One of the real strengths of WordPress is the incredible ecosystem of plugins that extends the platform in all directions. You see the articles daily—yet another review of plugins of some type, oftentimes overlapping or suspiciously similar. I suspect I’m like everybody else, since I go and check them out. I’ve gotten pretty efficient at scanning, but it still takes time. My experience with WordPress helps plow through the lists pretty quickly, at least. And that’s what I value most in survey articles: the power of editorial opinion. Don’t list them all—tell me why you use what you do!
Here’s my first installment in my Working Set series: my standard set of WordPress plugins
. Future articles will cover special-purpose WP plugins; standard jQuery plugins; special-purpose jQuery; jQuery hacks I use; Firefox plugins for Web development. I make no claims about these being the best or anything like that, but this is a really useful, robust set of plugins that will be useful in any WordPress installation.
Akismet comes standard with WordPress, and it’s absolutely necessary. A high-traffic blog will generate a vast amount of spam, and this drops it to a trickle. All WordPress installations should use this!
I am personally a fan of Highslide for displaying images and galleries, but this is very low overhead: Thickbox is already built into WordPress, and this enables support transparently when you insert images into posts and pages. Hard to argue with the ease!
CMS Tree Page View
If you use a lot of pages in your site, then this plugin is really handy. It provides a collapsible outline view of the pages in your site. You can expand and contract any branch of the outline by clicking, and can open the editor for any page at will.
Contact Form 7
Easy to use and versatile plugin for creating contact forms. It’s easy to have as many forms as you want. Plugins exist that enhance CF7 to save the results in the database instead of emailing the results. Very elegant because of the ease of use.
I’m relatively new to this plugin, but it opens up some great possibilities. Basically, you define named fields along with the HTML code for using them. When composing a post or page, you can ask to insert any of your predefined snippets. After choosing one, it will prompt you for the named fields, and then insert the modified HTML text into your post. This table of plugins was created using a pre-defined box layout, with Post Snippets to prompt for specific fields. It seems like a nice way to reduce formatting errors when typing new stuff into a page, especially for non-technical people using the WordPress backend. The WYSIWYG editor gets confused occasionally, and non-techies occasionally whip the underlying HTML into a frenzy—this may provide an easy way to maintain the formatting.
A simple plugin for putting ads in your site. The neat thing is that it drops custom code into your pages wherever you want, whether containing ads or other code. You can set up multiple ads to rotate in the same place, of course. It also tracks impressions (but not clicks). This basically gives you a shortcode that can drop an arbitrary unit of code into the given location.
So there’s my Working Set of WordPress Plugins
. I have some others I use occasionally, but this is the set that I grab pretty much every time I create a new WordPress site.