[Updated July 16, 2013 to add WP Socializer to the social media plugin list.]
My lovely wife and I use WordPress exclusively as the platform for about half a dozen websites. One reason is the huge user and developer community. We’ve tried well over 100 plugins for WordPress. Here are the ten best plugins for WordPress 2013.
[pullquote]Our household mantra is “if you use it and like it, pay something for it.”[/pullquote]
1. Akismet (version 2.5.8). Comment and trackback spam have become endemic in the WordPress environment. Even if you require moderation for all comments and trackbacks, you still will have quite a job. Akismet catches well over 90 percent of the spam. You can review the spam folder, but after a while you’ll learn that Akismet simply does not make mistakes. Now I routinely click “Empty Spam” without doing much more than glancing at the content. Akismet is shareware. They ask for donations, but you can pick the amount (including $0). I recommend paying them something. After all, your time does have some value.
2. WordPress SEO (version 1.4.13). Joost de Valk (Yoast on the WordPress plugins list) knows more about SEO optimization than anyone outside Google. Download his plugin and you can take advantage of his knowledge. Frequent updates keep this plugin, well, up to date. The plugin is free, but if you decide to use it throw a few bucks in Joost’s direction. If you’d like to see whether it works, Google “Tony Lima.” There are more of us than you think, but I’m doing OK in the search results.
[simplepullquote]One additional note: if your WordPress theme advertises itself as “Responsive” then WPtouch may not be useful. Stay tuned for a detailed comparison. After I post this article I will upgrade my theme (Echelon from MySiteMyWay.com) to the new responsive version. This should be fun.[/simplepullquote]
3. WP-Touch (version 1.9.42) converts your WordPress site to a mobile version on the fly. It doesn’t do a perfect job — that would be impossible — but it’s pretty darn good. Seems to have problems with Android devices, so be cautious. Read the reviews, especially the one stars. I like it but YMMV. I only use the free version. The reviews say that the pro version ($50) solves some of these problems. There are small business ($129) and developer/agency ($299) versions as well. Sure, you can create mobile versions of your site. But if you’re a DIY blogger like me, WP-Touch is a real time-saver.
To see how WPtouch works, here’s what my website looks like in the desktop version:
And here’s what WPtouch produced (screen capture from an iPod touch):
4. Simple Pull Quote (version 1.3) gives you an added pull quote style.
[pullquote]Pulvinar sit lectus egestas et, pulvinar turpis odio, risus. Platea vel! Montes auctor, tincidunt etiam! Ultrices pulvinar cras adipiscing dolor enim integer ridiculus, tincidunt urna. Mauris tortor cursus nec, phasellus phasellus non in auctor! Facilisis. Placerat nunc.[/pullquote]
← Here’s what the new pullquote looks like.
Before I recommend this one too highly, be warned: the default shortcode for this is pullquote. Your theme may have a built-in shortcode with the same name. It’s fairly simple to edit the plugin code, changing pullquote to simplepullquote everywhere. (That’s what I had to do for the Echelon theme this blog uses.)
Simple Pull Quote adds this icon to your WordPress toolbar:
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5. Portfolio Slideshow (version 1.5.1). Easily embed slideshows in your WordPress blog, as many as you want. Not particularly easy to use because the plugin requires that you use the numeric ID of each image. You can get this by selecting Media/Library and clicking on the thumbnail for each image. (The Portfolio Slideshow documentation says you can get the ID by hovering over the thumbnail, but that’s not working on this site today.) A better solution is to install either WP Show IDs or Simply Show IDs (see next plugin review). The shortcode syntax is pretty straightforward:
[portfolio_slideshow include=”771,761,759″ autoplay=”true” size=”medium”]
Look carefully at the slideshow above and you’ll notice that this text moves up and down. It’s a really good idea to keep all the images in your slideshow the same size.
See those three three-digit numbers in quotation marks? Those are the ID numbers of the images to include in the order in which you want them to appear. For whatever reason, WordPress has decided to make these numbers relatively difficult to find. Luckily, there are two plugins that add the “ID” column to administrator tables.
6. WP Show IDs (version 110709) or Simply Show IDs (version 1.1.3) are about equally good. Ignore the warning that neither has been updated in over two years. When something works, it’s usually best to leave it alone. To give you some idea of what these two goodies do, here’s what the Media Library listing looks like before activating WP Show IDs:
And here’s what it looks like after. Note the added column on the far right.
7. ShareThis (version 7.0) is a very easy-to-use plugin that integrates social media into your WordPress blog. It automatically places social media icons you select below each post article. There is an option for a floating sidebar on the left edge of the screen. I really can’t recommend that option if you’re using WPtouch because the size of the ShareThis sidebar really doesn’t scale down to mobile. And the sidebar includes Twitter, Facebook, Email, Pinterest and the generic ShareThis icon. Hovering over the ShareThis icon opens the full array of social media. (If anyone can explain to me why Pinterest is included but Google + is not, I’d love to hear the story.) But it’s gotten to the point that when I publish an article I just use the ShareThis icons to notify various social media.
I have ShareThis set to display small icons like this:
A good alternative that offers more options than ShareThis is WP Socializer (version 2.4.9). I went looking for an alternative because my lovely wife is working on a project that needs a print button on the social media toolbar. After fiddling for a bit (start by using the automatic setup, then worry about customization), I got this:
But the big surprise was the Print option:
8. Disable Visual Editor WYSIWYG (version 1.5.1). This one is not for everybody. But sooner or later you’re going to have to muck around in the html code. You know, the stuff you see when you select the Text tab at the top of the TinyMCE editor window:
WordPress has a nasty habit of overwriting, changing, or just outright deleting code you’ve typed when you switch back to the visual editor. Disable Visual Editor makes it stop. But save this step for near the end of your post because turning off the plugin (by unchecking its checkbox in the right sidebar) may cause the visual editor to start acting up again. I originally downloaded this product because older versions of WordPress did not play nice with Google map frame codes. Here’s where you find Disable Visual Editor:
8. BackWPup (version 3.0.12). About as complete and flexible a backup system as you could want. Like so many other vendors, the publisher is offering a “Pro” version starting at $75. But scroll down that page a bit and you’ll find a comparison chart showing what’s in the Pro package that’s not included in the free package. As an added bonus, on the Plugins list, BackWPup includes links to documentation and support. You can create multiple jobs for a single website if you need backups on an irregular basis. You can specify compressed file formats, backup to a variety of locations (ISP hard drive, ftp, Dropbox, and a bunch of others. (I’ve trimmed a bunch of whitespace out of the image below.)
9. Better Tag Cloud (version 0.99.5). I’m hesitant to recommend this plugin because Nicholas Kuttler no longer has the time to support it. Nevertheless, it works with at least simpler themes. And it’s relatively easy to use. Essentially Mr. Kuttler turned the standard WordPress function wp_tag_cloud( ) and given it a visual user interface. The front-end should survive nicely and I’m pretty sure we can count on WordPress to continue to support deprecated functions. Here’s what the user interface looks like:
10. 451 Support (version 1.0). This is a personal favorite. For years there has been a campaign for a new web standard error code, specifically code 451. That error would be displayed when someone tries to access a web site or page that has been blocked or censored by government authorities. I’ve written about this before. You can read my earlier story by clicking here. Briefly, the 451 is an homage to Ray Bradbury’s classic “Fahrenheit 451.” If you want a copy, e-mail me and I’ll send you the zip file. The plugin adds this banner to the upper right corner of your blog:
11. Preventing hacking and spam. OK, this is not a plugin. More of a plug, actually. The two biggest complaints about WordPress blogs are spam comments and hacking. Akismet (see top of this article) will handle most spam. But if your blog is constantly being hacked, you have an ISP problem. The easiest way to solve this is to simply pay WordPress.com to host your blog. They are secure. We use Netfirms and MDDhosting. Netfirms tends to be more technically adept, but MDDhosting has better tools for users.
I’m always looking for recommendations and advice. If you have a favorite plugin, let me know. If you know of a plugin that’s better than one I’ve listed here, please, please let me know.