11 Excellent Free Responsive WordPress Slider Plugins
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, sliders are popular and people just can’t get enough of them. At least, that’s what our traffic stats tell us.
Just this month, we’ve had more than 7000 hits on one of our older slider posts. That’s a lot of slider love!
And no wonder – finding a decent slider that’s easy to set up and not too fiddly to get your head around is hard. Fortunately, there are plenty of free slider plugins around that provide a convenient way to display multiple images, video or other content on your website.
With that in mind, I’ve curated this list of some of my favorite slider plugins, including many solid options that have been around for years and have stood the test of time and are, of course, regularly updated. They’ve all been tested with the latest version WordPress (4.4) and are ranked in order of active installs, according to data from the WordPress Plugin Repository.
Let’s kick off this list with Upfront. While it’s not technically a plugin, it’s by far the easiest option on this list for adding a slider to your site.
With Upfront, you can create everything from wall-to-wall mega sliders that immediately grab your visitors’ attention, to compact sliders for showing off smaller details on your site. You can control every aspect of your slider (or sliders if you want to display more than one), including slider transitions, navigation, slider order styling and slider behavior. It goes without saying that Upfront sliders are 100% responsive (aren’t they all these days?).
If you want to further customize your sliders, Upfront lets you set up default presets, so you don’t have to repeat styling options you’ve set for a particular slider. But if you want to really want to get stuck into styling the finer details of your sliders, you can easily add custom code to your site.
Interested in Upfront Sliders?
Active Installs: 600,000+
With more than 600,000 active installs, Meta Slider has been the reigning king of free slider plugins for the past couple of years and it doesn’t look like it will be knocked out of the top spot anytime soon. If you want to add sliders to your site with no fuss, this is the plugin you need to download.
It comes with four jQuery sliders – Nivo Slider, Coin Slider, Flex Slider, and Responsive Slides – and each slider has its own set of effects (slide in, fold, fade etc). You can also pick from light and dark styling options and whether you want to display navigation buttons.
Adding sliders to your posts and pages is simple – upload your images, select the options you want and insert the resulting shortcode where you want your slider to display on your site. A handy “Add Slider” button is also added to posts and pages in case you forget to copy the shortcode.
If the basic settings aren’t enough, you can go pro, starting at $19 a year.
Interested in Meta Slider?
Active Installs: 100,000+
Huge-IT’s Slider plugin has quietly climbed the slider ranks, surpassing the popular Soliloquy plugin to take out the number two spot. I’m guessing it might have something to do with the fact this plugin is simply called “Slider” in the WordPress Plugin Repository, an appealing name for new users.
This plugin is straight forward to set up and creating a new slider is easy – just walk yourself through the options for creating a new slider. You’re not restricted to just adding images, too. With this plugin, you can mix and match videos, posts, and images.
Slider comes with a ton of features. The most basic ones are displayed when you create a new plugin, but there are even more when you click the “General Options” menu item. You can configure everything from how you want your loading images and navigation to look, to font and border sizes, and border and background colors.
It’s worth noting that the plugin displays a large banner ad for the pro version of the plugin in the backend of your site that you can’t turn off, so if you’re not into ads then this isn’t the plugin for you. Otherwise, Slider is a great option worth checking out if you’re looking for slider plugin with more than just the basic features.
Interested in Huge-IT Slider?
Active Installs: 90,000+
Soliloquy is super simple to set up. Just drag and drop your images into a new slider and configure how you want them to look and feel (dimensions, transition speed etc.). If you want to take things a step further, you can add your own custom CSS for even more control over how your sliders look.
Like most other slider plugins, you’ll need to copy a shortcode and paste it into page or posts where you want your sliders to display.
There’s a pro version if you more premium features. So if you like the lite version and need more features, why not check it out.
Interested in Soliloquy Lite?
Active Installs: 90,000+
If you’re looking for a bare bones slider plugin, Meteor Slides is it.
This plugin comes with only the most basic of features – the ability to add images to a slider (read: “a” slider since you can only create one), set dimensions, set the speed, and choose from 26 transition styles.
That’s about it. This plugin is a good option if you don’t need any fancy pants features.
Interested in Meteor Slides?
Active Installs: 70,000+
Cyclone Slider 2 is another really basic and easy to set up plugin. It displays a simple responsive image slider with a few options, such as delays, slider dimensions, and pause on hover. Just drag and drop to add and re-order your slides.
The developer is obviously mindful of internationalization – there’s RTL support and you can use qTranslate quick tags for slide titles and descriptions.
There’s premium version if you want to splash some cash and it comes with support and other nice features like the ability to import/export, and templates.
Interested in Cyclone Slider 2?
Active Installs: 60,000+
This slick looking plugin was easily the prettiest of all the slider options I tested and is simple – even fun – to set up.
Just drag and drop your images into place or to re-order them, and then pick from all of the settings on offer – set your dimensions, crop, pick your transitions, and voilà, you’re done. If you need some guidance, there are sample sliders available that feature different layouts, like sliders with text, and fullwidth sliders.
As always, you need to use shortcodes to insert sliders into posts and pages.
Unlike other freemium plugins, Master Slider gets its advertising user experience right. In the tabbed navigation when you’re creating a new slider, there’s a shiny green “Upgrade to Pro” option that’s clearly visible and hard to miss, yet at the same time unobtrusive.
Interested in Master Slider?
This plugin by WooThemes is fiddly to set up, but once you’ve got it up and running it offers a range of beautifully minimalist sliders (basic, carousel, video, slider with thumbnail and navigation).
The catch with this plugin is that if you change your theme you’ll lose your slider. WooThemes offers WooSlider from $49 if you want more functionality without playing with code.
Interested in FlexSlider 2?
Active Installs: 30,000+
What Slider WD lacks in good looks it makes up for in spades with its huge array of settings. Yes, this plugin has options galore.
Setting up a new slider is a straight forward process. Just drag and drop the images you want to use. You can then add a text layer and even image, video, social media and hotspot layers.
Now onto the settings. Cycling through the settings navigation opens up all kinds of fun stuff. The basic options like setting dimensions, cropping, alignment transitions, etc. are all there, of course. But you can do other cool stuff, like turn on swipe navigation, add a watermark, and add your own custom CSS.
Some of the styling options are visible but disabled and only available to pro users, which is a bit of a tease. Licenses include updates and support and start at $20 for six months access.
Interested in Slider WD?
Active Installs: 20,000+
Setting up this plugin was anything but a smooth experience. While there are lots of features available for all the usual things you would expect (transitions, navigation, colors, etc) and more, the user experience was confusing and I got impatient while setting up a new slider and gave up.
The fact is, there are other free plugins that are easier to set up than this one and I hope the developers realize this and redesign the user interface.
Still, if you persist and have the time to explore the settings, I’m sure you could set up a slider and get used to how the plugin admin is set out.
Interested in Smooth Slider?
Active Installs: 20,000+
It might not have the prettiest name, but it’s super easy to set up – I activated the plugin and set up a new slider in less than a minute. Nice!
Ultimate Responsive Image Slider doesn’t have as many features as some other plugins, like Huge-IT Slider or Master Slider, but I did like how the options are all listed on the one page – no clicking through tabs, it’s all there for you to quickly scroll through so you can pick and choose who you want your sliders to look.
The user interface is fairly basic but is easy enough to understand. If you like this plugin, there’s a pro version for $21.
Interested in Ultimate Responsive Image Slider?
We hope this list has helped you find a great free slider plugin for your site. Which one did you choose? If you have a favorite plugin that didn’t make the list let us know in the comments below.