Please note: this tutorial assumes that you are using WordPress 3.3.1 with the default Twenty Eleven theme installed.
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If you read the WordPress tutorial on the Add New Post/Page Screens I published yesterday, the additional Screen Options available to you may have caught your eye.
So let’s remove the mystery and see what these features have to offer us.
By default, WordPress displays excerpts of your blog posts in reverse chronological order on your home page. These post excerpts are also displayed in various other places, like category archives, tag archives, date archives, and so on.
And again, by default, the first 55 words of any given post are used as the excerpt. Here’s a screenshot of the most recent post on my blog:
As you can see, the content of the post is cut off mid-sentence. This is somewhat jarring, and there are far better ways to engage with your readers than an arbitrary 55 word post excerpt. That’s right – I am critiquing my own blog – getting this matter sorted is on my list, I promise!
Fortunately, you have a couple of options to prevent WordPress’ auto-excerpt mangling – one of which is covered by the Excerpt widget. I’ll leave the description to the WordPress folk:
I’m not going to get into the SEO and conversion benefits of writing excerpts for your posts (although I will do in the near future, so stay tuned), but including excerpts of your posts are good for many reasons. For one, a custom-written synopsis of your post is far more useful to a reader than the first 55 words of your post.
The display of any excerpts that you write depends entirely upon the settings of your theme. Your theme decides if and when excerpts are displayed. For instance, the Twenty Eleven theme does not utilized post excerpts (although you can alter it to do so). However, WPMU’s own custom theme does:
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A trackback is a communication method between blogs. In a nutshell, if you link to an external blog post, you can attempt to inform that blog post you have done so. If successful, a link to your post with a small excerpt will be displayed in the comments or trackbacks section of that blog post.
If you want to send a trackback to a blog post, you should look out for a link to a trackback URL on the post itself. Once you have it, just copy and paste it into the Send Trackbacks field and Publish/Update your post.
If there is no trackback URL, the blog probably does not support trackbacks.
You may have also heard of pingbacks. I am not going to get tied up in trying to explain the differences between trackbacks and pingbacks, as they are largely academic. What you do need to know is that all WordPress sites are set up by default to send and receive pingbacks automatically (although this can be changed in the settings). So to not be considered a spammer, you should not submit trackback URLs to WordPress sites, as the job has already been done for you.
This widget allows to create custom meta-data fields which can then be utilized across your blog. This really isn’t beginner’s stuff, so I am going to skip over this.
If you would like to dive into the world of Custom Fields, check out this WordPress codex post for further guidance.
The functionality of this widget is self-explanatory. Just uncheck the relevant box to disallow comments or trackbacks/pingbacks on the post you are currently working on, and vice versa.
You can turn comments and trackbacks/pingbacks off blog-wide in your general settings, but the above widget will only affect one post.
If you like to handle comments by blog post, this is one way of doing so. When the Comments widget is activated, you will be able to see and manage all comments for that post only.
Just hover over a comment and your options will appear:
Please note that comments are displayed in the date and time order in which they were left, which is probably not how they are displayed on the blog post itself.
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I’m not entirely sure why this widget exists. It allows you to edit the slug (i.e. the part of the URL that describes what your post is about):
But that can already be easily achieved by Editing the permalink at the top of the screen:
There’s a shiny gold star for anyone who understands the point of this widget. Beats me.
We finish off with another straightforward widget that simply allows you to change the author of a post.
Say I wrote up some research notes for a post and saved them as a draft. My good friend Jon Badger then picked up the draft in order to convert my rough notes into a beautifully-worded post. WordPress would automatically assume that the post was written by me, so Jon would need to make the manual adjustment in the Author widget.
That’s all there is to it!
But There’s More…
Depending on what themes and plugins you have installed, you may have many more Screen Options available to you than I have listed above. So what are your favorite Screen Options widgets, and how do you use them? Let us know in the comments section!
Creative Commons image courtesy of woodleywonderworks