by-category right out of the WordPress system. I also made one small change to this code to change the ordering of the links categories (the plugin defaults to by-id [not useful], so I changed it to alphabetical [useful]).
- Broken Link Checker—A perennial problem on my (and any other) site is that it has links to many other web sites, and those web sites change over time. The Broken Link Checker scans all new posts (and periodically scans all old posts) and reports any broken links to me, giving me the opportunity to either remove or change those links so my readers don’t get 404 errors. Very cool.
- Maintenance Mode—On feature present in Joomla but strangely missing from WordPress was the maintenance mode. This mode makes the site temporarily unavailable with a decent-looking message when the site is undergoing maintenance or upgrades, so that users aren’t flummoxed by site weirdness. But, though missing from the built-in WordPress feature set, this plugin replicates the function just fine.
- —This is one of the coolest plugins ever written. The process for upgrading Joomla, WordPress, or almost any other content management system is roughly this: 1) Put the site in maintenance mode to let your users know what’s going on; 2) Back up your site; 3) FTP the update to your web server; 4) Check everything out and make sure it still works; 5) Disable maintenance mode and you’re done. WordPress Automatic Upgrade makes it way easier: 1) Go to automatic update panel and click ‘update’. The plugin follows those same rough steps I mentioned all on its own—maintenance mode, backup, upgrade, check, and disable maintenance mode. Huge, huge, huge time and hassle saver!
- WP Super Cache—I don’t usually have this turned on, but WP Super Cache comes in very handy when I have site slowness and/or if I get lots of hits due to some unexpected publicity. This is a fast, simple-to-use caching system that drastically reduces system load when enabled.
- CryptX—Spammers have tools that automatically scan web sites to ‘mine’ email addresses and start sending junk to them. Bad stuff. CryptX automatically messes with email addresses posted on the site (including my own) to that you can see them, but the vast majority of spam bots can’t. If the spam bots don’t get your (or my) email addresses, you (or I) don’t get as much spam email.
- CAPTCHA feature, but other options are available as well to ensure a human being is registering, not a spam bot. —As a popular blogging and content management system, WordPress is often the target of spam bots. These bots often try to register fake user accounts for a site, but SABRE stops them by requiring some sort of interactive step. I have used the simple
- —While SABRE protects my site from spam bots’ fraudulent applications for accounts on my system, I wanted to allow anybody (registered or not) to post comments which opened up another hole for spammers to take advantage of. The WP-SpamFree plugin makes it nearly impossible for an automated spam bot to post comments, but [hopefully] doesn’t stop any legitimate users.
Updated 7/10/2008 to replace WP-Cache with WP Super Cache.