The Power User’s Ultimate Guide to the WordPress Admin Area
Even if you’re an experienced user, there may well be features of the WordPress admin screens you haven’t come across yet – features that could make your life easier.
In this article I’ll look at some examples, and welcome yours in the comments!
The WordPress admin screens are constantly evolving. With each new release, the admin has improvements, tweaks and additions. Some of these are aimed at improving User Experience (UX), others have made things more accessible and yet more add new features.
Over time most WordPress users develop habits for how they use the admin screens, which may not change when new features are added. And new users may not have had the chance to explore the WordPress admin fully and may be missing out on things that could really make their lives easier.
In this article I’ll work through each section of the WordPress admin and give some examples of features and controls you may not have spotted that could improve your workflow. If you have already spotted them, that’s great, and if you’ve spotted others which aren’t mentioned here, please add them in the comments.
There isn’t a lot hiding in the Dashboard screen, but there are a couple of features you can access here and throughout many of the rest of the admin screens.
At the top of the screen is the Screen Options tab – use this to turn things off and off in your dashboard screens. On the dashboard screen you can use this to can turn off individual dashboard widgets.
I’ll revisit the Screen Options tab and its use in other parts of the dashboard throughout this article – it’s definitely something to keep your eye on.
You can also access the Help tab here, which might just save you searching through the Codex:
Something else you can do from a screen in the main dashboard area of your site is update everything, including WordPress itself and your themes and plugins. Access this via Dashboard > Updates.
The listing screens display lists of your posts, pages, media and custom post types. There are a few hidden secrets here that I find especially useful.
Change What’s Listed
If you’re on a listing screen (or a screen showing the results of a search, where it can be even more useful), you can use the Screen Options tab to alter the number of posts displayed. This saves you having to work your way through multiple screens to find what you want, and can help with bulk actions, which I’ll come to in a moment.
You can also change whether categories, tags and your custom taxonomies are displayed in the list, along with comments.
Here’s the default listing screen for Posts, on a site with a few custom taxonomies added:
And here it is with the number of Posts and the displayed taxonomies changed via the Screen Options tab:
In a lot of listing screens you also have the ability to perform bulk actions, meaning if you need to edit multiple posts at once, you can do so easily.
To do this, select the posts you want to edit, select Edit from the Bulk Actions list above and then click Apply:
From here you can change published status, categories and author. You can also use the Bulk Actions dropdown list to trash a large number of posts all at once.
Post Editing Screens
In the screens for editing your posts (including posts of a custom post type if you have them set up), there are some controls you may not have used.
Instead of having to publish your posts immediately, you can schedule them in advance. This is very useful if you’re going to be away for a while but still want new content appearing on your site, or if you want to publish something which is embargoed or will become relevant on a given date. To do this, click on the Edit link to the right of the publish date and change the date.
Note: Posts scheduled for the future won’t appear on your site until their publication date, while posts scheduled in the past will appear straight away but with an older date.
Sticky Posts can be useful if you want to make a post ‘stick’ to the top of your home page or post listing even when newer posts have been published. To make a post sticky, just click on Edit next to the Visibility status and tick the Stick this post to the front page box.
If you publish a post but make it private, only logged in administrators and editors will be able to see it when they view the front end of your site. This can be useful if you want to give them quick access to a post for checking and sign off before publication. To make a post private, simply click on the Private option. Once you hit Publish, your post will be published but inaccessible to anyone who isn’t a logged in administrator or editor.
Change Post Author
A feature that can be really useful in a multi-author blog is the ability to change the author of a post. This means that one user can write and publish the post but can assign it to another user – useful if only one of you has access to your site right now or if you have one person doing most of the writing but you want it to appear as if the posts are spread across a number of authors.
To do this, you’ll need to tick the Author box in the Screen Options tab, then select the author from the dropdown box below the post. This is only available to administrators and editors.
Page Editing Screens
On the screens for editing Pages there are also a couple of handy features you may not have used if you’re new to WordPress.
You can make use of any page templates that are present in your theme by selecting them from the page templates drop down list. It’s worth checking this out whenever you activate a new theme, as you never know what might be there.
You can also make your pages hierarchical from the Page editing screen, by selecting another page as the page’s parent from the dropdown list.
The Media Library
The media library screens had some great features added in WordPress 4.0 making it easier for you to see exactly the types of media you need to focus on and to be able to see all of your images more easily.
Displaying Types of Media
You can select which types of media you want to view from the file types list above the media listing. Options include images, audio and video.
Here’s the default view of the Media Library:
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And here it is with just images displayed:
You can also view your images in a grid, which will be more intuitive to anyone who uses photo management software. Select the grid icon above the media listing:
Just as you have bulk actions for posts, you can now use Bulk Select with media, enabling you to select as many images as you want and then delete them. You can’t edit them as yet but if you need to tidy up your media library, this is useful for deleting batches of files.
If you’re used to editing your images in Photoshop before uploading them to WordPress, the image editing features may improve your workflow. They’re obviously not as extensive as Photoshop, but they’re useful for cropping, rotating and resizing your images. You can access this screen for each image either when you upload it or via the Media Library:
The screens in the Appearance section of the admin have had some major improvements over recent releases, many of which are aimed at accessibility and mean you can interact with them without having to use a mouse.
The Theme Customizer
When you’re installing a new theme, don’t forget to take a look at it in the Theme Customizer. Depending on what’s been written into the theme, you may be able to change elements such as colors, layout, content and more. For users who don’t code, this can be a handy way to tweak your theme and make your site more bespoke.
Note: Since WordPress 4.0, widgets are included in the theme customizer but are displayed separately when you click on them, which avoids having them clutter up the customizer.
You can now edit your widgets without having to drag and drop them into widget areas. Simply select the widget you want to add and choose the widget area you want it to go in from the dropdown list:
This means you don’t have to keep switching from mouse to keyboard and is an accessibility feature.
Sometimes you may find you’re trying to add content to your navigation menus and you can’t see it in the list on the left. If this happens, open the Screen Options tab and make sure all of the post types you need are selected. You can also use this to hide post types, useful if you’re running a multi-author site and you don’t want certain types of content in the menu.
The menu screen has also had accessibility updates which mean you don’t have to drag menu items up and down a long navigation menu. Not only is this good for accessibility, it’s good for UX too. Click on the gray arrow to the right of the menu item, and in the box that appears, choose the most relevant positioning option.
The third aspect of menu functionality you may not have come across is the ability to add custom links as navigation menu items. You do this using the Links box on the left. It’s useful for adding links to external sites or to archive pages in your own site which aren’t included in the navigation menu items:
Once you’ve added a link you can edit it in the same way as any other menu item, giving it a custom title and attributes:
The screens for viewing plugins have a few options which help you find the plugins you need to work on more quickly.
Firstly, you can view plugins by status, so if you’re looking for plugins that are active, inactive or require an update just select the option from the list at the top of the plugins list. Below I’m just viewing active plugins.
You also have bulk actions available to you here, so if you were to select the view for plugins requiring an update, you could select them all and then choose Update in the Bulk Actions dropdown to quickly update them all.
Make sure you back up first though!
There isn’t a lot hiding in the Users screens but one feature that a lot of people haven’t heard of is the ability to bulk change your users’ roles in the Users listing screen.
Here you can select all of the users whose role you want to change and pick the role you want to change them to – useful if security issues mean you need to restrict access to users for a while. The users listing screen also has a Bulk Actions dropdown which lets you delete multiple users if you need to.
Finally, a couple of useful little-known features in the Settings screens:
In the Writing screen, you can change the default category for new posts to one of your own categories instead of Uncategorized. This can be really useful as it saves you having lots of posts in a category you’re not using.
And there are settings you can work with outside the Settings screens, in the Theme Customizer. These include the site title and description and the front page, although depending on your theme there may be more:
Above are some features of the WordPress admin that I’ve found useful or other people have pointed out to me, which may not be immediately apparent or easy to spot.
I wouldn’t be surprised if you already know about some of these, but you may not have come across all of them. And you may have some other tips not mentioned here.
Do you have any tips or tricks for using the WordPress admin screen? Please share them in the comments below.