Installing Plugins

While WordPress includes most of the features you would want in a basic site, sooner or later you'll probably find that you want something more. Visit www.wordpress.org/extend/plugins to see all the things-over 9,000!-you can add to your site.

Figure 2-14. The plugin repository

You can download the plugin files and upload them to your wp-content/plugins folder, just as you did with themes. However, there is also an automatic plugin installer. From your Dashboard, visit Plugins ^ Add New. On this screen (Figure 2-15), you can search for plugins by keyword or author name.

Figure 2-15. Searching for plugins.

Once a plugin has been installed, it will appear in your plugin list. You'll see a brief description of what the plugin does, a link to its home page, and a link to activate it.

Try activating Hello Dolly, the sample plugin that comes with WordPress. When the plugin list reloads, you'll get a message confirming the activation. You should also see a lyric from "Hello, Dolly" in the upper right corner of your screen, as shown in Figure 2-16.

Figure 2-16. Plugin list after activating Hello Dolly

Some plugins will not activate. They might contain coding errors, or they might conflict with something else you've installed, or they might not run properly with your version of PHP. When a plugin will not activate, you'll see a message containing the PHP error that caused the problem, as shown in Figure 2-17.

Figure 2-17. Plugin activation error

Plugging the gaps: Essential Plugins

There are some things every WordPress site should have:

DB Backup provides a button to quickly back up specified database tables and can be scheduled to back up to a specified directory. I recommend that you create a backup of your database before importing content or upgrading WordPress to a new version.

Maintenance Mode displays a simple maintenance message to everyone except administrators. At times throughout this book, I'll recommend that you put your site into maintenance mode while performing operations on the database or filesystem. While it's possible to do so without a plugin, this plugin gives you a simple button to turn maintenance mode on and off.

Search & Replace allows you to replace text in chosen database fields. This plugin is especially useful after importing content (see Chapter 5).

Google XML Sitemaps generates XML sitemaps (optionally gzipped) according to the sitemaps.org specification.

If you use another traffic monitoring service, chances are there's a WordPress plugin for it. Google Analytics for WordPress (http://yoast.com/wordpress/google-analytics/) includes the Google Analytics code in your footer and provides checkboxes for advanced Analytics options, such as tracking file downloads and outbound links. It also shows a basic traffic graph on your Dashboard. Wordpress.com Stats provides a graph of visitors and search queries as a Dashboard graph.

Akismet provides spam filtering for your comments. The plugin comes with WordPress but requires a key to use. You can get a free key at wordpress.com.

Contact Form 7 allows you to create e-mail contact forms with Akismet spam protection.

■ Note: All the plugins mentioned in this book are listed in Appendix 1, Plugin Directory. Plugins hosted in the official plugin repository at wordpress.org/extend/plugins are referenced by name only, and you can find them by searching the repository for the plugin name. URLs are provided for any plugins that are not part of the repository or have names too generic to search.

Upgrading Plugins

New versions of plugins are released often. They'll contain new features, security improvements, or compatibility with newer versions of WordPress. When newer versions of your plugins are available, you'll see a number next to the plugin menu item on every administration screen and automatic upgrade links in your plugin list, as shown in Figure 2-18.

You can upgrade the plugins one at a time, or you can use the bulk upgrade feature to do them all at once.

Figure 2-18. Plugin upgrades available

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Bulk Upgrades

If you have several plugins that need to be upgraded, you can process them all at once. Put a checkmark next to the plugins' names, then choose Upgrade from the Bulk Actions dropdown at the top of the plugin list (Figure 2-19). WordPress will place your site into maintenance mode automatically, then upgrade each plugin in turn. You'll see a running status report as each plugin is upgraded, and when they're all finished, WordPress will take your site out of maintenance mode.

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