Making the Most of WordPress Plugins

Posted: March 4, 2011 in Uncategorized

Making the Most of
WordPress Plugins

Half the fun of running a WordPress-powered blog is playing with the
hundreds of plugins that you can install to extend your blog’s functions
and options. WordPress plugins are like those really cool custom rims
you put on your car: Although they don’t come with the car, they’re awesome
accessories that make your car better than all the rest.
In this chapter, you find out what plugins are, how to find and install them,
and how they enhance your blog in a way that makes your blog unique. Using
plugins can also greatly improve your readers’ experiences by providing
them various tools they can use to interact and participate — just the way
you want them to!
This chapter assumes that you already have WordPress installed on your
Web server. Installing plugins pertains only to the WordPress.org software.
If you’re skipping around in the book and haven’t yet installed WordPress on
your Web server, you can find instructions in Chapter 6.
WordPress.com users can’t install or configure plugins on their hosted blogs. I
don’t make the rules, so please don’t kill the messenger.

Finding Out What Plugins Are
A plugin is a small program that, when added to WordPress, interacts with
the software to provide some extensibility to the software. Plugins aren’t part
of the core software; they aren’t software programs either. They typically
don’t function as stand-alone software. They do require the host program
(WordPress, in this case) to function.
Plugin developers are the people who write these gems and share them with
the rest of us — usually, for free. Like WordPress, plugins are free to anyone
who wants to further tailor and customize his site to his own needs.
Although plugins are written and developed by people who have the set of
skills required to do so, I would say that the WordPress user community is
also largely responsible for the ongoing development of plugins. Ultimately,
the end users are the ones who put those plugins to the true test of the real
world in their own blogs. Those same users are also the first to speak up
and let the developers know when something isn’t working right, helping the
developers troubleshoot and fine-tune their plugins. The most popular plugins
are created by developers who encourage open communication with the
user base. Overall, WordPress is one of those great open source projects in
which the relationship between developers and users fosters a creative environment
that keeps the project fresh and exciting every step of the way.
Literally thousands of plugins are available for WordPress — certainly way
too many for me to list in this chapter alone. I could, but then you’d need
heavy machinery to lift this book off the shelf! So here are just a few examples
of things that plugins let you add to your WordPress blog:
✓ E-mail notification: Your biggest fans can sign up to have an e-mail notification
sent to them every time you update your blog.
✓ Submit your blog to social networking services: Allow your readers to
submit your blog posts to some of the most popular social networking
services, such as Digg, Technorati, and Del.icio.us.
✓ Stats program: Keep track of where your traffic is coming from; which
posts on your blog are the most popular; and how much traffic is
coming through your blog on a daily, monthly, and yearly basis.

Exploring Manage Plugin page
Before you start installing plugins for your blog, it’s important for you to
explore the Manage Plugins page in your WordPress Administration panel
and understand how to manage the plugins after you install them. Click the
Installed link in the Plugins menu to get to the Manage Plugins page


The Manage
Plugins
page in the
WordPress
Administration
panel.
The Manage Plugins page is where you manage all the plugins you install in
your WordPress blog. This page is laid out in two sections:
✓ Currently Active Plugins: These plugins, listed at the top of the Plugin
Management page, are currently being used on your site. Figure 10-1
shows that I have one active plugin, Akismet.
✓ Inactive Plugins: These plugins are not in active use on your blog. These
plugins exist in the plugins directory on your Web server, but because
you have not activated them, they are listed as available rather than
active.

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