10 Most Popular Free WordPress Slider Plugins – Reviewed and Ranked

10 Most Popular Free WordPress Slider Plugins – Reviewed and Ranked

Finding the perfect slider for your site is by no means an easy task.

At last count, there were 690 sliders in the WordPress Plugin Repository. Who’s got time to test every plugin?

To help you separate the wheat from the chaff, I’ve ranked and reviewed the top 10 most popular free slider plugins available in the repository. These image sliders have been updated relatively recently and all have received more than 10 votes from WordPress users.

  • Upfront Sliders

    Fixer starter theme

    Let’s kick off this list with Upfront. While it’s not technically a slider plugin, it’s by far the easiest option on this list (not to mention my favorite) for adding a slider to your site – and you can get started using it for free.

    With Upfront, you can create everything from wall-to-wall mega sliders that immediately grab your visitors’ attention, to smaller sliders for showing off finer 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 customize your sliders further, 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.

    To be fair, since this slider option is one of our own products I’m going to leave it off the comparison list below. If you want a quick and easy – not to mention powerful – way to add sliders to your site, Upfront is definitely worth exploring.

    Interested in Upfront Sliders?

  • Meta Slider

    Stats From WordPress.org
    4.8 out of 5 stars
    Requires: 3.5 or higher
    Compatible up to: 3.8.1
    Last Updated: 2014-1-23
    Downloads: 467,707

    Meta Slider is by far the most popular slider available for WordPress, with a massive 467,707 downloads to date.

    It comes with four jQuery sliders –Nivo Slider (responsive, 16 transition effects, four themes), Coin Slider (four transition effects), Flex Slider 2 (responsive, two transition effects, carousel mode), Responsive Slides (responsive, fade effect only).

    Creating a new slider is simple – add your image, select which slider you want to use and the plugin will spit out a shortcode you can insert anywhere in your site.

    There’s also a pro version of this plugin if you want to pay money for more features.

    Interested in Meta Slider?

  • Easing Slider “Lite"

    Easing Slider Lite

    Stats From WordPress.org
    4.4 out of 5 stars
    Requires: 3.5 or higher
    Compatible up to: 3.8.1
    Last Updated: 2013-12-13
    Downloads: 398,471

    With almost 400,000 downloads, Easing Slider Lite is the second most downloaded slider plugin in the repository.

    This lightweight plugin allows you to set the dimensions and duration of your slider and includes the option to make your slideshow responsive. There are two transition effects, fade and slide. Like many sliders, you will need to use shortcode to add your slider to a post or page.

    You can only create one slider with this plugin, so if you want to have more than that in your site you should look elsewhere.

    Interested in Easing Slider “Lite"?

  • Smooth Slider

    Stats From WordPress.org
    3.8 out of 5 stars
    Requires: 3.0 or higher
    Compatible up to: 3.4.2
    Last Updated: 2012-9-10
    Downloads: 356,672

    Smooth Slider offers a content and image slideshow with a customizable background and slide intervals you can place anywhere on your site.

    The plugin’s features includes a responsive design and six transition effects. It also support custom slider, category slider and recent posts slider. Template tags, shortcode and a widget are included.

    I did try to use set up a new slider but the plugin crashed my site every time I tried to go into the plugin’s settings. I checked out Smooth Slider’s support page on the repository site and it seems other users with up-to-date versions of WordPress have also been having issues.

    Interested in Smooth Slider?

  • WOW Slider

    Stats From WordPress.org
    3.4 out of 5 stars
    Requires: 3.1 or higher
    Compatible up to: 3.5.2
    Last Updated: 2014-1-27
    Downloads: 218,249

    Wow Slider is unusual in that you need to download a separate program, WOWSlider wizard, to create a slideshow. Once you’ve put together your slideshow, you can then upload it to the plugin. You’ll need to copy and paste a shortcode to insert your slider anywhere on your site.

    The plugin’s website includes fairly comprehensive documentation to help you if you run into any problems.

    Interested in WOW Slider?

  • vSlider Multi Image Slider for WordPress

    Stats From WordPress.org
    4.2 out of 5 stars
    Requires: 2.7 or higher
    Compatible up to: 3.3.2
    Last Updated: 2012-4-25
    Downloads: 194,017

    vSlider allows you to display an unlimited number of image sliders on your site, though it makes me wonder, how many sliders is too many?

    You can insert sliders into your site either with shortcode, a custom widget or by using it as a function in your theme.

    The plugin comes with a helpful FAQ and a video tutorial that walks you through how to set up your first slider. There’s also a forum available if you run into any problems.

    Interested in vSlider Multi Image Slider for WordPress?

  • SlideDeck 2 Lite Responsive Content Slider

    Stats From WordPress.org
    3.9 out of 5 stars
    Requires: 3.3 or higher
    Compatible up to: 3.8.1
    Last Updated: 2014-1-9
    Downloads: 173,667

    SlideDeck is a popular and comprehensive plugin that offers advanced functionality if you’re after a feature-packed slider.

    This lite version doesn’t include the full set of 14 content sources, like Facebook, NexGEN and Gallery that are available in the premium version.

    Still, the lite version is feature-packed, allowing you to quickly create sliders from any content, such as images, posts and videos.

    Interested in SlideDeck 2 Lite Responsive Content Slider?

  • EasyRotator for WordPress - Slider Plugin

    Stats From WordPress.org
    4 out of 5 stars
    Requires: 2.8 or higher
    Compatible up to: 3.8.1
    Last Updated: 2013-12-20
    Downloads: 157,150

    EasyRotator promises that users “beautiful, responsive photo rotators and sliders to your WordPress site in seconds,” but it actually takes a bit of setting up. First you’ve got to install Flash software to create your slides – or rotators – on your local machine, which I admit I found annoying. Then you can create a new rotator from within the page or post editor. You can also use shortcode to insert a rotator in your site, or add a rotator to your theme using a function call.

    After going to the trouble of installing the Flash program, it didn’t work when I tried to set up a basic slider from the Post Editor. After a bit of digging around, I discovered this plugin doesn’t work with Safari/Chrome.

    Interested in EasyRotator for WordPress - Slider Plugin?

  • Responsive WordPress Slider - Soliloquy Lite

    Stats From WordPress.org
    4.1 out of 5 stars
    Requires: 3.3.1 or higher
    Compatible up to: 3.8.1
    Last Updated: 2014-1-6
    Downloads: 151,001

    Soliloquy is one of the more well-known sliders out there and for good reason – it’s simple to set up, you don’t need to download flash software to create and upload sliders or mess around with the settings. It just works.

    After you’ve added your images, select your slider size, slider speed and hit “publish.” Then you’ll need to copy the resulting shortcode onto any page or post where you want the slider displayed.

    While this is a lite version, it still comes with enough features to make it worth trying out.

    Interested in Responsive WordPress Slider - Soliloquy Lite?

  • Cyclone Slider 2

    Stats From WordPress.org
    4.8 out of 5 stars
    Requires: 3.5 or higher
    Compatible up to: 3.8.1
    Last Updated: 2014-1-10
    Downloads: 110,956

    Cyclone Slider 2 takes sliders back to basics. It offers a straightforward plugin setup that display a simple image slider and includes options such as delays, dimensions and pause on hover.

    The plugin supports image, YouTube, Vimeo, custom HTML and testimonial sliders. You can drag and drop to re-order your slides, and the sliders are responsive.

    This plugin also comes as a pro version.

    Interested in Cyclone Slider 2?

  • Responsive Slider

    Stats From WordPress.org
    4.1 out of 5 stars
    Requires: 3.3 or higher
    Compatible up to: 3.5.2
    Last Updated: 2013-1-24
    Downloads: 89,618

    Responsive Slider is a very simple slider plugin, which comes with few settings but makes up for it in easy of use.

    Adding new slides is a snap and you can place them anywhere in your site with a shortcode, or into your theme with a function call.

    The settings allow you to change the width and height of your slider, add a transition effect, a delay, animation duration and automatic start.

    This plugin is for single sliders only, so if you want to set up multiple sliders on your site you should check out a different plugin.

    Interested in Responsive Slider?

WPMU DEV Ratings

I tested each of the plugins for ease of use, features and speed. Here’s my verdict:

  • Meta Slider:
  • Easing Slider “Lite":
  • Smooth Slider:
  • WOW Slider:
  • vSlider Multi Image Slider for WordPress:
  • SlideDeck 2 Lite Responsive Content Slider:
  • EasyRotator for WordPress - Slider Plugin:
  • Responsive WordPress Slider - Soliloquy Lite:
  • Cyclone Slider 2:
  • Responsive Slider:

The Most Popular Slider is Also the Best

And the winner is: Meta Slider.

The WordPress community knows a good plugin when it sees one.

Meta Slider is not only the most downloaded slider plugin, but it has also received the highest rating from users in the community.

I found it a pleasure to use, with a nice balance of features and functionality – and all for free.

vSlider Multi Image SliderSlideDeck 2 Lite and Soliloquy Lite are also great slider plugins if you have an image-heavy site and want to make the most of sliders. These three themes have been developed by professional outfits looking to draw in customers – and more sales – with free products.

If you just want a very simple slider with no bells and whistles, definitely give Cyclone Slider 2 a go. It’s a great basic slider that is easy to set up and isn’t weighed down by countless settings and options.

But if you’re after something with more bite, with greater features and the ability to place multiple sliders on your site, you can’t go past Meta Slider.

What is your go-to slider plugin? Tell us in the comments below.