WPMU DEV's Blog - Everything WordPress » WordPress Plugins - WPMU.org http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog The WPMU DEV WordPress blog provides tutorials, tips, resources and reviews to help out any WP user Sat, 20 Dec 2014 13:00:46 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 Top WordPress CMS Plugins Compared and Reviewed http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/top-wordpress-cms-plugins-reviewed/ http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/top-wordpress-cms-plugins-reviewed/#comments Thu, 18 Dec 2014 12:00:00 +0000 http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/?p=135534 If you’re developing WordPress sites for clients, or if you want to make the user interface a bit easier to work with for yourself or add custom content without writing code, you may well need a CMS plugin.

CMS plugins give WordPress additional Content Management System functionality and appearance. The way in which they do this varies between plugins, but they tend to give you one or more of the following:

  • The ability to add your own branding;
  • The option to remove elements form the admin screens such as dashboard widgets and metaboxes;
  • Improvements to the user interface, making screens easier to work with;
  • Changes to the admin menus, letting you remove menu items you don’t need or rearrange the menu to suit your needs;
  • The ability to create content without writing code, such as custom post types and custom fields.

So if you want to make WordPress easier for your clients to use, customize it with your own branding and logo, or hide the fact that it’s a WordPress site altogether, there will be a CMS plugin for you.

In this post I’ll review nine CMS plugins, which between them cover a range of these features. I’ll split them into two categories: plugins for customizing the admin branding and interface, and plugins for creating custom content. If you want to create a fully CMS-like experience with your WordPress site, the chances are you’ll need at least one of each.

Plugins for Admin Customization and Branding

Plugins in this category generally let you add your own logo, customize the look of the admin screens, and/or remove elements of the admin screens such as dashboard widgets and metaboxes on editing screens.

I’m going to rate them according to five criteria:

  • Ease of use;
  • Branding functionality;
  • Improvements to the UI;
  • Improvements to admin menus; and
  • Ability to edit or remove screen elements such as dashboard widgets and metaboxes.

So, let’s take a look at some plugins.

Ultimate Branding

Ultimate Branding

WPMU Rating

2.7/5

The Good

  • Wide range of branding options
  • Add your logo to the login screen, admin footer and admin bar
  • Remove dashboard widgets and add your own welcome widget
  • Add custom help content
  • Multisite compatible – brand your entire network
  • Amend the look of the admin screens by adding CSS

The Bad

  • Some parts of the interface aren't very intuitive (e.g. adding help text)
  • Few options to improve the UI
  • Only one admin menu item can be removed
  • No option to remove metaboxes in editing screens

Ratings

  • Ease of Use: 3.5/5
  • Branding Options: 4/5
  • Improves UI: 1.5/5
  • Admin Menu Options: 1.5/5
  • Dashboard Widgets / Metaboxes: 3/5
  • Overall: 2.7/5

The Bottom Line

Our plugin offers a wide range of branding features and is always being updated with new features. Ultimate Branding is Multisite compatible so you can rebrand your network of websites.

CMS Tree Page View

CMS Tree Page View

WPMU Rating

2.1/5

The Good

  • Makes managing lots of Pages much easier
  • Can also be used with posts and custom post types

The Bad

  • Only does one thing! (but does it well)

Ratings

  • Ease of Use: 5/5
  • Branding Options: 0.5/5
  • Improves UI: 4/5
  • Admin Menu Options: 0.5/5
  • Dashboard Widgets / Metaboxes: 0.5/5
  • Overall: 2.1/5

The Bottom Line

This plugin does just one thing to help make the WordPress admin easier to work with: it replaces the default view for the Post and Page listing screens with a user-friendly tree view. This lets you see all of your Pages or Posts in one place and drag and drop them in the hierarchy without having to actually edit the post or page. It's particularly useful for sites which are built on a hierarchical structure of static Pages but can be used with Posts and custom post types too. It doesn't have any of the other features offered by the other plugins here but then, it doesn't claim to. A useful addition to your arsenal of CMS plugins.

Admin Branding

Admin Branding

WPMU Rating

3.1/5

The Good

  • User-friendly branding customization with a color picker
  • Customize the login screen with your logo and color customization
  • Remove dashboard widgets and rename the dashboard
  • Custom admin footer text and message
  • Option to hide mentions of
  • Option to add custom CSS

The Bad

  • Limited menu customisation options - no option to remove or reorder items
  • No option to add your own dashboard widget with a welcome message
  • No option to remove metaboxes

ratings

  • Ease of Use: 5/5
  • Branding Options: 4.5/5
  • Improves UI: 2.5/5
  • Admin Menu Options: 1/5
  • Dashboard Widgets / Metaboxes: 2.5/5
  • Overall: 3.1/5

The Bottom Line

This plugin offers slightly more limited features than the other white labelling plugins, but where it stands out is in its user-friendly interface. While other plugins let you add custom CSS to brand the admin screens, this one includes color pickers so you can quickly make changes without adding code. However it doesn't include any options for metaboxes or for the content of admin menus, and could really do with a custom dashboard widget.

WP-CMS Post Control

WP CMS Post Control

WPMU Rating

2.6/5

The Good

  • Restricts which user roles can administer which post types
  • Flexible options to restrict use of specific items on editing screens (e.g. discussion, featured image etc.)
  • Works with Pages, Posts and custom post types

The Bad

  • Only does one thing (but does it thoroughly)
  • The interface could me more intuitive

Ratings

  • Ease of Use: 4/5
  • Branding Options: 0.5/5
  • Improves UI: 4.5/5
  • Admin Menu Options: 0.5/5
  • Dashboard Widgets / Metaboxes: 3.5/5
  • Overall: 2.6/5

The Bottom Line

This plugin has one specific feature: it lets you specify which user roles have access to which elements on post editing screens. This means that if the theme used for your client's site doesn't support comments or featured images (for example) you can switch these off in the post editing screen. It also has some extra functions allowing you to disable autosave and limit or disable revisions, although these should be approached with caution! It's a useful plugin (and the most comprehensive one doing this specific job) but does require users to know what's on different editing pages and could benefit from some help text.

Plugins for Creating Custom Content Without Code

These plugins let you add custom content without having to write code in functions or template files. The content types they’ll let you create will be one or more of custom post types, custom taxonomies, custom fields and shortcodes.

In some cases these are aimed at developers who will create content types for non-coders to then add content to, meaning that the developer can add template tags to theme files so that the custom content is displayed. But the best plugins of this type will also let you create and display custom content without having to write code, even if the options offered via this route aren’t as flexible.

Here I’m going to use five criteria to rate the plugins:

  • Ease of use;
  • Improvements to the UI;
  • Custom post type options;
  • Custom taxonomy options; and
  • Custom field options.

CustomPress

CustomPress

WPMU Rating

3.8/5

The Good

  • Makes it easy to add custom post types, taxonomies, fields and shortcodes
  • Add custom fields using a variety of field types including text, drop down lists, radio buttons and more
  • Provides shortcodes to add custom fields to content
  • Lets you specify which post types are displayed in which archives
  • The only plugin letting you add custom post types, taxonomies, fields and shortcodes

The Bad

  • The screens for adding custom post types and taxonomies can be daunting for people unfamiliar with how these work

Ratings

  • Ease of Use: 3/5
  • Improves UI: 3/5
  • Custom Post Type Options: 4.5/5
  • Custom Taxonomy Options: 4.5/5
  • Custom Field Options: 4/5
  • Overall: 3.8/5

The Bottom Line

If you want to make your site more CMS-like by adding custom post types, taxonomies and fields, then this plugin makes it relatively easy. As well as providing an interface for adding custom content types it also lets you add shortcodes which you can insert wherever you want in your posts.

Pods

Pods

WPMU Rating

3.3/5

The Good

  • Create 'pods' for custom post types, taxonomies and settings pages
  • Extend existing content types with custom fields
  • Flexible components which you can switch on or off
  • Create shortcodes for your custom fields

The Bad

  • The use of 'pods' rather than standard WordPress terminology can be confusing
  • No obvious guidance on editing screens helping users to add content of pods to pages

Ratings

  • Ease of Use: 2/5
  • Improves UI: 3/5
  • Custom Post Type Options: 4/5
  • Custom Taxonomy Options: 4/5
  • Custom Field Options: 3.5/5
  • Overall: 3.3/5

The Bottom Line

Pods provides you with a comprehensive way to add custom post types and taxonomies and add custom fields to any content type you like. However, its interface could be more intuitive and guidance on how to add custom fields to the post output is not given in the admin screens. There is documentation on the pods website but this isn't structured in a away which makes it easy to get started.

Advanced Custom Fields

Advanced Custom Fields

WPMU Rating

2.6/5

The Good

  • Comprehensive tool for creating custom fields
  • Option to extend further with premium add-ons
  • Wide range of input types and field types including maps, galleries and more
  • Uses native WordPress content types and database tables
  • API gives you developers more flexibility
  • Shortcodes allowing non-coders to insert field contents in to page or post content

The Bad

  • Complex system which takes some time to get to grips with

Ratings

  • Ease of Use: 3/5
  • Improves UI: 4/5
  • Custom Post Types Options: 0.5/5
  • Custom Taxonomies Options: 0.5/5
  • Custom Fields Options: 5/5
  • Overall: 2.6/5

The Bottom Line

Advanced Custom Fields is a popular plugin with developers wishing to create custom layouts for clients, with specific content blocks in different parts of the page or post. If you're developing a theme for a client, you can use it to create custom template files which the client can then add content to in multiple areas without having to write any code. It also includes a shortcode you can use to include a field's contents in your post or page, which isn't as powerful as the equivalent template tags but lets non-coders use the plugin too.

Custom Post Type UI

Custom Post Type UI

WPMU Rating

3.8/5

The Good

  • Admin interface for adding custom post types and taxonomies
  • Manage your post types and taxonomies
  • Uses native WordPress content types and database tables
  • Useful contextual help guiding you through the process

The Bad

  • It would be more intuitive if the plugin's main screen let you start adding content

Ratings

  • Ease of Use: 4.5/5
  • Improves UI: 4/5
  • Custom Post Type Options: 5/5
  • Custom Taxonomy Options: 5/5
  • Custom Field Options: 0.5/5
  • Overall: 3.8/5

The Bottom Line

This plugin does exactly what it claims to with an interface that's user-friendly and gives you tips on what to enter in each field. It's easy to gets started with and doesn't add any unnecessary complexity.

Summary

As I’ve already mentioned, the plugins reviewed here come under two quite different headings, each of which complements the other. So if you want to create a more CMS-like experience for your site’s users (or yourself), you may well need one or more from each category. Having said that, within each category there are plugins that do different jobs, so these comparisons won’t be as useful as reading the reviews themselves.

Plugins for Branding and Admin Customization

  • Ultimate Branding: 2.7/5
  • CMS Tree Page View: 2.1/5
  • Admin Branding: 3.1/5
  • WP CMS Post Control: 2.6/5

None of these score very high because none of them does everything. I would recommend each of them in different scenarios:

  • White Label CMS lets you add limited branding to your admin screens and add and remove dashboard widgets.
  • CMS Tree Page View will be useful if your site is built on a long list of hierarchical pages or posts of a custom post types.
  • WP-CMS Post Control gives you the most flexibility for removing unwanted items form the editing screens.
  • Ultimate Branding offers the widest range of branding features. It is the best for Multisite though, as you would expect from WPMU DEV.
  • Admin Branding gives you a user-friendly color picker to help you change the way your admin screens look but doesn’t let you add anything to the dashboard or customize admin menus.

Plugins for Creating Custom Content

These plugins are also difficult to compare directly, because again they don’t all do exactly the same job. Some will help you create custom post types and/or taxonomies while others are more focused on custom fields. However there are a couple which include all of these.

  • CustomPress: 3.8/5
  • Pods: 3.3/5
  • Advanced Custom Fields: 2.6/5
  • Custom Post Type UI: 3.8/5

My recommendations are:

  • If you want to add custom post types, taxonomies, custom fields and shortcodes with just one plugin, use CustomPress. If you want a free alternative which is not so easy to use, go for Pods.
  • if you just need custom fields choose Advanced Custom Fields for its advanced options and flexibility.
  • If you’re looking for a plugin for custom post types and/or taxonomies but not custom fields, choose Custom Post Type UI.

Do you use a CMS Plugin? Tell us about your experiences with CMS plugins in the comments below.

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Catch MailChimp Updates in WordPress Using Webhooks http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/mailchimp-updates-wordpress-using-webhooks/ http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/mailchimp-updates-wordpress-using-webhooks/#comments Tue, 16 Dec 2014 13:00:19 +0000 http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/?p=134944 Do you want to be able to track your WordPress users as they subscribe and unsubscribe from your MailChimp lists?

Of course you do, but your MailChimp plugin is probably no help beyond generating that subscribe form. What you need is MailChimp webhooks.

In this article, I’ll show you how to build a simple plugin to update your WordPress site with all your MailChimp list activity.

What Is A Webhook?

A webhook is simply a url that gets called when a certain event takes place, passing pertinent data about the event.

This provides a simple method for one application to take action based on an event happening in another and is perfect for our scenario of wanting to keep track of subscribes and unsubscribes.

Hooking Up MailChimp And WordPress

In this scenario, when a user is subscribed to, or unsubscribed from a list (an event), MailChimp will post the relevant data to a specified URL on our WordPress site that will use the event data to carry out some relevant processing such as updating a subscribed flag.

MailChimp packages up data about the action as a standard HTTP POST, so it is, to all intents and purposes, akin to a form submission where the form’s action is the webhook URL.

MailChimp also does its best to ensure that the webhook is successful. If it doesn’t receive an HTTP 200 (all ok) return code from the webhook URL then it will re-call the webhook. Not as robust as a full-blown message queue system but decent enough for our needs.

So, to get MailChimp and WordPress talking we need to tell MailChimp the URL of the webhook and when to call it and we need to extend WordPress to handle that call.

As you’ll need information from your WordPress configuration to set up MailChimp, let’s start with setting up WordPress.

Setting Up WordPress

You’ve got two options when it comes to setting up WordPress:

  1. Use our MailChimp Integration plugin, which has webhook support built-in.
  2. Use this custom plugin to use in conjunction with your current MailChimp plugin.

Using WPMU DEV’s MailChimp Integration Plugin

Once you’ve installed or updated to the latest version of the MailChimp Integration plugin, head to Settings > MailChimp. Enter your API key, select the list you want to synchronize and configure any of the other options. Then, once you’ve saved your settings, you will see the Webhooks options appear.

Screengrab of the webhook section in the MailChimp Integration plugin settings page
just 2 options to set up webhook support in WPMU Dev’s MailChimp Integration plugin

There are just two options to set:

  1. Specify a unique webhook key : This acts as a low-fi security mechanism as the webhook function won’t process any request that doesn’t contain the security key
  2. Action to take when user unsubscribes from list : Decided whether to delete a user from your WordPress site when they unsubscribe or merely mark as unsubscribed

When you’ve set these two options, click on Save Changes.

Under the webhook key text box you’ll see a URL listed. Copy this and head over to MailChimp.

Using the Custom Plugin

First thing to do is download and install the plugin. When you have the plugin installed, go to Settings > MailChimp Webhooks.

Screenshot of the WordPress Webhooks plugin's settings page
Control how the MailChimp events are handled by your WordPress site

There’s not much here but it’s fairly important. The options are as follows:

  1. Create new user on subscribe? If checked, a subscribe event will create a new user in your WordPress site with the role of subscriber, if none currently exists.
  2. Delete user on unsubscribe? If checked, when a user unsubscribes they will be deleted from the WordPress site.
  3. Specify a unique webhook key? Like the MailChimp Integration plugin, the webhook function won’t process any request that doesn’t contain the specified security key
  4. Write activity to log? Checking this option will cause all activity to be written to a log – useful for debugging.

The plugin uses the email address to check for existing users and if users are not being created and deleted then a unique flag is added to the user record so that, as a site owner, you can quickly see if the user is subscribed or not.

Once you have configured the settings and added your webhook key, click on Save Changes.

You’ll also see that the webhook URL listed under the webhook key has changed in line with your webhook key. Copy this URL as you are going to need it for the next step, configuring MailChimp.

Configuring Webhooks In MailChimp

Webhooks in MailChimp are configured on a per-List basis, so jump into your MailChimp account, find the appropriate List, click on Settings > Webhooks and then on the Add A New Webhook button.

You’ll be presented with a form like this:

Screenshot of the webhook configuration form on MailChimp
Select which events you want to capture and how they occurred

Callback URL

This is where you paste the webhook URL list on the WordPress plugin’s settings page.

What type of updates should we send?

Fairly self-explanatory, this a list of events that you can track. There are a number to choose from but keep in mind that, out-of-the-box, the WordPress plugin you’ve installed only actions subscribes and unsubscribes.

Checking all the events doesn’t hurt but if you want to action more events then you’ll need to extend the plugin (see later).

Only send updates when a change was made by:

The right-hand list of checkboxes allows you to select events based on how the event was initiated.

  • A subscriber: you’ll definitely want to check a subscriber as this covers all the manual actions, such as clicking on a link in an email.
  • Account admin: that’s you and I think this is worth keeping as it means that any changes you make in the MailChimp admin interface, except for imports, will be passed through to your WordPress site.
  • Via the API: if, like the majority of WordPress / MailChimp users, you are just using a MailChimp plugin to generate a sign-up form then checking this will ensure that you can track those sign-ups and add the users to your website.

It’s worth reiterating that bulk imports do not fire webhooks, which is understandable (for big lists) but annoying (for smaller lists). One apparent workaround is to bulk import to a temporary list and use the bulk action move to move the subscribers to the intended destination: this will fire the webhook for each new subscriber.

Obviously, you don’t want to do this for a very large list.

When you’ve checked all the appropriate boxes, click on Save and the webhook will be created.

You’ll notice that you can add multiple webhooks for the one list which might be useful if you wanted several sites to track the same List.

Testing Your Webhooks

The easiest way to test your webhook is to manually add a subscriber to the List in MailChimp using the form at Add Subscribers > Add Subscribe.

Complete the form and click on Subscribe and if MailChimp confirms the add was successful go to back to your WordPress admin interface and click on Users.

Look for the user with the email address that you added in MailChimp (if it did not already exist and you have set the WordPress plugin to Create new user on subscriber to true then the user will have been created) and click to Edit. Scroll down to the bottom of the profile page and you’ll see the following:

Screengrab of the MailChimp Newsletter section on the User Profile screen showing whether the user is a subscriber or not
Keeping track on whether users are newsletter subscribers is easy with webhooks

Now go back to MailChimp, click on Manage Subscribers > View Subscribers and you’ll get a list of current subscribers.

Click in the checkbox next to your test subscriber and two new action buttons appear at the top of the page, Actions and Delete. Either click on Actions > Unsubscribe, or Delete and then Confirm.

Now back into WordPress and if you are not deleting users on unsubscribe the MailChimp Newsletter subscriber checkbox will be empty, otherwise the user will have been deleted.

You’ve now configured MailChimp webhooks and in doing so can now track changes to your subscriber list that take place outside of your WordPress site which in the majority of set-ups will be the norm.

Once you are tracking these (un)subscribe events, you can start to think about how you might be able to leverage this data to encourage newsletter sign-ups. One obvious use is to provide subscriber only content and we’ll be taking a look at how to implement such a social paywall in an upcoming post.

How The Custom Plugin Works

By virtue of the fact you are reading this, you must be (slightly) curious as to how this works on the WordPress side of things. Good on you.

The plugin does the following:

  1. Sets up the webhook URL,
  2. Intercepts calls to the webhook URL, works out what the event is and then passes the data to the appropriate handler (subscribe / unsubscribe),
  3. Adds the MailChimp Newsletter section to the User Profile display, and
  4. Creates the settings page using the Settings API.

I’m not going to go through the settings page creation as I’ve covered this in previous posts, so let’s start with setting up the webhook URL.

Setting Up The Webhook URL

When the plugin is activated it runs an initialization function. This function hooks into the init action to make use of the add_rewrite_rule and the add_rewrite_tag functions to change a request for <site name>/webhook?key=yourkey to <site name>/index.php?webhook=1&key=yourkey.

The exit() command ensures that no subsequent processing takes place.

Actioning The Webhook Event

All webhooks requests are initially handled by the one function which:

  1. Checks to make sure the request contains data ($_POST),
  2. Checks that the key supplied matches the key you set in the plugin’s settings, and
  3. Determines the type of event and calls the appropriate handler.

You’ll notice that an activity log is updated (this is written to the plugin’s directory) and that all the events are catered for, although only the subscribe and unsubscribe functions have been fleshed out.

If you want to also take action on a cleaned, upemail or profile event then you’ll need to expand these functions in the plugin.

Handling A Subscribe Event

The subscribe event contains the following payload in the HTTP POST:

"type": "subscribe", 
"fired_at": "2009-03-26 21:35:57", 
"data[id]": "8a25ff1d98", 
"data[list_id]": "a6b5da1054",
"data[email]": "api@mailchimp.com", 
"data[email_type]": "html", 
"data[merges][EMAIL]": "api@mailchimp.com", 
"data[merges][FNAME]": "MailChimp", 
"data[merges][LNAME]": "API", 
"data[merges][INTERESTS]": "Group1,Group2", 
"data[ip_opt]": "10.20.10.30", 
"data[ip_signup]": "10.20.10.30"

As you can see there’s quite a bit of information here. You could take a different action depending on the list_id, for example (useful if your site has multiple lists each with its own subscriber benefits) and perhaps even sync up the interests.

To keep things simple, though, the plugin is only interested that this subscriber has been added to a list.

The subscribe function first checks to see if the subscriber email exists. If it doesn’t and new users should be created then it uses the wp_insert_user function to create a new WordPress user with the role of Subscriber from the MailChimp data.

A new user meta variable, _newsletter_subscriber, is added to the user (either newly created or pre-existing) with a value of 1. This appears as the checkbox under MailChimp Newsletter on the user profile.

Handling An Unsubscribe Event

The unsubscribe event data looks something like this:

"type": "unsubscribe", 
"fired_at": "2009-03-26 21:40:57",  
"data[action]": "unsub",
"data[reason]": "manual", 
"data[id]": "8a25ff1d98", 
"data[list_id]": "a6b5da1054",
"data[email]": "api+unsub@mailchimp.com", 
"data[email_type]": "html", 
"data[merges][EMAIL]": "api+unsub@mailchimp.com", 
"data[merges][FNAME]": "MailChimp", 
"data[merges][LNAME]": "API", 
"data[merges][INTERESTS]": "Group1,Group2", 
"data[ip_opt]": "10.20.10.30",
"data[campaign_id]": "cb398d21d2",
"data[reason]": "hard"

Again, plenty of additional information such as reason and campaign that might be useful but, for now, we are concentrating simply on the request to unsubscribe.

Like subscribe, the first action is to check for the existence of a user with a matching email address.

If one is found and we are deleting users on unsubscribe the wp-admin/includes/user.php file is included before calling the wp_delete_user function. Otherwise, the _newsletter_subscriber user meta variable is set to 0.

Displaying Subscriber Status on the User Profile

You’ll have noticed that in the subscribe and unsubscribe functions, the user meta variable _newsletter_subscriber is set to 1 and 0 according to the event.

Displaying this value is a simple matter of hooking into the show_user_profile and edit_user_profile actions to output the appropriate output. As this is read-only (we want to let MailChimp handle the events) the control is disabled.

Logging Activity

The plugin writes plenty of detail to a log file, which you’ll find invaluable when testing your own set-up.

An option in the plugin’s settings page allows you to switch logging on and off and there’s also a link to the current log file for easy viewing.

Get Hooked and Stay in Sync

That MailChimp is so popular with WordPress site owners is hardly surprising: its free plan with 12,000 emails per month enables the majority of those owners to use this industrial-strength email app for no cost.

But whilst there’s always been plenty of excellent plugins for getting your visitors to subscribe to your newsletters, aside from MailChimp Integration, the process has been something of a black hole as far as tracking those subscribes and unsubscribes in your WordPress site.

Webhooks shine a bright light into that black hole, meaning you can fairly accurately track who is a current subscriber. Not only does this potentially save a lot of tedious downloading and uploading of subscriber lists it can also open up some interesting promotional opportunities such as subscriber-only content.

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8 Flexible WordPress Recent Post Plugins http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/wordpress-recent-post-plugins/ http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/wordpress-recent-post-plugins/#comments Sun, 14 Dec 2014 13:00:22 +0000 http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/?p=135278 Out of the box, WordPress comes equipped with a recent posts widget for displaying your latest content in the sidebar and other widgetized areas of your website. However, the settings and controls on the default recent posts widget are pretty minimal. With only the ability to give the widget a title, set the number of posts to display, and the option of displaying the post date, there is isn’t much flexibility on offer.

However, installing your own recent posts plugin can give you a lot more control over how your recent posts are featured in the sidebar and other widgetized areas of your WordPress theme.

By upgrading the core recent posts widget you can display featured images, include custom post types, filter posts by category, or list other posts by the same author. If you are using Multisite, you can even display recent posts from other sites in your network.

If any of that sounds appealing, then one of the following WordPress recent posts plugins should allow you to display your latest content in a range of different ways, helping you drive more visitors to the other posts on your website.

Flexible Posts Widget

Flexbile Posts Widget

The free Flexible Posts Widget plugin is a popular choice with over 79,000 downloads and a positive 4.7 out of 5 star rating.

After installing the plugin on your website, a new widget is added to the available options, allowing you to continue using the default recent posts widget alongside this upgraded version.

By using the new Flexible Posts Widget, it’s now possible to include more content types, and display additional information about that content in the widget areas on your website.

This includes filtering posts by a combination of type, such as regular posts, custom post types, and pages; filtering them by single or multiple categories, tags, and custom taxonomies; and entering the individual post IDs.

Through the display options, you now have the ability to order the posts by a range of attributes, including title, comment count, or published date. Finally you can choose whether to display the post thumbnails in the widget or not, and if so, which size to use.

To avoid displaying the same set of latest posts on your blog’s homepage as those that are displayed in the sidebar, you can offset the posts shown in the widget by a number of your choice.

This is a really well-featured plugin, and the only lacking options are the ability to display a post excerpt, or add a custom link to the post. So if you need those features, you will have to look elsewhere. However, you can create custom templates for the widget that modify its output if you have the developer skills to do so.

Better Recent Posts Widgets Pro

Better Recent Posts Widget Pro

Better Recent Post Widget Pro is an affordable premium plugin from well-regarded WordPress developer Pippin Williamson, the creator of Easy Digital Downloads.

When using this widget on your website, you can now choose to display additional information about your posts in the sidebar. This includes displaying the post author, publication date, comment count, and the post excerpt.

With Better Recent Posts Widget Pro you can also choose the number of posts to display, as well as offsetting them to skip the latest posts that are also shown on your homepage. Thumbnails, using a custom display size, can be displayed for each post, and you can also filter the content by post type, category, and tag.

For a small price Better Recent Posts Widget Pro can dramatically increase the ways you can display your content in the sidebar and other widget areas of your website.

Recent Posts Widget Extended

Recent Posts Widget Extended

This popular free plugin with over 170,000 downloads and a 4.8 out of 5 star adds another recent posts widget to your site with a more powerful set of controls for displaying content in your sidebar and other widget areas. The list of recent posts can also be displayed in your posts and pages using the included shortcode.

The new controls that are added to the recent posts widget with this plugin allow you to choose which taxonomies to source the posts from; whether to show post thumbnails, and if so which size; which post types to include; whether to show a post excerpt or not, and if so of what length; and also whether to display a date or the relative age of the post.

Other features of the Recent Posts Widget Extended plugin that are not often seen elsewhere include the ability to turn the widget title into a link and add HTML or text before and after the list of recent posts. There is also a field on the widget for adding custom CSS to alter its appearance.

The settings and controls of this widget make it a very flexible choice that should allow you to build the exact recent posts list you need for your WordPress website.

Genesis Featured Widget Amplified

Genesis Featured Widget Amplified

If you are using the popular Genesis Framework from StudioPress, then this free plugin allows you to upgrade the standard featured posts widget that comes with this theme framework.

The added features of the Genesis Featured Widget Amplified plugin and the widget it adds to your site allows you to display content from custom post types, custom taxonomies, and flexible options for displaying the post content or excerpt. You can also display the post author’s gravatar on the sidebar or homepage widget areas when using this plugin.

Like the Genesis Framework itself, this widget includes multiple hooks and filters for developers who want to extend its functionality further.

Recent Global Posts Widget

Recent Global Posts Widget

If you are running a WordPress Multisite or BuddyPress network then our Recent Global Posts Widget plugin will let you display the latest posts from the sites in your network in the sidebar and other widget areas of your blog.

Through the widget settings you can decide which blogs to display the most recent posts from. This is in addition to also being able to choose whether to display the post title, content, or both in the list. Other controls allow you to determine the title and content lengths, whether to show avatars or not, and which post types to use as the content source.

If you want to promote the latest content from your network in one place, then Recent Global Posts Widget is one option that allows you to do so with ease.

Advanced Random Posts Widget

Advanced Random Posts Widget

Advanced Random Posts Widget is another free plugin for displaying posts in the sidebar, as well as other areas of your website using the included shortcode. However, instead of showing the latest posts, it has the ability to list random posts instead.

With this plugin you do get some control over which posts are randomly selected to be included in the list. These settings allow you to customize the widget content in much the same way as you can with the Recent Posts Widget Extended plugin covered earlier. This includes support for custom post types, custom taxonomies, displaying thumbnails, and including post excerpts.

Now with this plugin installed on your site, each time a visitor arrives, or loads a new page on your website, they will see a random list of posts in the sidebar, helping them to discover more of your content.

Author Recent Posts

Author Recent Posts

If you are managing a multi-author blog and want to make it easier for your visitors to find other content from the author of the post they are currently reading, the free Author Recent Posts widget can help you out.

The widget is only displayed when a post is being viewed in single mode, and by using the included shortcode, the author’s name be displayed in the widget title. The widget controls give you a few options for setting the appearance of the post list. This includes the number of posts to show, whether to show the post thumbnail and the post date. You can also set an alternate image to be used as a fall back image to be displayed for posts without a thumbnail.

Conclusion

If you are looking for a better way to display links to recent content on your website, one of the above plugins should meet your needs.

For anyone making the most of the features of WordPress, then the ability to filter content by post type or custom taxonomy will give you more control over which posts are displayed in your widgetized areas. The extra settings in most of these plugins, such as those controls covering how the posts are displayed, will also give you greater control over how that content looks.

If you have any questions or suggestions about displaying recent posts in the widget areas of a WordPress website, please leave a comment below.

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7 Free WordPress Plugins to Make Quick Work of Tedious Tasks http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/wordpress-plugins-tedious-tasks/ http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/wordpress-plugins-tedious-tasks/#comments Sat, 13 Dec 2014 13:00:02 +0000 http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/?p=135169 If you run your own WordPress site – or even a bunch of sites – let’s face it, managing it can become time consuming as you add new features, new users, and your content becomes more complex.

Luckily, there are some great tools available – and all free! – that can help you with daily tasks.

For today’s post I’ve put together a collection of my favorite plugins and apps that make boring tasks like installing plugins, updating your blacklist and sorting through spam comments effortless.

After installing one or more of the plugins in this list, you’ll have more time to create and write content for your site instead.

WP Custom Bulk Actions

WP Custom Bulk Actions plugin

This nifty plugin allows you to create custom bulk actions for any type of post. For example, say you want to export multiple posts. This plugin lets you do that by adding custom options to your bulk actions list.

It achieves this by with the class Seravo_Custom_Bulk_Action. This allows the option to appear in the list, but does not give it any functions. In order to add options, you’ll need to edit your functions.php file. This can be a bit of a pain, but once it’s done you won’t have to worry about doing it again.

If you’re ready to get started you can download the plugin and check out the instructions for the changes you need to make over on the designated GitHub page.

Overall, it’s an incredibly useful plugin that has the potential to save you a ton of time as long as you are willing to do a bit of coding.

WP Favs

WP Favs plugin

WpFavs is a fantastic plugin if you love making WordPress sites, you are a developer or a web designer. It allows you to create a list of all the plugins you want to install on a brand new site and install them all at the same time. This will save you a bunch of time as you won’t have to instal each plugin one at a time.

You can either install a pre-made list of plugins or register for a free account and create your own list from the Wp Favs website. Either way, you’ll be able to install, delete or activate multiple plugins all at one time. This can all be done from the Wpfaves page in the admin area of your site once the plugin is installed.

If you get stuck, there are detailed instructions on the tuts+ website. It’s a straightforward plugin to use so you shouldn’t experience any issues with its setup and use.

Blacklist Updater

Blacklist Updater plugin

Blacklisting can be a time consuming task. WordPress already has a comment blacklist built in to the admin area that you can update manually with words associated with spam. But with so many spammers out there, it can be difficult to keep up with updating that list. This plugin will help lighten the load.

While it doesn’t automatically update the default WordPress blacklist, it does connect to a global list on GitHub. This plugin checks this list regularly and updates itself accordingly to help protect your site.

Blacklist Updater will only update when there is new information so you don’t have to worry about your server resources. It’s a lightweight plugin that uses 0.04MB of memory in the backend and 0.02MB of memory in the front end of your website. Rest assured you will be one step closer to shutting out spam without overloading your server.

YouTube for WordPress

YouTube for WordPress plugin

YouTube for WordPress, as the name implies, allows you to add YouTube functionality to your WordPress site. It allows you to upload videos, add videos to a playlist, search for videos, subscribe (or unsubscribe) to channels, easily embed videos and custom playlists to the front-end of your site, and many other features.

The developers have plans to offer paid add ons soon that will offer even more features, such as the ability to customize the video player, front-end user uploads, bulk import, and live streaming. Even without the add ons, this plugin makes it much easier to manage your YouTube videos.

It’s important to note that in order for this plugin to work it requires a Google OAUTH and API key. If you need help setting this up there is a support article on the YouTube for WordPress website. Once these are set up, the plugin is easy to use.

If you host your videos on YouTube, this plugin will save you a lot of time managing your posted videos on your site. The plugin was released on November 1 so it’s a fairly new plugin and more updates are coming soon.

Anti-Captcha

Anti-Captcha plugin

The Anti-Captcha plugin helps significantly reduce comment and registration spam. It also helps prevent attacks using the request lost password feature. This is all done by preventing automated attacks by spam bots using a nonce key that is completely transparent to real visitors.

Your site’s visitors will enjoy not having to worry about filling out captcha forms and trying to read nearly unreadable numbers and letters. You’ll enjoy the significant reduction of spam while also offering an improved user experience to your visitors.

Even if you get false positives, the comments are easy to manually approve. You can save a lot of time with this plugin by not having to sort through a long list of genuine and spam comments. Your visitors will also be safer since there won’t be any potentially harmful links on your site. It’s a win-win situation.

Add Link to Facebook

Add Link to Facebook plugin

Add Link to Facebook will save you tons of time by automatically posting your published blog posts to Facebook. You just have to set it up once and then you can start automatically announcing your posts on Facebook without even thinking about it.

Your post’s title will be what is posted as the link title along with your post’s excerpt, which will be added as the link’s description on Facebook. You can customize which image Facebook will post with the link. You can choose to show your post’s featured image, your avatar, a custom image or you can just let Facebook decide.

This plugin is Multisite compatible and works well when publishing from mobile devices. There’s also a handy setup guide in case you run into any troubles along the way.

There are further options to post Facebook comments to your WordPress site and vice versa. It has other useful features including adding the “Like” and “Share” buttons to your posts and many more.

WP to Twitter

WP to Twitter plugin

This plugin allows you to automatically tweet your blog posts when you publish, update or edit them. You can customize what will be tweeted, shorten URLs, add WordPress tags as Twitter hashtags and even use alternate, shorter URLs in place of longer post permalinks.

You can customize your tweet to post within parameters you set such as by custom post type, when you update or edit posts. Each tweet can also be individually customized on each of your posts. There are widgets included in this plugin to automatically display your latest tweets and a search box to find specific tweets.

There is a premium version of this plugin to help you with tweet scheduling, allowing multiple authors to link to their twitter accounts, time delayed tweeting, tweet comments and more. A single license for $39 additionally offers one year of support and automatic updates. License renewals run at half price. If you would like these features for the lifetime of the plugin, you can purchase a developer license for $99.

What’s your favorite time-saving plugin? Please share it in the comments below.

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Securing Your WordPress Site: iThemes Free Security Plugin Review http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/ithemes-security-plugin-review/ http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/ithemes-security-plugin-review/#comments Wed, 10 Dec 2014 13:00:42 +0000 http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/?p=134543 No doubt you spend a lot of time and money on your website. You’re happy with the end result, and rightfully so; it’s easy to see why most people opt for extra security measures to protect what they have worked hard to create.

Finding a reliable security plugin sounds easy in practice, yet it can be a difficult task. After all, you’re leaving your peace of mind and security in someone else’s hands so it’s important you take the time to test what’s available and ensure it suits your site and skill level.

iThemes Security (formerly Better WP Security) is one of the top ranked WordPress security plugins. There are many faithful supporters, but how well does it really work to protect your site, and your users?

I’ve compiled this review to help you find out, and to help you decide whether or not iThemes Security is right for you.

iThemes Security plugin

WPMU Rating

3.6/5

The Good

  • The plugin is free to use and is complete on its own (no extensions needed)
  • It's easy to use and has clear instructions in the plugin settings, as well as externally
  • Offers protection from brute force attacks and back door vulnerabilities, and includes malware scanning
  • The plugin in continuously being updated and new security features are added regularly
  • Advanced features such as changing the directory of sensitive files, and renaming database pre-fixes
  • Compatible with WordPress Multisite

The Bad

  • The plugin can very easily break your site, even for simple things like not enabling SSL
  • This plugin is not built for shared hosting platforms as scans take up a lot of resources
  • The only remedy to a hacked site is to do a restore
  • Does not offer complete protection of your site, such as partial spam protection
  • An iThemes server was recently hacked

Our Verdict

  • Learning curve / ease of use: 4/5
  • Features: 3.5/5
  • Out of the box: 5/5
  • Reliability: 2.5/5
  • Resource Consumption / Speed: 3/5
  • Overall: 3.6/5

The Bottom Line

There's definitely a lot of essential features that work for so many users of this plugin. There are a lot of die-hard fans out there, and it's easy to see why when iThemes Security can consistently protect you from attacks.

The plugin and all its features are free to use out of the box. It's also incredibly easy to set up your initial protection. However, it's worth pointing out that if you decide to set up more advanced options there is the potential to wreck your site if you do not adhere to the clearly defined and displayed warnings.

It's also important to note iThemes doesn't offer support for this free product. So if you come across any problems you're on your own.

While this plugin does a consistently great job of guarding against attacks, it doesn't help you recover your site in the event you are hacked. This being the case, it should only be used as a preventative measure.

It's worth reading up on iThemes' recent security scare before making a decision on whether to use this plugin. Having said that, the company seems to be doing its best to move on and support its customers.

iThemes Plugin Review for Securing Your WordPress Site

iThemes Security Review

The Better WP Security plugin was relaunched as iThemes Security on March 25, 2014, when it was bought out by iThemes Media LLC.

Chris Wiegman, the plugin’s original developer, worked closely with iThemes’ staff and CEO Cory Miller during the changeover. At the time, Miller said he was a fan of Better WP Security and used it to lock down his own personal website.

Cory began his career as a newspaper journalist. In 2008, he decided to work full-time on his own business and the result was iThemes Media, dubbed one of the fastest growing companies in Oklahoma City in 2011 by Metro 50.

Miller is the author of three non-fiction titles, as well as a co-author of WordPress All-in One for Dummies. He also co-founded The Div, a community hub dedicated to innovation, creativity and training in Oklahoma.

iThemes Media currently has a growing staff of 19 people, including developers, tech support, and a professor. As the iTheme site exclaims, they “love creating tools that help you make awesome websites.”

60,000 Users Affected in Recent Security Scare

On September 23, 2014 it was discovered one of iThemes’ servers had been hacked. Cory was quick to announce the security breach and was notably honest in revealing what had happened.

It is important to encrypt passwords
It is incredibly important to encrypt passwords to ensure they’re secure.

In his initial announcement, he urged users to reset their passwords as they were visible via clear-text, along with other information such as full names, usernames, email, and IP addresses. Luckily, no payment information was accessed, as iThemes uses a third party payment system.

The information of about 60,000 users was breached and, according to the second announcement, it could very well have been prevented. Cory admitted that the membership software the company had been using since 2009 had stored passwords in clear text and while the company had been aware of the security issues, they had failed to fix it in a timely manner.

The issue lies in the way user information was stored: Unencrypted, and thus unprotected. When the server was breached, the hacker had access to user information, which was as clear to read. Saving information online, unencrypted, is a fundamental principle in online security.

What’s more, iThemes did not immediately rectify this issue by ceasing to store user information in clear text. They did, however, reset the passwords of all users who had been affected. It is unclear whether the hacker had saved any of this information, but he/she definitely had access to it.

Moving Forward

Bottom line: One of iThemes Media’s servers was hacked and user information was accessed, despite the company knowing about the security flaw for five years. After becoming aware of the security breach, they did not immediately remedy the underlying problem, although they were very clear, and forthcoming about the situation.

For a company selling a security plugin – not to mention the free version I’m reviewing here – the recent breach is enough to make anyone cautious about using their products. Since his second update, Cory hasn’t yet provided any new information publicly on how iThemes have resolved the situation, despite saying he would give another update “in the coming days.”

So now all that information is out of the way, let’s move forward with this review of the free version of iThemes Security.

How Much Does it Cost?

Out-of-the-box, this sucker is complete and free. You get all the security features you need and you don’t have to pay a cent. That in itself is noteworthy.

It’s rare to come across a plugin that includes features you would otherwise find in a premium plugin. Many free versions of premium plugins are missing key features, rendering them pretty useless. This is not that kind of plugin.

If you would like to purchase a licence for iThemes Security Pro the prices are as follows:

  • Two licences – $80 per year
  • Ten licences – $100 per year
  • Unlimited licences – $150 per year
  • Unlimited licences, plus access to iThemes’ 20 plugins (and growing) – $247 per year

If you would like to also buy their BackupBuddy plugin, which fully integrates with iThemes Security, you can buy an additional subscription. The BackupBuddy plugin backs up all your files, including your database. The backups are downloaded directly to your own storage device for safe keeping. It also covers you in the event of site migration, providing seamless backups.

If you are happy with simply backing up your database, then the free version of iThemes Security has you covered. For a free plugin, there’s a host of features and options available.

What Do You Get?

The free version of iThemes Security provides you access to a raft of features (listed below). If you opt to buy iThemes Security Pro, one licence can be used for one individual site. The premium offering includes a bunch of extra features, along with automatic updates and ticketed support for the duration of the license.

The free plugin includes many great, and necessary features, such as malware scanning and protection against common back end exploits, brute force attacks, and comment spam, to name a few. IP banning (or white listing) is included, and banning by country is planned for a future update.

Here is a full list of features:

  • Brute force attack protection
  • Strong password enforcement
  • Hide login and admin pages
  • Security reports
  • File change detection
  • Lock out users with too many failed log in attempts or 404 errors
  • Detects file changes
  • Make the admin inaccessible for an amount of time you set (if you go on vacation)
  • Hide your WordPress, and jQuery versions, and other header meta data
  • Remove update notifications to your users
  • Change WordPress database table prefix from the default “wp_”
  • Change wp-content folder path (where many sensitive files are stored)
  • Ability to display a random WordPress version number to non-admin users
  • Force SSL (Secure Socket Layer) on admin, or front end pages
  • Detects attacks to your database, files, and attacks by bots
  • Emailed database backup on a customizable schedule
  • Disable PHP execution in uploads
  • Disable user’s author page if post count is zero
  • Force users to create a unique nickname when updating profile, or registering
  • Comment spam blocking (limited)
  • Two-factor authentication for log ins

Sounds awfully good to me, but how does it fair in the real world of constant attacks?

How Does it Work?

When you initially install the plugin, a notification prompts you to get a free API key and to “secure your site now” by selecting some basic options.

The iThemes Security Pro plugin notifies you of set up options after activation

You have the options of backing up your database (which you should definitely do), allow iThemes Security to have writeable access to some of your files, set up basic options with one click, and send anonymous plugin usage data.

The iThemes Security Pro plugin opens a light box for quick set up

Once complete, you’re free to exit out of the light box and enter in more settings, or navigate away from the plugin and move onto something else. Once the page refreshes, you’re prompted with a warning if you do not have SSL (Secure Socket Layer) enabled on your server: “WARNING: Your server does appear to support SSL. Using these features without SSL support on your server or host will cause some or all of your site to become unavailable.

Right off the bat, this is one of the settings that is non-negotiable, or else you will likely break your site.  If you do not have SSL enabled, this plugin will cause you nothing but trouble.

When you think about it, it’s not a good idea to leave your site unprotected by not enabling SSL, anyway. Really, this is perhaps only a minor inconvenience for most people.

iThemes Security warns you multiple times to backup your database
There are many database backup warnings clearly displayed among the options which could brake your site.

Beyond that, there are also some advanced options with clear warnings. You are prompted to make a backup of your database before changing any settings. The warnings are pretty hard to miss.

Still, it’s not difficult to think you’re doing the right thing… and then find your site has become unavailable. If you don’t back up all your files, your site may be lost. Unfortunately, you aren’t told to backup everything – just your database.

In the right hands, these advanced settings could be powerful, but as the adage goes: “With great power comes great responsibility.” Yes, I just quoted Spider-Man (2002).

Most of the time, you’ll enjoy peace of mind knowing you’re fully protected from all the hackers out there, unless you’re one of the unlucky ones. Security breaches have been known to happen, although fairly sparingly. With over 3,000 five star reviews in the WordPress Plugin Repository, I think it’s safe to say most people enjoy nothing but peace of mind with this plugin.

As with any security precautions, iThemes stress that diligence and good security practises on the user’s part are important to ensure security of a website. As such, the plugin will not protect you from all attacks. I think that’s a fair statement.

As long as you are careful about what you choose in the settings, your site is safe.

Ratings

Learning Curve / Ease of Use

The iThemes Security plugin is incredibly easy to set up, despite my warnings in the previous section. The only trouble you may come across is going beyond the basic settings. It’s fairly easy to tweak the settings incorrectly and completely throw your site offline. However, you are reminded quite a few times to backup your database.

One criticism, which I’ve already mentioned, is that users aren’t reminded to backup everything, just their database. Having said this, it seems to be common practice.

The plugin does guide you with clear, concise explanations for each option and documentation is available to help you understand the settings more thoroughly. Most users will not even need to thumb through this, however.

Overall, it’s pretty easy to use. You just need to pay careful attention to the advanced settings; if not used correctly, they could (figuratively) explode your site.

Features

Many essential features are included in this plugin, but I can’t help but feel the feature list is still short. For example, you are only offered partial comment spam filtering in both the basic and premium versions of the plugin.

iThemes Security plugin's whitelist IP address feature
One feature I truly appreciated is being able to whitelist your IP address. I didn’t have to worry about being locked out from the admin area with this feature.

It’s also worth pointing out that in the event you are hacked, iThemes offers no assistance. The expectation is on you to have full backups of your site – such as with their premium BackupBuddy plugin – or otherwise use a third party service to recover your site.

This being the case, this plugin is useful for preventative measures only and should not be relied on for full protection.

Most people have success with this plugin, despite the limitations. The positive reviews in the WordPress Plugins Repository can attest to this. At the end of the day you can’t argue with results.

Out of the Box

This plugin is easy to set up out of the box. It literally takes just a few clicks. You don’t even have to fiddle with the additional settings, though if you do it adds extra layers of protection, so it’s a win-win situation.

Within the 45.28 seconds it takes to set up the plugin, you’re ready to go. This includes installing and activating it to the end of the initial set up. Yes, I actually timed it. I’m that cool.

Seriously, though, I don’t think iThemes could offer an easier user experience out of the box. The only way you could mess up this initial set up is if you didn’t do it at all.

Reliability

Here’s where things get a little messy. This plugin does a pretty great job of protecting your site, though, the recent security breach raises some very important questions.

If iThemes were aware of an issue for some time – five years, in fact – that could compromise the security of their very own website, and decided to do nothing about it, that doesn’t say very much about their quality assurance. If they cannot protect their own site, how can you be sure they will protect your site?

It seems like an oversimplification, but it really isn’t. One of their servers was hacked due to a failure to fix a very basic security flaw, as I explained in this review.

Encrypting user information and not saving it in plain text is among the first things you learn when securing information online. If they can’t adhere to the most basic of online security principles when they are offering an online security service themselves, one is left questioning the integrity of their service.

After all, if they fell prey to such a basic miss-step, what other miss-steps are there left to be found? I’m not at all suggesting iThemes intended for information to be breached, but they did ignore the issue for several years.

It’s certainly admirable that Cory took full responsibility for the mishap and was completely honest about the issue in a timely manner. However, it does not change what happened. Information was compromised, which was entirely preventable.

In the end, to value this service you need to be able to value your security, and your privacy. I’m inclined to believe that no plugin or service is worth losing your privacy or information for. If you are not concerned with this, then you’ll be free to enjoy an otherwise seemingly fabulous plugin.

Resource Consumption / Speed

On its own this plugin is fairly lightweight, fast, and doesn’t require too many resources. On the other hand, if you’d like to make use of their advanced features then you definitely need to ensure you have a lot of RAM and CPU available. While speed won’t be affected, your resources will.

iThemes Security's "Change Database Prefix" feature
The “Change Database Prefix” advanced feature tends to be a drain on resources. This feature’s purpose is to render injected scripts useless when they are targeted to the otherwise common database table names which is certainly helpful. Just make sure you have enough resources allocated to this plugin.

This is especially an issue if you have shared hosting. iThemes security will likely use up all your resources and cause your site to be inaccessible. If this happens, the only way you can get your site restored is if you have a backup of it.

The features which have every potential to put a strain on your server resources are database backups, file change detection, changing your database’s prefix, and changing your content directory. If you wish to use these features you need to have quite a bit of available resources and you need to make sure you make regular backups of your site.

Typically, I found you need to have at least 1 GB of RAM available to use strictly for this plugin. That’s quite a lot for one plugin, but the security of your site is very important so it’s still worth considering this plugin. You just need to make sure you have enough RAM, especially if you wish to use the features which tend to put a bit of a strain on your resources.

Final Thoughts

Right out of the box, this free plugin works really well and there are few recent problems on the basic user level. This plugin also has enough of the right features to make sure you are protected from most threats.

The only thing you’ll need to take care of, other than installing this plugins, is making sure you don’t fall prey to phishing scams and the like, which is ultimately up to you to monitor since plugins can’t do that for you.

While the iThemes team can’t go back in time and stop the September security breach from ever happening, the fact is it did happen, exposing not only users’ data to hackers, but iThemes own security flaws. So I think it’s fair to advise that you use this plugin with caution and contact iThemes if you have any concerns.

Nevertheless, there are many faithful supporters of the iThemes Security plugin. It’s not too difficult to see why with so many thrilled customers. Just be sure to backup your site as they helpfully and so often suggest.

Image credit: iThemes Media LLC, and Intel Free Press.

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15+ Must-Have Tools For Every WordPress Admin http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/15-must-have-tools-for-every-wordpress-admin/ http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/15-must-have-tools-for-every-wordpress-admin/#comments Tue, 09 Dec 2014 13:00:59 +0000 http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/?p=134604 The WordPress ecosystem is as colorful and varied as it is large. From the smallest personal blogs to directories of impressive size and complexity, the full spectrum is indeed a diverse one indeed.

Managing our site can be a hassle, though, especially as they become more and more complex. Luckily there are great tools that can help us in our daily administrative tasks.

In this post I’ve gathered a number of plugins and apps which help WordPress users with day-to-day interactions with WordPress. From directory managers to editors working with multiple authors and bloggers on the go, I hope everyone will find at least one tool to make their life easier.

WP-CLI

WP-CLI is a command line tool that helps you do all your monotonous maintenance and other tasks extremely simply, across multiple websites. Don’t get scared off by its command line nature – it’s literally as simple as typing “wp theme update --all" and your theme’s will all be updated.

I wrote a bit about this handy tool in the Powerful Must-Have Tools for Every WordPress Developer. Check it out for some more in-depth examples.

WordPress Mobile

If you have a smartphone or a tablet why not take WordPress with you wherever you go? The WordPress app has come a long way since its inception and is now a worthy writing companion. You can use it offline and upload your work whenever you can, perfect for capturing thoughts on the go.

WordPress Mobile

It also has everything you need to handle comments and other admin tasks, gives you access to WordPress.com stats, has Jetpack integration, push notifications, media upload – all that good stuff.

WordPress Plugins

Plugins are the easiest way to add great functionality to your site. Editors of multi-author blogs have different needs that photographers with hundreds of photos to manage, I hope everyone will find something useful in the list below.

Reveal IDs

reveal-ids

Many plugins and premium themes ask you to input post ids in a list but figuring out the IDs is a bit difficult by default, you need to look in a post’s URL. The Reveal Ids plugin will place the ID of each post right in the admin table for easy access

Eggplant 301 Redirects

eggplant 301

This plugin lets you create simple redirect rules. You can set the redirect type to 301 or 302, and import rules from CSV which makes this tool super handy. One other nifty feature is the ability to choose a page, post, media or archive in place of a custom URL.

Simple Page Ordering

simple-page-ordering

The ability to order pages arbitrarily in the admin is something I’ve always missed. The order of pages usually doesn’t matter and in many cases we use three-four of them regularly while the remaining 25 are infrequently opened. Simple Page Ordering allows you to create custom orders by dragging and dropping, allowing you to put your frequently accessed pages on top and keep them there.

Advanced Custom Fields

Acf

This is one of my all time favorite plugins because it can be used for so many things! ACF allows you to add custom fields to your posts/pages/users/tags/categories/etc. You can choose from multiple fields and show them in specific circumstances – only for admin users for example. Adding data to posts has never been so easy!

Search Regex

searc-regex

Searching and replacing within all posts is something that comes up every now and again and is very difficult to do without the proper tools. Perhaps you added some data to the post content and now you want to do it more modularly with the previously mentioned ACF?

In these situations, the ability to go through each post and remove the unnecessary bit is invaluable and Search Regex helps you do just that.

Posts To Do List

posts-to-do

This plugin can be used for adding todo items to posts, or to create a post checklist for authors. The plugin features an overview page where you can see all your to do items, the ability to assign tasks to users, assign priority, URL and more.

Audit Trail

audit-trail

Websites with a large number of authors sometimes suffer from “whodunnit syndrome.” Audit Trail keeps a log of user actions which allows admins to follow up on naughty behavior or simply find out what’s going on all day to improve workflows.

WP Maintenance Mode

maintanance-mode

This plugin is great if you want to make changes to your website and make sure visitor’s can’t access it while you do. Perhaps you made an embarrassing mistake in a post, perhaps a new theme is coming, WP Maintanance Mode can help any time you need to take your site offline for a bit.

Editorial Calendar

editorial-calendar

This plugin is a breath of fresh air for editors who have their hands full. It shows a list of scheduled posts to make sure you never forget to fill a spot. It can also come in handy if you want to manage sponsored posts and make sure you don’t overwhelm your site.

Email Users

email-users

For large-scale emailing I would recommend using a service like Madmimi or Mailchimp, for more modest needs this plugins is great. As an admin or editor you can email all your contributors at once, perhaps a call for posts, or some holiday wishes? Pretty useful if you ask me.

Ninja Forms

ninjaforms

There are a number of form plugins out there and one of the best is Ninja Forms. From Contact Us pages to gathering user information when viewing products, you can create a wide variety of form with multiple field types available.

Front-end Editor

front-end-editor

I’m not a huge fan of doing editing on the front end but this tool is a huge timesaver for those little things you notice while cruising around the site. It can be used just fine for large-scale editing as well and is made by Scribu, someone we can all trust in the WP community.

YOP Poll

yop poll

Want to ask your readers a question and put some numbers to the results? Polls are a great way to engage and measure and YOP Polls gives you plenty of options to do just that.

Advanced Access Manager

advanced access manager

If you manage multiple users and you also write sensitive content only relevant to some, this plugin will help you out. It allows you to micromanage what people are allowed to see.

Advanced Post Manager

apm

The main strength of this plugin is the ability to let you sort and filter your posts in the backend much more flexibly than you can with the default WordPress controls. For websites with a wide range of topics and specific search needs, this is a great addition.

The List Goes On

Of course the repository has thousands upon thousands of plugins to choose from. Some are wide reaching, some are for very small niche uses. Regardless of the shape or size of the plugin, there are at least two-three others which have similar features – it’s always worth looking for alternatives.

If you feel I’ve missed something particularly useful, please do share in the comments below.

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How to Organize and Declutter the WordPress Post Editor Using Tabs http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/organize-wordpress-post-editor-using-tabs/ http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/organize-wordpress-post-editor-using-tabs/#comments Sun, 07 Dec 2014 13:00:06 +0000 http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/?p=134636 Even on a fresh installation of WordPress, the post editor screen can appear a little cluttered thanks to the meta boxes displayed alongside and below the main content editor.

While they are useful – allowing you to do things like choose a post category, add tags and set a featured image – they can make it difficult to find what you are looking for or focus on the task at hand when various meta boxes are crowding the screen.

By the time you’ve installed a few essential plugins for things like search engine optimization and promoting your content online, the post editor screen can start to look very cluttered indeed, and can even become overwhelming for new WordPress users.

While you can choose to not show these meta boxes from the screen options settings, simply hiding them from sight isn’t the ideal solution if you want to continue to make use of them.

To help you streamline the post editor screen and make it less distracting, we’re going to look at a free plugin solution that makes the most of tabs in today’s Weekend WordPress Project.

Weekend WordPress Project

Organizing Your Meta Boxes With Tabify Edit Screen

Tabify Edit Screen is a free plugin that gives you more control over how the post editor screen is organized. The plugin achieves this by allowing you to use tabs to separate the different meta boxes that are active on your WordPress website.

An Example Meta Box

With Tabify installed on your site, it’s now possible to create custom tabbed layouts for the post editor screen for each post type on your site. This includes pages and any custom post types you are using.

Conveniently, Tabify is compatible with meta boxes added by other plugins, such as the JM Twitter Cards plugin or WPML. However, with some plugins the meta boxes are lumped together under the custom fields option, and therefore can’t be separated out into their own tabs.

Meta Boxes from Plugins

Once the plugin has been installed and activated on your site, its functionality can be accessed from Tabify’s settings, which can be accessed from the left-hand sidebar of the WordPress admin.

Creating Tabs

From the Tabify edit screen you can enable tabs for different post types. For each post type that you enable tabs for will have its own set of tabs.

Each post type can have multiple tabs as needed, and you can name the individual tabs before moving them into position.

Tabify Edit Screen Settings

After checking the option to show tabs for a particular post type, you can click on “Create a new tab” to get started.

Create a New Tab

Giving your tabs a meaningful name will make it easier for you and any contributors you may have on your site to determine which set of meta boxes will display under a particular tab.

Organizing the Meta Boxes

Once you’ve created at least one new tab, you can then drag and drop the available meta boxes onto the appropriate tab area to start reorganizing the post editor screen and decluttering the WordPress workspace.

New Tab Arrangement

Once you’ve finished, or you want to preview your progress, click Save Changes and then open up the Add New Post page to view the editor screen.

Example Tab Arrangement

When switching tabs, you will notice that the post title and Publish meta boxes are displayed under each tab, making it easy to see the status of your post and its title.

New and Improved Post Editor Screen

If you would like to edit your configuration, you can switch back to the Tabify edit screen and make your changes. If you activate any additional meta boxes on your site via any plugins you install they will be automatically added to the last tab in the editor. So if any new meta boxes are added to your site, remember to return to the settings page to move them under the appropriate tab.

Conclusion

Tabify Edit Screen provides an easy way to better organize the WordPress editor screens. If you are fed up of scrolling up and down the page in search of a particular meta box then spending a few minutes setting up tabs could save you a lot of frustration.

It would be nice if you could apply the same tab configuration to multiple or all post types on your site rather than having to create each one individually. However, if you mainly work with the default WordPress post type this shouldn’t be an issue.

If you multiple people are working on your site, it might be worth mentioning that you are using tabs on the post editor screens in your style guide or writer instructions, just so that they know where to find any reorganized meta boxes.

If you have any questions about using this plugin or more tips for improving the WordPress post editor screen, please leave a comment below.

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10 Must-Have Plugins for Every New WordPress Blog http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/10-must-have-plugins-wordpress-blog/ http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/10-must-have-plugins-wordpress-blog/#comments Fri, 05 Dec 2014 13:00:00 +0000 http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/?p=134653 It’s easy to get started with WordPress since it’s packed with so many useful features right out of the box. However, there are still some essential plugins worth installing from the get-go to ensure that you and your visitors get the most from your website.

In this post we’ll look at 10 essential free and premium plugins covering 10 different categories, from security and SEO to social media and image optimization.

With so many great (and not so great) plugins available, choosing the right ones can be overwhelming task. However, you can save yourself a lot of time and effort with this list of the essentials to help you get your website up and running as quickly as possible.

Image Optimization - WP Smush.it

WP Smush

While images are an essential part of any blog post, large file sizes can slow down your page loading times. This can have a negative effect on the user experience, while also hindering your attempts to get traffic from search engines.

WP Smush.it is a free image optimization plugin that aims to eliminate the negative effects unoptimized images can have on your blog.

After installation, each new image – whether it’s a photo, screenshot, or other graphic that is uploaded to your site – will now be run through the Yahoo Smush.it service. This reduces the image’s file size, without changing its appearance or visual quality.

The image optimization takes place in the background without any extra effort on your part and is a great way to increase page loading times on your website. Existing images on your site can also be optimized with WP Smush.it at the click of a button.

Search Engine Optimization - Infinite SEO

Infinite SEO

You could be writing the best content in the world, but without optimizing your blog and its posts for search engines, there is little chance anyone will find their way to your website. However, by installing the right plugin, you can quickly and easily ensure your blog and its content is more search engine-friendly.

Infinite SEO takes care of all the essential on-site SEO tasks. This includes creating a comprehensive sitemap of your blog for Google and Bing, and also allowing you to craft custom titles and meta descriptions for each post on your blog.

Another useful feature of Infinite SEO, which you don’t get with other SEO plugins, is the ability to automatically link your content together. This feature allows you to turn pre-determined keywords or phrases into links to other posts on your blog. This not only helps your readers discover more of your great content, but also gives the search engines a better idea of what topics you are writing about to help them determine where your content should be ranked in their results.

Thanks to the premium support that is available for this plugin, you won’t be on your own when it comes to ensuring your site is optimized for the search engines and is ready to start being discovered online.

Infinite SEO is, of course, Multisite compatible, so if you are building a network of blogs, this is the perfect option.

Social Media Promotion - Floating Social

Floating Social

Once you’ve got search engine optimization covered, ensuring it’s as easy as pie for your readers to share your blog posts on their social networks is another effective way to get more visitors to your website.

With Floating Social, you can ensure the buttons for sharing your posts will never be out of your readers’ sight while they are enjoying your content. The vertical panel of share buttons unobtrusively follows your readers as they scroll down the page. This ensures that they are on hand at the exact moment the reader feels compelled to share your post with their friends and followers.

All the best social networks are supported, including Twitter, Facebook, Google +, and more. You can also customize the appearance of the share bar to match your website, or make it stand out, depending on your preferences.

To leverage the social media networks further in order to get more traffic to your website, you can optimize your content so that is really stands out when it’s shared. One option for doing so is to use the JM Twitter Cards plugin which we recently reviewed.

If you want to help more visitors find their way to your website, these floating social sharing buttons serve as a subtle, yet constant reminder to your readers to share your content with their network.

Contact Forms - Visual Form Builder

Visual Form Builder

Whether you are interested in feedback from your readers or a way to let them enquire about your services, a contact form is an essential part of any website. By adding a contact form to your WordPress website you not only make it easier for your visitors to send you a message, but also make your life easier in the process.

While you can publish your email address, there are many benefits to using a contact form instead. This includes minimizing the chances of getting overrun with spam emails, as well as ensuring that the messages you receive contain any important information your need.

By using the free Visual Form Builder plugin you can create custom forms with all the fields you require. The forms also contain human-friendly anti-spam verification fields to prevent them getting hijacked by spammers, without frustrating your visitors in the process.

Other features of Visual Form Builder include the ability to send readers a copy of their form submission, deliver the form content to multiple addresses, and store submissions in your WordPress dashboard for future reference, or export for use elsewhere.

Visual Form Builder features an easy to use interface to help you quickly create multiple simple or advanced contact forms for your website.

Blog Post Comment Notifications - Send Email Only On Reply to My Comment

send-email-comments

Another essential way to communicate with your readers is through the comments that can be left on your blog posts. One major downside of the comments system is that keeping the discussion going via comments can be tricky when using the default functionality of WordPress. This is because your readers won’t know when someone has replied to their comment.

However, by installing the free Send Email Only On Reply to My Comment plugin, you can remove this issue from your blog. Now your readers can opt to receive email notifications only when someone replies to their comment. They also get the option of choosing to receive an email notification when any new comments are posted. Users who opt in can just as easily opt out and unsubscribe, directly from the links in the notification emails they receive.

If you want your readers to be notified whenever someone replies to their comment, without filing their inbox with all the comments left on a post, this plugin offers an easy to implement solution.

Comment Spam Protection - Akismet

Akismet

We touched on spam protection briefly in the contact forms section, stating how Visual Form Builder includes a verification field to stop your contact forms being abused by automated spammers.

As anyone with a WordPress blog already up and running should know, almost as soon as your site goes live it will start receiving a steady stream of unwanted spam comments, which only increases over time.

Thankfully there are a few services and plugins you can use to stem the tide of comment spam and avoid your site being turned into a link farm.  Of these options, one of the first plugins you should activate on a new website is Akismet.

This plugin integrates the free (for personal use) Akismet comment spam prevention service with your WordPress site to direct suspicious looking comments straight into your spam folder. While the Akismet plugin is now pre-installed with WordPress, you still need to sign up for an account and activate the plugin on your site.

Another anti-comment spam measure you can put in place is adding a check box to the comment form. This surprisingly enough, is able to thwart many of the automated scripts that have been created to leave spam comments on WordPress blogs. Adding this check box is as easy as installing the popular and free Growmap Anti Spambot plugin. While it won’t deter human spammers, by combing it with Akismet, they should improve your spam defences.

For more advice on dealing with this issue, read this recent guide to stopping WordPress comment spam, complete with actionable tips and even more plugin recommendations.

By installing and activating these two plugins, you can do a good job of shoring up your defences against blog comment spam.

WordPress Security - WordFence

Wordfence

As well as spam, another threat website owners can fall prey to is having their site hacked. This isn’t just a problem WordPress users can suffer from, but thanks to the selection of great security plugins available, it’s a problem we can easily avoid.

Wordfence is one free plugin that WordPress users can deploy to secure their website with ease. With close to 4 million downloads, a near perfect 4.9 stars out of 5, and regular updates, it’s a safe choice for your blog.

After installation the plugin will carry out a scan to detect any vulnerabilities. Wordfence will then protect and monitor your website against known and unknown attackers who might be trying to hack their way into your website.

The Wordfence plugin also includes a caching tool to speed up your website, killing two birds with one stone.

Check out our recent review of Wordfence.

Back Up Your WordPress - BackWPup Free

BackWPup

Even if your website is safe and secure from hackers, it’s essential that you have a backup solution in place. Unintentional user error can be just as devastating as a planned malicious attack, so don’t delay when it comes to setting up regular scheduled backups on your website.

BackWPup is my free backup plugin of choice. It’s a great option as it can automatically deliver your backups to a range of external destinations. This includes Dropbox, SugarSync, S3, or an FTP server. You can set your own backup schedule, and your site can be restored from the backup archive at any point.

If you want a more rounded service that allows you to roll back individual files, then the premium BackupBuddy service is another great backup solution for WordPress.

Speed Up Your Site with Caching - W3 Total Cache

W3 Total Cache

If you chose another option for securing your WordPress website instead of the recommended Wordfence (which includes caching), then you will want to install a dedicated caching plugin.

These plugins can noticeably speed up the loading times of your website and its individual pages. The two main benefits of this is that your visitors are less likely to abandon your site while waiting for it to load, plus your website will have a better chance of ranking higher in Google than a slower loading equivalent site.

As each website and hosting configuration is different, there is unfortunately no single answer to the question of which is the best caching plugin for WordPress. However, Kevin does a great job of covering the best options in his recent guide to the best WordPress caching plugins.

In most cases a good caching plugin is better than none, and therefore W3 Total Cache is a great place to start. When setup correctly, this free plugin can help you reduce your page load times for a more enjoyable user experience.

Building Email Subscriber List - Pop-Up Pro

PopUp Pro

One of the best ways to connect with your readers outside of your blog is to have them join your email newsletter or mailing list. Once a reader has given you permission to email them, each time you publish a new post, you can send out an email to bring your subscribers back to your site.

Another benefit of building a list of email subscribers is that you own the list. This is instead of having your followers hosted on a platform that you don’t own or control, such as Facebook or Twitter.

Getting your visitors to subscribe and submit their email address can be tricky, with opt-in rates notoriously low as a rule. However, one plugin that can improve your sign up rate is PopUp Pro.

This plugin displays a pop-up window on your site when the user activates one of the customizable triggers. You can display any type of content in the popup, such as an advert, links to your best content or social media profiles, or your newsletter email sign up forms. The plugin is also beautifully coded so you don’t need to worry about what is going on in the backend.

If you want to display sign up forms in your content as well, such as at the end of posts and pages, check out our recent post on how to create an awesome newsletter signup pop-up using our MailChimp Integration plugin.

PopUp Pro is packed with features and is highly customizable. It’s a great way of allowing you to enable popups on your website in a way that is respectful of your visitors.

Conclusion

With these free and premium WordPress plugins installed on your blog, you will be free to focus on creating great content for your audience. No longer will you need to worry about finding the best way of keeping in touch with your readers, maintaining site security, making your content sharable, fighting off spam, and backing up your website.

What are your essential plugins? Let us know in the comments below.

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10+ Free WordPress Plugins to Add Christmas Cheer to Your Site http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/free-wordpress-christmas-plugins/ http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/free-wordpress-christmas-plugins/#comments Mon, 01 Dec 2014 13:00:00 +0000 http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/?p=133947 The countdown to Christmas has begun! As stores crank up the Christmas carols and homes are decorated with beautiful Christmas trees covered in lights, baubles and tinsel, there’s no reason why you can’t deck out your website with boughs of holly.

To help you get into the Christmas spirit, I’ve put together a fun list of free Christmas plugins – all tried and tested with the upcoming version of WordPress 4.1 and the new default Twenty Fifteen theme. All of these plugins are available in the WordPress Plugin Repository.

Let us know in the comments below what your favorite WordPress tips and tricks are to jazz up your site for the festive season.

Happy holidays!

Tribulant Snow Storm

snow-storm

Display snow flakes falling down your WordPress site with this simple plugin. Snow Storm allows you to configure a few simple settings, such as the color and amount of snow, mobile support, and whether it sticks to the bottom of the screen.

Simply Snow

xmas-snow

This aptly named plugin adds a simple snowfall effect to your site. Just install and activate the plugin and watch the gentle snow fall down your site. Unlike some other snow plugins, this one doesn’t come with any kind of configuration options and is lightweight enough that it won’t affect your site’s speed.

Improved Let It Snow!

improved-let-it-snow

Here’s a snow plugin you can configure. Specify the color and shape of the snow you want to display as well as how fast it falls and how much of it fills the page. You can also configure whether the snow sticks and accumulates at the bottom of the screen.

Advent Calendar

advent-calendar

For the 24 days before Christmas from December 1, display a simple advent calendar on your site. Advent Calendar lets you release a new custom holiday-theme images each day. This is a useful plugin for publishing exclusive content in the lead up to Christmas Day.

Christmas Countdown Widget

santas-countdown-widget

Let Santa brighten your visitors’ day with this simple widget. Just add the countdown widget to your site and Santa’s beard will countdown the days until Christmas. If you would rather not use the provided widget, you can use shortcode to display the countdown graphic anywhere on your site.

Christmas Ball on Branch

Christmas Ball on Branch

Note: This plugin has caused issues on at least one reader’s website so please use with caution. For more details, read the comments below.

If you want to add a little Christmas cheer to your website without going over the top, this plugin display a small Christmas branch with a bauble in the top right-hand corner of your site. It even lights up! While the plugin hasn’t been updated in more than two years, it still works just fine with the beta version of WordPress 4.1 and the Twenty Fifteen theme.

Xmas Lights

christmas-lights

Add a simple string of colorful Christmas lights to your site to welcome your visitors this holiday season. While some Christmas lights plugins look a bit tacky, this one has nice adds a quirky festive touch.

Snow, balloons and more

snow-balloons-and-more

Someone’s put a lot of work into this delightful plugin! Snow, balloons and more lets you set up snowflakes, leaves, lights, Santa and even Christmas trees to drift down your site. Choose from 30 GIF and 40 PNG images. You can even set the speed of snow and – get this – the maximum wind strength!

Holiday Message

holiday-message

Wish your visitors a happy holiday with this cute pop up message. This plugin allows you to display a message in the centre, fullwidth along the bottom or to the left or right of the bottom of the page. You can customize your Christmas message and choose from one of seven images.

WP Scheduled Styles

schedule-styles

Schedule a different CSS file to be used on Christmas Day so users visiting your site will see your holiday inspired design for a set period of time you specify.

WP Scheduled Themes

schedule-themes

This plugin allows you to schedule a different theme to display on your site for a special occasion, such as Christmas Day. The theme will override your existing theme on your site for the set time you specify.

WP Christmas Class

christmas-class

This handy plugin allows you to dynamically add a custom CSS class to your body tag during a set date range. You change the look and feel of your site during the Christmas holidays with custom CSS. There is also an option to make your date range automatically update for the following year.

Hello Christmas

hello-christmas

Hello Christmas is a festive alternative to Hello Dolly. When activated, this plugin disables Hello Dolly and displays random lyrics from popular Christmas carols in the top right-hand corner of the admin screen.

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5 Best Free WordPress Gallery Plugins http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/5-best-free-wordpress-gallery-plugins/ http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/5-best-free-wordpress-gallery-plugins/#comments Sun, 30 Nov 2014 13:00:05 +0000 http://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/?p=134256 There is an abundance of gallery plugins available for WordPress, and the great thing is they’re not short on features.

Gallery plugins have come a long way from being just a simple tool for displaying static images. These days, gallery plugins offer everything from animated effects and social sharing to branding and sliders.

In today’s post we’ll look at five gallery plugins that allow you to showcase your photos, screenshots, illustration and more, adding a professional touch to your front-end.

What’s more, all of the plugins featured in the list below all come with a basic, free license to use most, if not all, of their features. For more functionality, you’ll have to fork out some cash.

WP Canvas – Gallery

WP Canvas Image Gallery Plugin for WordPress

If you’re serious about your art and photos, and you have many large images you would like to showcase, WP Canvas is a fabulous plugin to consider. It not only displays your images elegantly on the page, but it works almost at the speed of light, too.

This plugin displays galleries in a few different styles and capabilities. You can display your gallery as a slider or as thumbnails on a page.

There are a few different slider styles and they are all beautiful in their own right. It just depends where you want your slider navigation arrow buttons to appear: Directly over the image, or on the far outer edge of the container.

If you prefer a very elegant carousel, there’s an option for that, too. I could post screenshots of what these sliders look like, but honestly, it wouldn’t do them justice, so it’s better to just check out the demo page for yourself.

If you’re more interested in displaying all your images on a page gallery-style, then you won’t be disappointed. This plugin allows you to choose how many columns you would like when displaying your images, and whether you would like to use masonry style, or thumbnails of all the same sizes.

The caption of the image can be displayed when the mouse hovers over the thumbnail, or directly over the bottom of the image. You can also choose the direction of the image: To a light box in line pop, a completely different page of your choosing, or the attachment page.

One of the best features of this plugin is that the light box displays the largest possible scale of your images, and resizes them according to the dimensions of the window, in which the image is being viewed. Your gallery (and portfolio) will look great no matter who is viewing it.

The best feature by far is just how fast the images load in the light box. You really have to try it out for yourself and see at least one of the two demo pages to really understand how fast and elegant this plugin displays your images.

You can view a few of the different styles, or sample a test gallery with different numbers of columns, from one to many. You can view it all on the plugin author’s website.

Okay, maybe I lied. The best part of this plugin isn’t how elegantly your images will be displayed, or the speed of the plugin, but the price. This plugin is free.

It’s such an amazing plugin and may even love it so much you may even consider donating a few bucks to help support the plugin’s author. If you do, it will certainly be money well spent.

Gmedia Gallery

Gmedia Gallery Wordpress Plugin for Images, Video, and Audio

This plugin is wonderful because it’s packed with 13 different styles to display your images, and they’re all unique as well as dynamic. You can display your images as thumbnails with different light box styles, or display them large slider-style with thumbnails across the bottom of the container.

There’s even a slider that’s great for touch screens since the image slides when you swipe it. You can also swipe the images with your mouse in case you don’t have a touch screen so no one will be left out.

The plugin also has different animations ranging from fun to the classic fade. No matter what you choose, your images will look fantastic. It’s also impressive how they were able to make 13 different styles of galleries in one plugin and managed to make them all unique and beautiful.

In addition to the classic gallery styles, there are also some cool-looking 3D ones, in either a rotating cube-shaped or rotating sphere. This plugin doesn’t stop there, though. It also allows you to display different kinds of media other than just image files.

You can upload music and videos, and list MP3 or OGG audio files in a great looking lists, complete with an album cover display, descriptions, a rating system and download button.

This plugin is also super easy to use on the backend, so even though you’re awesome at coding, it doesn’t really matter – at least not here. There’s just so many capabilities for this plugin, you’re going to have to look at the demos to really see for yourself.

Luckily, there’s a list of all 13 styles with links to their demos and a description of each one on the plugin’s website. You can find a link to the plugin’s support forum there, too.

What astounds me is this plugin is free. If you would like to receive updates to this plugin when they become available, have access to all future capabilities, and would like plugin support, then you can grab the premium license for $34.99 per website.

Photo Gallery, by Web Dorado

Photo Gallery WordPress Plugin by Web Dorado

Seamless mobile viewing is one of Photo Gallery’s best features compared to other plugins in the WordPress Plugin Repository. It does a great job, too. You get the same great consistent experience when viewing images on mobile and desktop.

Beyond that necessity is another: Social media sharing. It’s one of few plugins that offers a seamless social media sharing in its pro version. The buttons are located underneath the larger image in the light box, which appears when you click a thumbnail.

The light box is also well structured. Image appear with a classy black border, and complimentary-colored social media buttons to match. There is a small slider at the top with all the image thumbnails in the gallery for easy viewing and navigation.

You can choose between thumbnail and masonry-style viewing. There is a small, well-placed animation when hovering over a thumbnail; it slightly rotates to accentuate your mouse hover, and the thumbnail becomes more colorful. It’s a nice touch.

There’s an option to add a watermark to your image to help protect your work. On the flip side, you can offer downloads of your images, too.

This plugin has an animated loading image, which appears when you click a thumbnail to prompt the light box. This is a great feature because it will assure your users everything’s working fine in case they have a slow internet connection and it takes a few extra seconds to load.

I found that sometimes the gallery light box took a lot longer than it should have to load. There’s very little in this world that’s as frustrating as waiting for something that you’re not sure is even working. In this day and age, I think it’s fair to say we’ve grown even more impatient with our developing technology.

While it’s fairly fast and quite consistently, it may not be the plugin you’re looking for if your site’s visitors aren’t using up-to-date software and a fast internet connection. For most users, however, Photo Gallery should work fine. You can test this plugin and judge for yourself using the links that are provided on the plugin’s website.

If you’re looking for a gallery that looks good, and has a bit of flair, too, then this very well might be the best plugin for you. It’s free to use with unlimited galleries on one website install.

The pro version some with seven more gallery styles, six months of support, social sharing, image commenting, and more for $30, with one install. If you have more websites, there are plans for that, too. You can find more information on this on the Web Dorado company website.

NextGEN Gallery

NextGEN Gallery Plugin for WordPress

Unless you’ve been living under a shoe, you’ve probably heard of the Next GEN Gallery plugin. It’s not my favorite gallery plugin, but there’s definitely a clear reason why it is the favorite of so many others. It displays images simply and cleanly and for many people it’s exactly what they need.

Sometimes fancy animations, features, and effects can weigh on your server, and with this plugin it’s simple enough to ensure its usage is as optimal as possible. On the flip side, it is also capable of being very dynamic, and offers many useful features in the paid versions of the plugin.

This plugin is mobile-ready and offers watermarking for your images. The plus version offers a light box effect, commenting and social sharing, as well as other gallery styles, and email support at $49. The pro version includes PayPal integration in addition to the features of the plus version, for $99.

It’s nice to see that even the elevated features of the paid versions do not slow down your website significantly. The light boxes load quickly and are easy to view, and includes the thumbnail slider at the bottom.

It’s a great plugin worth mentioning, especially because it’s very regularly updated for the best possible user experience. If you’re looking for a simple, light-weight, yet durable plugin with a clean result, then you’re looking for the NextGEN Gallery plugin.

Huge-IT Gallery

Huge-IT Gallery Plugin for WordPress

Image Gallery is my clear favorite out of all of these plugins. Of course it’s just my preference, but there’s also good reason for it.

Not only can it display images, but it also displays videos very well. It comes with many gallery styles, from the standard thumbnail view, to sliders, light box, masonry, and pop content view.

I like the fact that you can have a large image pop up on the left of a light box, with written content on the right. It’s a great place to display more information about a product you’re featuring to lead into a potential sale.

The light boxes are justified so your visitors will be happy no matter what size screen they happen to be using. This plugin is consistently quick and responsive. I’ve spent a lot of time clicking on many images over and over to ensure quality, and I haven’t been let down yet!

In case it does load a bit slower for your visitors, there is a loading animation to make sure they know it’s actually working. No frustrated visitors here!

What’s different about this plugin is that it can very easily offer modest-sized images to display in the light box, rather than display your images at full size. You can even set this option by default.

Navigation arrows and an “X” to close the light box are placed at the bottom of the pop up, which is different compared to most plugins that place them more toward the middle and top. You can, however, choose the type of arrows you want to display. Titles can be displayed on-hover, or by default on thumbnails.

If you have a lot of videos to feature, there’s a plugin for that. Huge-IT also has a video gallery plugin which displays videos nicely. You can either upload your own video to your WordPress installation, or grab one from somewhere else, such as YouTube or Vimeo.

If you need a few extra features to prominently display your images or portfolio, there’s the Huge-IT Portfolio Gallery plugin. You have the option to add more descriptions in various different styles, as well as selectable alternative thumbnails within a pop-up view.

This plugin’s geared more toward images and text content, which is perfect for designers, artists and anyone else who need to display text information beside an image.

Image Gallery’s best feature is how the light boxes are displayed. They do not take over your entire page by default. This also means navigation and close window buttons are easily accessible and your visitors will not have to stretch their gaze fervently to figure out how to view your images or portfolio.

You can choose unlimited usage and custom settings for free for a single site, or you can upgrade for even more design customization for $30. If you have more than one site, there are options for that, too. A license for five sites is $45, and for unlimited sites, it’s only $15 more, at $60.

The Bottom Line

These are all great plugins and testing them all out (or just the ones that sound great to you), is the best way to know which one will best suit your needs the most. No matter which one you choose, you will have chosen a fabulous plugin that will serve you well.

Rest assured, you won’t have to click through more than 170 pages in the WordPress Plugin Repository to find the best media and image gallery plugins as we’ve done all the hard work for you.

Did I miss any I should have mentioned? Let me know what your suggestions are in the comments below. If you’ve used any of these plugins, please tell us about your experience.

Image credits: WP Canvas, CodEasily, Web Dorado, Photocrati Media, and Huge-IT.

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