Tag Archives: plugins

Essential Plugins for WordPress 2.5

With every new version of WordPress, I update my list of plugins that I consider to be essentials. That is, these are the group of plugins that I install in almost every instance of WordPress that I run on my site. In the last couple of weeks, there have been several really slick little plugins that have either been developed or updated for WordPress 2.5. Here are the ones I’ve adopted:

“cforms”:http://www.deliciousdays.com/cforms-plugin has become my contact form plugin of choice. It is a very powerful and robust plugin that allows user customizability right down to the last detail. As such, the admin interface is a little daunting, but the power that cforms provides makes it well worth the effort to learn it. At this point, I think it’s fairly safe to say that there isn’t a better contact form plugin out there.

“Extra Sentence Space”:http://coffee2code.com/wp-plugins/extra-sentence-space is exactly what the typing Nazi ordered. High school typing class taught us that it’s proper form to place two spaces between sentences. HTML documents only display a single space, no matter how many you type. This plugin brings back the ability to add the second space back in and clean up your document formatting.

Flexible UploadI’ve been using “Flexible Upload”:http://blog.japonophile.com/flexible-upload/ almost since it was first developed. What’s attractive about this plugin is that it allows you to resize images on the fly and, if so desired, add a personal watermark to your own images. Now, with all the problems surrounding the Media Uploader in WordPress 2.5[1], Flexible Upload provides the means to bypass most of the buggy AJAX code and get your images uploaded to your blog quickly and reliably.

“Ozh”:http://planetozh.com has fast become one of my favorite plugin developers. He consistently creates plugins that are practical and high quality. I’m running three of his plugins on all my installations that make the WP 2.5 dashboard experience a lot more fun.

Admin Dropdown “Ozh’ Admin Dropdown Menu”:http://planetozh.com/blog/my-projects/wordpress-admin-menu-drop-down-css/ reorganizes the WP 2.5 dashboard, putting all the links in a single row at the top of the dash. What’s more, a simple mouseover for any menu tab will display a dropdown menu that will give one-click access to any submenu in the dash. This plugin effectively cuts dashboard navigation times in half.

Absolute Comments “Ozh’ Absolute Comments”:http://planetozh.com/blog/my-projects/absolute-comments-manager-instant-reply/ makes it fun and easy to reply to reader comments by reorganizing the Comments menu and allowing for instant comment reply right in the dashboard. It’s fast and powerful, and every WordPress user should be running this plugin.

Better Plugins “Ozh’ Better Plugins Page”:http://planetozh.com/blog/my-projects/wordpress-better-plugin-page/ cleans up and reformats the plugin page, making it a little easier to look at and use. It also provides a set of filters that can be used to display only a particular subset of plugins.

The WP 2.5 dashboard comes with a fixed width, which is rather ugly for those of us who use a large monitor resolution. “Remove Max Width”:http://dd32.id.au/wordpress-plugins/remove-max-width/ undoes this limitation and allows the dashboard to stretch completely from side to side.

ShareThis“ShareThis”:http://sharethis.com/ has been around for awhile now, but it compacts social bookmarking down into a single button. Using this plugin gives your readers the ability to share the wealth and send additional readership your way.

I’ve been using Textile as my text markup option almost since I started using WordPress several years back. Textile and and its plugins have undergone various iterations since that time, but “TextileWrapper”:http://www.huddledmasses.org/category/development/wordpress/textile/ is the one I’ve been using for the last year or so. The thing that I like about Textile in particular as a markup tool is because it uses common characters for the markup, making it extremely fast to add formatting to my writing as I go. I use TextileWrapper on all my WordPress installations and won’t set one up without it. Everyone has their markup tool of choice, but this is the one that I think is easiest to use.

Anyone who’s ever had a catastrophic blog failure resulting in lost data knows the value of backing up your database[2]. “WP DB-Backup”:http://www.ilfilosofo.com/blog/wp-db-backup should be required for every WordPress installation[3]. It makes it easy to keep a backup copy of your DB on file, y’know, just in case.

“Shift This Order Pages”:http://www.shiftthis.net/wordpress-order-pages-plugin/ is a little clunky to use[4], but it beats hands-down having to go into every page on your blog manually to change the menu ID. If I have an installation of WordPress that contains more than a couple of pages, I make sure I include this plugin to move pages around more easily.

I know I, for one, like to have the option of subscribing to comments on particular blog postings, and I don’t generally like to add individual RSS feeds to my Google Reader. “Subscribe to Comments”:http://txfx.net/code/wordpress/subscribe-to-comments/ gives readers the option of getting follow-up comments in their email.

Web servers don’t provide a means of automatically adjusting for daylight savings time. “Timezone”:http://kimmo.suominen.com/sw/timezone/ fixes this by automatically applying this adjustment twice a year. Just tell it what time zone you live in and whether you make the adjustment, and it does the rest.

These are my favorite plugins, and I firmly believe they are well-worth your time to investigate, as well. Feel free to tell me about any other essential plugins you use by commenting below.

fn1(footnotes). A problem which, at this point, still has no real solutions, despite many reports of bugs on the WordPress support forums.

fn2(footnotes). And the rest of you _ought_ to know the value of backing up regularly.

fn3(footnotes). Frankly, it ought to be included into the WordPress core, in my opinion.

fn4(footnotes). It took me a little while to figure out just exactly how to make it work.

WP-Stats Problems

I don’t track my blog stats quite as religiously as I did a year ago, so it was a couple of days after I upgraded to WordPress 2.3 before I realized that something very strange was happening with my stats. I switched to “WP-Stats”:http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/stats/ awhile back because it’s lightweight and takes some of the load off my own hosted account. The plugin worked very well there for awhile, but with the upgrade to WP2.3, a handful of plugins have exhibited some new behaviors, WP-Stats being one of them.

Top Posts

Everything with WP-Stats works as it should except for the traffic tracked to individual entries. As you can see from the screencapture, the traffic is no longer being logged correctly. Instead of seeing the title of the post in question, what generally shows up is the post ID, though I usually have one entry that shows the title for some reason. This wouldn’t even be so bad, since ordinarily you’d at least be able to click through to the post and check the title that way. Tedious, I know, but at least it’d be something. Instead when I mouse-over the link, here’s what I see:

Useless Link

A useless link that doesn’t actually take me where I want to go. Now, obviously something doesn’t work right, and I haven’t had a chance to jump into the code to see what’s happening. The WordPress support forums have seen a fair bit of traffic about the WP-Stats plugin being broken, though I don’t think I’ve seen my own specific problem appear yet (something which I’m about to remedy). Hopefully a new version will be released soon with a patch to address the various problems users have been reporting.

WordPress 2.3

I’ve successfully migrated this blog to WordPress 2.3, and I was actually a little surprised at how painless it was. I did turn up a handful of duplication errors with regard to the wp_term_relationship tables, even though I’d made sure I deleted those tables beforehand, but in spite of that, I think everything migrated to 2.3 just fine. The UTW conversion went _very_ smoothly, converting nearly 1200 tags and over 4100 tag-to-post relationships in about 3 seconds. Very slick.

I’ve also just spent the last 45 minutes upgrading plugins, thanks to the nifty little plugin update notifier that’s now built into WordPress, and I’ve also coded this theme to be compliant with WordPress 2.3 tags. I’ll rebundle it tomorrow and distribute it on the download page. All in all, I’m very happy with what I’m seeing.

This is the only one of my WordPress installations that I’ve run tags on, since UTW was, quite frankly, such a pain in the neck to implement. I’ll be converting a couple of my other installations over to tags soon, as well, and I’ve been toying with the idea of setting up a Tumblelog but was waiting for 2.3 to come out before doing so. I think I’ll be setting that up in the near future now, as well.

Bad Behavior Behaves Badly

Well, _that_ was fun. I’ve been having some issues recently with a couple of my WordPress installations. In a nutshell, every form that has anything to with communication to the database was choking. Data wasn’t being saved to the database, screens weren’t loading properly, functions weren’t… functioning. It took me a little while of searching (and no little amount of stress and worry) but I finally stumbled across “a solution that just felt right”:http://wordpress.org/support/topic/108657?replies=8#post-562986. I’ve been using “Bad Behavior”:http://www.bad-behavior.ioerror.us/ for awhile now in conjunction with Akismet to catch and filter out spam. Between the two, they’ve done a fabulous job, making it a rare occurrence when even a single spam item slips through the cracks.

Unfortunately, apparently Bad Behavior has failed before, prompting an upgrade from 2.0.7 to the current version of 2.0.10. Trouble is, now 2.0.10 is malfunctioning and it blocking all scripts that had anything to do with communicating with the database. My guess is that something has gone wrong with Bad Behavior servers, potentially causing some sort of “feedback” loop. I – and a couple of others – have left comments notifying the author of the problem, so hopefully we’ll see a new version released in the near future. In the meantime, problem solved and everything seems to be functioning properly again.

WordPress 2.3 Beta 1 Test

I’ve been toying around with the WordPress 2.3 Beta 1 most of the day today. I basically copied this site’s files and database to another location, uploaded the 2.3 files, and ran the upgrade script. Then I spent the next several hours mucking about with the new system. Here’s what I’ve discovered so far:

* The only plugin that ‘broke’ upon re-activation was the Custom Write Panel. And even then, I’m not sure it actually broke. It generates a ‘Plugin could not be activated’ fatal error, yet it clearly showed as active in the list and seems to function just fine when I go to it to write up a new entry. I have a feeling it has to do with the new tag field in the write screen that the Custom Write Panel plugin will obviously not be able to account for properly.
* The UTW tagging conversion process works pretty well. I have a massive database, though, and the tag importer counted just shy of 1200 tags that I’ve used in the past and nearly 4000 tag-to-post relationships. Writing the UTW tags to the new WordPress taxonomy system took awhile, I think in part due to the size of the database as well as to the somewhat sluggish nature of my computer. The conversion appears to have gone off without a hitch, though, and I’ve retired the UTW plugin on the beta test site in favor of the native taxonomy system.
* The categories-to-tags conversion process failed tragically, however. It’s been generating duplicate entry database errors, thus failing to convert category names to tags. Of course, it did, for some reason, single out my Commentary category to convert properly, thus removing every entry from that category (and every other category), effectively removing them from my blog – unless they happened to also be filed under another category, in which case they got to stay. I had similar problems with converting categories to tags with UTW, as well, so it could be something problematic with the whole system. It matters little to me, in the long-run, since I prefer to keep my categories separate from my tags, but since I’m helping to beta-test the software, I wanted to see how badly I could break things.
* The new tagging system has two new functions – <?php the_tags(); ?> and <?php wp_tag_cloud(); ?>. The first takes three parameters and is most useful for displaying your tags at the end of entries. The latter takes a string of options and is most useful for displaying a tag cloud of your specifications in the sidebar, on a page (say, as a site index), or in a post, if you prefer. I’ll talk more about the tag cloud function in the following entry.
* The plugins page in the dashboard also now displays when plugins have new versions (according to the wordpress.org plugins database). It’s a slick little addition that I’m very pleased to see.

By and large I’m happy with the new changes to the WordPress core. I’m eager now to see what sort of new plugins will come out of the new tagging taxonomy.

Safari

I think I finally tracked down the memory leak in Firefox. I’m still waiting to see if anything goes completely haywire, and I do need to double-check it on my PC at home to be sure, but I think the problem may have been the Firebug addon. While it _is_ a very useful tool for web development, when it’s looking at every single one of your tabs to check for errors and such, it does have a way of making Firefox very, very big. It’s a much better policy to just disable the entire thing and then enable on a site-by-site basis, and then for only as long as it takes to troubleshoot any code you’re working on.

In the meantime before I figured this out, I popped open Safari for Windows again this morning. I really, really like that browser. In a lot of ways, it makes most websites look a lot better. Safari seems to render websites with a cleaner, sharper look overall. Plus, the browser just fired right up and responded instantly to every command I gave it. It seems to be pretty lightweight, much the way Firefox was in its earlier days. The only trouble with Safari is that it doesn’t have the addon and plugin support yet that Firefox does, which still makes Safari my second choice for a browser. If it ever gets the kind of open source addon support that Firefox has, it will certainly give Firefox a run for its money.

I did run a brief Google search this morning for websites that have plugins for Safari. I didn’t really find much, aside from Safari’s version of Adblock and a couple of developer tools. I’m kind of hoping that more plugins will open up, but I don’t even know if Safari’s API is open. It’d certainly be good if it was, but Apple might be playing things close to the vest.

If anyone knows anything about good plugins and addons for Safari, do please let me know. I think there’s a lot of potential for Safari yet, and probably most of it is still untapped as yet. I’d like to see that change.

A Look at WordPress 2.3

“Small Potato”:http://www.wpdesigner.com/ has written up a “preliminary review”:http://www.wpdesigner.com/2007/08/28/wordpress-23-beta-1-review-and-checklist/ of WordPress 2.3 Beta 1, and I must say that the new features being introduced into this version are positively yummy. I think I’m going to really like having tags native to the WordPress core. I “was worried”:http://shamuswrites.com/2007/04/19/tagging-fears-in-wp-23/ about the need for a tag importer for those of us who use tagging plugins, so I’m pleased to see that the WordPress development team will be including an importer for UTW and are currently testing importers for a couple of other popular tagging plugins, as well. It was also nice to get a closer look at the new template tag for tags – <?php the_tags('', '', ''); ?>.

The default blogroll has also been the source of much contention lately, in light of the debate over what constitutes sponsored links and what doesn’t. “Matt’s”:http://photomatt.com integrity has also been called into question over a number of issues lately, so it’s nice to see the development team taking the suggestions of the WordPress community seriously by replacing the legacy default blogroll links with others that point at WordPress development and documentation links.

I haven’t had a chance to install and test out the WordPress 2.3 Beta 1 yet, but I’m already liking what I’m hearing from those who have. I can’t wait to take a look at a full feature list for the next version of WordPress. I expect that some of my current plugins may break with 2.3, but I think the trade-off for new native features will be well worth the extra trouble.

WordPress Plugin – Subscriber Gadget for myDashboard

The Subscriber Gadget is an additional gadget for the “myDashboard”:http://dev.clearskys.net/Wordpress/MyDashboard gadget library. It works in conjuction with two other plugins – the “Subscribe to Comments”:http://txfx.net/code/wordpress/subscribe-to-comments/ plugin and the complementary “WP View Subscriber Info”:http://www.maxpower.ca/wordpress-plugin-subscribe-to-comments-report-and-stats/2006/08/30/ plugins, the latter of which places a module in the default WordPress dashboard that shows you how much subscribers you have to your posts. myDashboard overwrites your default WordPress dashboard, and so the View Subscriber Info module is lost, as well. The Subscriber Gadget is a port of the View Subscriber Info module, putting your subscribers’ stats back on your dashboard where you can see them.

Installation:

  1. Download, install, and configure the “Subscribe to Comments”:http://txfx.net/code/wordpress/subscribe-to-comments/ plugin and the complementary “WP View Subscriber Info”:http://www.maxpower.ca/wordpress-plugin-subscribe-to-comments-report-and-stats/2006/08/30/ plugins
  2. Download the [download#6].
  3. Upload subscriber-gadget.php to your /wp-content/plugins/ directory and activate it.
  4. The gadget should now appear in your Gadgets Library in your dashboard for you to add and position from there.

Screenshot:

Subscriber Stats

Questions and bug reports should be directed to my “support forum”:http://forum.shamuswrites.com/forum/support.

If you like this plugin, please consider making a donation to my tip jar:











Changelog:

*2007.08.01 (v1.0)*

  • Original release

Bit by the Coding Bug

I’m getting my inner geek on – again. I spent the majority of my day today trying to figure out how to crosspost from WordPress to MySpace. I’d found a “hack that looked like it had potential”:http://noumenon.roderickrussell.com/wordpress-to-myspace-auto-crossposting that I messed with for quite a while, but so far I’ve had no success in getting it to run, despite having following the directions to the letter and checked everything over fifthlicate (and then some). I’m still waiting for a reply back on my comment to see if the hack’s author has any idea what’s blocking my attempts.

Ultimately, I gave up on that and started trying to find a way to put a light-weight Twitter badge on to my MySpace profile. I don’t like any of the badges that Twitter produces, so I looked around for other options. But of course, MySpace being the notoriously unfriendly environment that it is, there are no good solutions that are both functional and attractive on the page. So, I’ve given up on that option for the time being, as well.

In the meantime, I plan to learn a little more about the ins-and-outs of PHP coding tomorrow. I’ve got the MyDashboard plugin installed on this blog, but it doesn’t display quite as much information in the dashboard from some of my other behind-the-scenes plugins as I’m used to. So, my intent is to learn out to create a few gadgets that will tap into these plugins and put this information closer to my fingertips. If all goes well, I may even plan to create gadgets for a few other things that I’ve always wanted on the dashboard and never been able to find plugins for.

On that note, I’ve got a few of the plugin pages from the WordPress codex up in my browser. I really would like to get more involved with the development end of WordPress, but it is my sketchy knowledge of PHP that limits how much I can do. Since I have at least a two or three more weeks of down-time while I heal up from surgery, I hope to make some use of that time to learn a little more about how to write plugins for WordPress. I’ve come up with ideas in the past for things I’d love my WordPress installation to be able to do, things that, thus far, no one else has created plugins for. So, I hope to learn and add a few things to the WordPress community myself.

I’ve got other things to work on, as well. I still have plans to create a customized WordPress theme. I’d started work on a minimal theme last week, but that’s been on hiatus due to surgery last week. But now that I’m beginning to feel better and gain some more mobility again, I hope to get back to this project, as well, and try to finish it up. The skeleton I’d managed to build last week will probably undergo an overhaul, though, as I’ve changed my mind about some things in my mind about where I want to go with it. Heck, if I get _really_ ambitious, I might even tailor a new bbPress theme to go with it.

Some New WordPress Plugins

I haven’t done one of these in a while, but I wanted to point out a handful of new plugins I’ve started using recently.

  • Better Comments Manager is another of those plugins that’s been added to my list of essentials for any WordPress installation. It adds a tab to your dashboard that allows you to view your comments with a host of new options. You can edit, delete, or unapprove comments and easily mark comments as spam, if necessary. You can also post a new or threaded reply right from the dashboard with an AJAX-powered interface. A single mouse-click will also filter comments to display only the comments for a given thread. It’s a powerful new comment interface that should be a must-have for any WordPress user.
  • WordPress.com users are familiar with the Dashbar that appears on their site whenever they’re logged in that gives them instant access to most of their primary functions in an instant. The Dashbar plugin now gives this same toolbar functionality to self-hosted WordPress installations. It provides access to the dashboard, write panel, and editing ability for the last five entries from your site’s front page.
  • There’s been some buzz recently about the new wordpress.com application that’s been added to Facebook. Well, the FacePress plugin updates your Facebook news and mini feeds every time you post a new entry to your self-hosted WordPress installation. It’s a pretty slick little plugin and makes it that much easier to integrate Facebook and WordPress.
  • MyDashboard provides a cleaned-up dashboard interface that lets you pick and choose what elements you see when you log into your admin panel. There’s no documentation yet on how to create custom gadgets to add to this plugin, but as soon as there is, I’ll be looking to further customize this slick little plugin.
  • The Custom Write Panel provides the power through the use of toggle buttons and custom fields to create a series of customized write panels. It lets you remove some of the clutter and adds the ability to post specialized news items.

These are a great group of plugins. I urge you to give them a try and beef up your WordPress experience.