Using regular plugins on WordPress, WordPress Multisite and BuddyPress

Plugins are composed of php scripts that extend and expand the functionality of WordPress.

They work by enhancing existing WordPress features or adding new features.

There are two types of plugins:

  1. Regular plugins – these plugins are located in the “plugins” folder; they can be activated and deactivated on a per site by site inside the dashboard via the Plugins page.
  2. mu-plugins – stands for ‘must-use’ plugins and are the plugins that located in the “mu-plugins” folder. Any plugin placed in the mu-folder are automatically activated network wide. Refer to Installing mu-plugins for more information.

Image of plugins folders

Regular plugins and mu-plugins are located in separate folders on your WordPress Multisite.

Your Default Plugins

WordPress and WordPress Multisite comes with two default regular plugins installed:

  1. Akismet – a spam commenting service designed to reduce comment and pingback spam. It checks the content of the comment anonymously with an online server, to determine whether it is spam or not. Here’s how to configure and use Akismet.
  2. Hello Dolly – adds a random lyric from “Hello, Dolly” to the top of your dashboard that changes as you navigate your admin panels

Things to know before installing plugins

While there are over 4,000 regular plugins most of these don’t work on WordPress Multisite sites and many have compatibilities issues.

Make sure you check the plugin’s compatibility information before installing. The plugin may not have been updated for the version of WordPress you are using.

Regular plugins can be sourced through sites such as:

  1. WordPress Plugins Directory
  2. WPPlugins

Whenever installing regular plugins on a WordPress Multisite install you should always:

  • Check the plugin’s compatibility information before installing. The plugin may not have been updated for the version of WordPress you are using
  • Thoroughly test each plugin (one at a time) by uploading to your WordPress Multisite install and enabling it just for a test account.
  • Activate the plugin on the test site taking notes of any errors which occur.
  • Immediately remove any plugins with bugs using FTP and only use them network wide once you have fixed all their issues

Also some plugins make changes to your database. Before installing any plugin that make dramatic changes, backup your database and files.

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