If you’ve been using WordPress for a while, you’ve probably had plenty of experience with WordPress Plugins. I explain plugins to my clients by comparing them to options on a car, in the sense that WordPress is a basic car model, and if you want upgraded performance, handling, safety features, etc.. then you add them on – much like Plugins.
The major difference (of course) is that it’s much easier to add Plugins to WordPress than options to a car – but the comparison is still relatively valid. Plugins can add powerful new functions to your site, and I spend plenty of time finding plugins that can perform the tasks my clients are looking for.
That said, there are some plugins that really ought to have been built into WordPress. I consider these plugins to be essential, and I install them on every WordPress site I work with.
The first of My essential WordPress Plugins is Revision Control. By default every time you update a post WordPress saves a copy in the database. If you’re like me you may tweak a post many times even after it’s been published, and as a result you may have 5, 10 or 50 copies of a post stored in your database.
On larger blogs these post revisions can take up some serious space, but even on smaller blogs storing all the content in your database is a waste of space and can slow down queries on your site.
Enter Revision Control by Dion Hulse. This nifty little plugin adds a revisions menu under your WP settings menu where you can set the maximum number of revisions to store in the database for both posts and pages.
I set both fields to 2 for my sites and generally 3 or 4 for client sites. I figure it’s very unlikely that I’m going to want to revert a page back more than 1 revision, but I’m sure some people do. Leave the Revisions Range box alone unless you feel like getting into the documentation, then submit and you’re done!
My second essential WordPress Plugin is Widget Logic. This neat plugin allows you to have multiple sidebars even if your theme only has one sidebar. It adds a small box in the footer of every widget that controls what page that widget is displayed on.
Widget Logic uses conditional tags to determine which widget shows up on which page. Now this may sound a little complicated but it’s really not.
The basic conditional tags are: is_page( ) for pages, is_single( ) for single posts, is_home( ) for the homepage, but only if the homepage is your blog homepage – otherwise you need to use is_front_page ( ). You can learn more about WordPress conditional tags here.
This is most useful if you want to have certain widgets on the sidebar of your About page for example, or if you want to have a sales banner that you want to only show up in the sidebar of a certain post.
To make this work it’s easiest if you take the URL stub of the page and paste it in single quotes between the brackets, so to have a widget only show up on your about page you’d use: is_page(‘about’). If you were reviewing Dog Carriers, and your post was: My Dog Carrier Review located at: www.yoursite.com/dog-carriers/my-dog-carrier-review/, you’d use: is_single(‘my-dog-carrier-review’). Got it?
This plugin can do a lot more, including excluding a widget from certain pages. To do this, simply add an apostrophe before the page you want to exclude, so: !is_page(‘about’) would exclude a widget from the about page.
Try Widget Logic out and I think you’ll quickly find that it’s as essential to you as it is to me!
That’s it for now, I’ll post more of my favorite plugins in future posts.