In the year that I’ve been running this blog, I’ve accumulated a decent number of WordPress plugins. Some I now consider essential; others are merely neat. The list below contains every WordPress plugin I currently have running on this blog, in alphabetical order (say you entirely wanted to duplicate the look of this blog, this list would be a good place to start). And if you see some missing from the list that you think I should be running, well, let me know in the comments.
- All in One SEO Pack. I know the name sounds kind of evil (SEO is a four-letter word in many parts of the Internet), but this plugin is really innocuous. The main functionality that I use is its ability to nicely and cleanly give posts meta descriptions, which show up under the page title in a search engine listing. It also lets you adjust all sorts of keywords, other meta tags, page titles, etc., but I haven’t messed around with that stuff yet.
- AskApache RewriteRules Viewer displays a list of URL rewriting rules, both those of WordPress and any applicable .htaccess files. It helped me out when I was debugging a permalink structure change. Though I haven’t used it since, I still keep it around just in case.
- Flexible Upload is a very useful plugin that extends the functionality of uploading and using images in WordPress. It creates thumbnails of a given size on the fly and offers increased control in how an image is placed within a post (without having to manually adjust the HTML). It will also do automatic watermarking for you. Just a caveat though, version 1.9 has some sort of incompatibility with certain themes or WordPress 2.3.x or something, so I’m running 1.8.
- Google XML Sitemaps automatically creates an XML sitemap of your blog and keeps it updated over time. XML sitemaps are still kind of a new thing, but Google is using them, and having one can potentially increase the visibility of some of your harder-to-find pages in search rankings. If nothing else, at least its output is nifty.
- In Series adds series functionality to WordPress. Think of a series as categories with ordering, so each post has a numbered table of contents linking to the other pages in the series as well as “Previous” and “Next” links. I’m using it for my telescope-making work log and my Diamondback opinion columns. One caveat: the only way to prevent the table of contents (which can get long) from displaying on the front page is by hacking up your theme. The next version of this plugin will make it a simple configuration option.
- No Self Pings prevents your newly written posts from generating pingbacks on previous posts. Some people like them; I don’t.
- Random Posts Widget displays a number of links to random posts on your blog. I used to have a “Best posts” heading, but maintaining it was too much of a hassle, so I removed it and simply went for the random links. The ability to browse through a blog randomly rather than having to go chronologically or by category is great, and by giving a choice of posts for someone to click on, they can pick the one that most interests them. If you haven’t tried out the random links yet, do have a go. Most of the traffic on this blog is on recent posts, but the older posts don’t have any less quality.
- Raz-Captcha adds a CAPTCHA to user login and/or user registration. I just have it turned on for registration, because too many spammers were automatically registering accounts in the vain hope that being logged in would let their spammy comments through my spam filter (it doesn’t).
- Recent Comments Widget displays the most recent comments anywhere on the blog. This is one of my favorite plugins. It fosters discussion and also makes tracking down spam comments on old posts easy. At a simple glance of my page, anyone can see where the latest comments are, and then if they feel like it, they can respond to them. Without this plugin, this default WordPress functionality only displays a list of latest comments in the blog’s admin interface.
- Redirection is a redirection manager that can change a bunch of different aspects on how redirects are handled, but I only use it for one thing. I changed my permalinks structure to remove the /index.php/ part recently, yet WordPress was sending back HTTP codes of 302, or “Moved Temporarily”, along with all of the redirects to the new permalink URLs. This is bad, as it can split up search engine karma across multiple pages. So I used Redirection to change the HTTP code to 301, or “Moved Permanently”. This tells search engines to update everything to point to the new URL.
- Spam Karma 2 is one of those plugins that I don’t know how I’d live without. It’s caught tens of thousands of spam comments so far. I cannot even imagine trying to handle all of that manually. And it’s false positive rate is amazingly low. Put simply, if you are running a WordPress blog on the public Internet, you need an anti-spam solution, and Spam Karma 2 is much more configurable and feature-full than WordPress’s default, Akismet.
- Update Manager keeps track of your plugins and lets you know when a new version of one is available. Not much more to say about that. Just be wary about upgrading; as the caveats above show, newer is not always better.
- WordPress.com Stats tabulates post view statistics in a blog-aware fashion (as opposed to the other stats tracker I use, awstats, which just knows about web pages in general). The plugin itself basically just farms out all of the work to WordPress.com’s servers (for which you need a free API key). If you don’t want them knowing the intimate details of your blog readership, you don’t want this plugin.
- WordPress Automatic Upgrade provides a smooth way of upgrading WordPress whenever new versions come out. Instead of having to manually backup your database and upload the new WordPress files, this plugin handles everything. It’s very nice, but you don’t end up using it that often simply because WordPress updates don’t come out all that frequently.
- WP Super Cache is a caching plugin that stores rendered HTML versions of your blog pages. It’s very useful for keeping your site up and running if you were to be, say, Digged or Slashdotted. I currently have it installed but not running, however, because the way it caches means that dynamic widgets like Recent Comments end up not updating on individual pages until the expiration time of the cache is reached. But I still have it ready to turn on at a moment’s notice should I get hit with a flood of traffic.
So that’s all of the WordPress plugins that I’m using. I hope that I at least gave you some leads on useful ones. The WordPress software is pretty barebone, lacking a lot of near-required functionality that you only get through plugins. I just wish someone would release a plugin that auto-moderates all Trackbacks and Pingbacks. Yes, there are some older ones out there, but none are compatible with WordPress 2.3. I’ve had such a problem with splogs sending me pingbacks and trackbacks (which Spam Karma doesn’t catch because those links actually exist, they’re just one of thousands of fake posts) that I’ve had to turn off Pingbacks and Trackbacks altogether. I really wish I could re-enable them. If you find out about a plugin for this that works with WordPress 2.3, please let me know!