13.2 Rockstar WordPress Plugins You May Not Know About

istock_plugitinWordPress is a very versatile platform for all sorts of online needs, and the variety of plugins that extend its capabilities is one feature that makes WordPress a content management system so popular. With 4,245 plugins to choose from, you can definitely customize your CMS, site or blog functionality way beyond the basics.

We’re always on the lookout for the best WordPress plugins to enhance the features of sites we work on and to respond better to our clients’ needs. Now it’s time to share some of those useful WordPress plugins that you may not have heard about:

Exclude Pages

We often receive client requests on how to hide pages from appearing in navigation bars. Sometimes there are pages you don’t want the public to see, but you still want those pages to be accessible through other posts or pages. That hidden page could be a thank you page, a product download and confirmation page, or a page you only want to show up after the reader has viewed some other page. The Exclude Pages plugin allows you to check a box that lets you include or hide the box from main menus.

Duplicate Widgets

Sidebars have come a long way since WordPress first started being popular. Now, many themes come with multiple sidebars and often not just along the sides of the screen. They could appear in the headers, footers and content areas. The problem is that sometimes, you’re limited in which widgets appear in each sidebar. Wouldn’t it be nice to duplicate a widget instead of only being able to use it once? The Duplicate Widgets plugin lets you do just that. Simply choose which widget you want to duplicate and voila!

Rotating Galleries

Rotating image galleries are popular additions to themes these days, and they really enhance the look of a site. But you don’t have to select a theme that has the rotating images ability built in. If your theme doesn’t come equipped with this feature, you can add a rotating image gallery to any page or post within your theme. Depending on your purpose, here are two Rotating Gallery plugins that might be helpful:

Originally developed for Brian Gardner’s Revolution 2 theme series, the Featured Content Gallery plugin is versatile enough to use on any theme. The Featured Gallery plugin allows you to customize the size of images, number of images, and the headlines and text within each image. This gallery plugin is best for pulling images from featured content using a custom field in the post or page.

If you want a rotating gallery plugin that operates independently from post or page images, then opt for the Smooth Gallery plugin. The Smooth Gallery plugin is more for the advanced user, though, as this plugin requires a little back-end work to get it up and running. The results are worth it if you want a gallery that doesn’t depend on images generated from custom fields in posts or pages.

Amazon Reloaded

Many people are a part of the Amazon affiliate program. Generating book cover and banner ads for your posts, pages and sidebars can be a pain. The Amazon Reloaded plugin makes life easy. It gives you the ability to search for books and other items right from your post or page editor. Type in the keywords or book title, and it’ll return a list of options. Select the item to include and the size of the image (Note: Large is LARGE!), and that’s it. The plugin generates the code in your post/page edit field, including the image and your affiliate code.

Tweet This

The Sociables plugin used to be our preferred social networking plugin of choice, but since then we’ve discovered the Tweet This plugin. In fact, you can see it in action at the end of this post. The buttons are much more attractive and easy to recognize, and the dashboard interface is simple to use, limiting selection to the most popular social networking resources available.

Google Analytics for WordPress

Don’t want the hassle of adding Google Analytics code to all the pages of your site? Want to get up and tracking quickly? The Google Analytics for WordPress plugin automatically inserts the code throughout the site and tracks stats for all outbound links, comment author links, downloads and more. It even tags and segments outgoing links, discounts your visits to the site, and tracks AdSense clicks.

Page Links To

Many people want to add links to outside sites to their main navigation. A forum, another blog, a sales site… The Page Links To plugin lets you create that link without having to fuss around with figuring out how to get people over to that other site without hand-coding the link in. Point out all you want!

Page Mash

You can set the order of the pages in your main navigation easily by assigning them a number. That means going into each page and manually assigning order. The Page Mash plugin makes assigning page order even easier, giving you the ability to drag and drop pages right in your dashboard. Now you can see all your pages laid out before you so that you can arrange them exactly to your tastes.

Contact Form 7

There’s a lot of contact form plugins for WordPress, and the most popular seems to be the CFormsII plugin. That plugin can do a lot of stuff and really let you design your contact page like a pro, but we’ve also found that CFormsII isn’t that user friendly. The Contact Form 7 plugin offers an easier option for most needs.

WP Super Cache

Now that you’ve got this great list of plugins, you’re going to have to make sure your blog runs at optimal speeds and doesn’t suck too much CPU usage from your host. Too many plugins have the potential to drain a server and bog it down. The WP Super Cache plugin helps alleviate the issue, generating static html files from your blog that make it easier for the server to process, which in turn helps speed up load time.

One Click

WordPress now offers the ability to upgrade most plugins automatically from the dashboard, but the One Click plugin provides extra configuration features that help make the process of updating plugins easier. Be sure to read the Installation Notes first, since you have to set your plugins folder and files to writeable on the server.

OIO Publisher

The OIO Publisher plugin removes you as the middleman from selling ad space on your site. With ad management that lets you approve, reject or renew ads, sell products or set up your own affiliate programs, it’s a hefty little plugin you could put to good use. It’s not free, at $47, but it’s handy.

Your turn. Is there a favorite plugin or a hidden gem that made your blogging life easier? Let us know about it!

Post by Agent X

Agent X is the name many mysterious and intriguing people take on when they guest post at our site. Their mission is to slip in like a thief in the night, leave you with entertaining, valuable and useful content, and slip away again - without getting caught.

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  1. Lexi Rodrigo says:

    Wow, and I thought I knew about a lot of WP plugins! Thanks for pointing me to this great list. There’s a handful of plugins here I’ll definitely be using.

    My favorite plugins are: related posts, flickr photo plugin, what would seth godin do, and ads server.

    Lexi Rodrigo´s last blog post…Finding Your Freelancing Field

  2. A great list, some of those plugins I will test.

    My favorite plugins:
    http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wp-spamfree/
    http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/azindex/

    Bengt´s last blog post…Coach John Wooden about success

  3. Thanks for this Harry, very handy indeed.
    Cheers

    Sally, Snappy Sentences´s last blog post…Sentence case v title case

  4. Some of my Favorite Plugins:

    Must HAVE – CommentLuv
    http://www.commentluv.com

    Make Your WordPress Blog Look Good on Mobile Phones
    http://wordpressmobile.mobi/

    SEO Slugs (makes your URL more SEO-friendly automatically)
    http://www.vretoolbar.com/news/2007/04/01/seo-slugs-wordpress-plugin/

    Bad Behavior – Deny automated spambots access to your PHP-based Web site
    http://www.bad-behavior.ioerror.us/

    Great topic, btw!

    Data points, Barbara

    Barbara Ling, Virtual Coach´s last blog post…Profit by goodwill – give freely to your list subscribers

  5. Love, love, love Exclude Pages. I’ve also got Google analytics and CForms II, which I like and have no problems using.

    As for the others listed here, checking out new plugins is sooooo much fun! Seriously, I love looking at new plugins!

    Other faves of mine:

    Comment Luv (which you didn’t mention and use here) although it can be a pain to set it all up.

    Feedsmith for feedburner. I had no idea about this one until James mentioned it. As soon as I installed it my # of subscribers jumped. Seems I had almost twice as many subscribers as I thought but they were’t being counted.

    What Would Seth Godin Do. Like this, it suggests to people that they sign up for your RSS. You can alter the text etc.

    All-in-one-SEO Pack. Helps with the back-end SEO for numpties like myself who don’t have a clue and don’t have thousands of dollars to spend on getting the SEO fixed professionally.

    WP-Spamfree. I like this more than Akismet. When I used it, Akismet would let spam through occasionally. I’ve never had spam get through with this plugin.

    WordPress Database Backup. I have it set to automatically backup and email the backup to me once a week. Love it because I don’t have to remember to do it!

    I also really like the Maintenance Mode plugin you used when you were setting up my site. I know it’s not one you would use regularly, but very handy to have and know about!

    Lovely to see a post from you Harry, lately we’ve had to put up with Tei and James fighting it out between themselves…. ;-)

    Melinda´s last blog post…Free Blogathon April 2009 – Come Join Us!

  6. Actually, another one that I like is Postmaster, which helps when publishing posts via email. I have a blind friend who is a Coach and I’ve set up her site so she doesn’t have to go into her wp-admin, which is REALLY hard when you have to use speech software and can’t see where to click. So all her posts are emailed and automatically posted.

    Melinda´s last blog post…Free Blogathon April 2009 – Come Join Us!

  7. I just added WP Twitip ID to my blog so now people can leave their twitter ID along with their website link. It’s pretty sweet and a cool way for me to be able to get to know new readers.

    Geek’s Dream Girl´s last blog post…Easy Win Contest: How Would Your Geek Icon Cook Steak? Win $25 to Outback Steakhouse!

  8. Man, I love people who make tidy lists of top WP plugins. I lose all energy when I try to search that database — and I was just yesterday trying to decide if giving all my “hidden” pages no title was really the most efficient way to go. Solved!

    Zoe´s last blog post…Categories Can Be Dangerous

  9. Thank you for this great list! I’ve been wrestling with a website on WordPress all week and several of these provided the perfect solution!

  10. Wow Harry, this is a great list and a really fantastic resource for anyone looking to develop a WP site. :)

    What about CommentLuv and the subscribe to comments plugin? Those deserve at least a little mention, right? ;)

    Allison Day´s last blog post…Sassy Shrimp Roll

  11. @ Allison – Well, not really – those plugins are all common and well known on other lists. This list is for plugins that aren’t often mentioned. We like to be different ;)

  12. The exclude pages plugin is great! I’m sure I’ll use it.

    The plugins I use:
    All-in-one-SEO: aspirin for for the SEO headache
    AWTP: tracking
    Bad Behavior: anti-spam (a little more defense on top of Akismet)
    Easy Ad Senser: makes google adsense easy
    Permalink redirect: you can change categories and move things around without messing up your permalinks
    SEO smart links: scans your posts for words that match categories and tags and auto-links them

    and many others. WordPress is great!

    Kaushik´s last blog post…The Power of Intention – how to stop the cycle of madness

  13. Fantastic list, Harry. I only knew about half of these. That rotating images plugin is especially cool.

    Writer Dad´s last blog post…Welcome to the Inkwell

  14. James – You mean I actually have to go *look* for those plugins when I want to use them?

    Just kidding, good point. ;)

    Allison Day´s last blog post…Sassy Shrimp Roll

  15. Thanks for the great additions, everyone! What I tried to do with this list was choose plugins that weren’t as common as Comment Luv…and James went and took the words out of my mouth while I was typing this.

    @Melinda: That Postmaster one sounds interesting, I’ll have to check it out. I’d like to hear more about how you set up a blog for a blind person, that’s quite the challenge!

    @Barbara: Good suggestion with the mobile phones one. I work so much on the desktop I forget there’s tiny, tiny mobile screens out there too

    @Allison (again): Nope, they’re right here in the comment section!

    @Zoe: You’re welcome! I spent a couple of hours myself going through that database and searching out reviews and other top ten lists. I could have easily doubled or tripled the length of this list!

    @Emily: Glad we could help!

    @GD: That looks like a nice little widget. Love that R2D2 trash can too!

  16. @Kaushik: Ah, yes, Permalink Redirect, that’s another good one, and one we’ve been using here for a while too. Thanks!

  17. These are great finds, thanks Harry!

    Mark Dykeman´s last blog post…Why social media is like playing slot machines

  18. Sometimes in the craziness of your day you stop and think “I wish” or “I know there’s a better way,” but without the time or knowledge to know where to find the solution you keep plugging along. Until, you read a post that seems to have read your mind, and provided you with just the right tools you needed. You read on not believing it was not intended just for you, your heart beats faster, as you realize not one problem, not even two but multiple problems solved in one single post. Yea…that’s exactly how this post was for me. Thank you Harry, thank you!

    Karen Swim´s last blog post…Ebb and Flow

  19. @Karen: Actually, it was written with you in mind. I got the idea for it when you asked me last week how to make something work ;)

  20. Hi Harry, I love the Exclude Pages and the one that allows you to order your pages. Also, the Super Cache plugin rules.

    One plugin I really like which many people don’t know about is the WordPress Firewall Plugin.

    On the flip side, I’m the type of person that believes if you don’t need a plugin, why use it? They can cause possible security holes and also slow down the load time of your blog.

    Two plugins I think aren’t really needed are Feedsmith and Google Analytics. For your feeds, all you really need to do is set up a Feedburner account and enter in your blog’s feed. There’s also a simple way to do it through .htaccess (copy and paste) which will redirect all your site’s feeds to your Feedburner feed, however I realize although it might be easy, most people don’t even know what a .htaccess file is.

    For Google Analytics, isn’t it just as easy to paste in the code Google gives you to your footer file as it is in the plugin’s settings box?

    But then again, I’m looking at it from an experienced point of view, I suppose.

  21. @ John – *cough* You’re not suggesting we’re not experienced… are you?

  22. @John: I was wondering about the Feedsmith one. I can’t find the actual plugin anymore and when I click on the link for the developer’s page, I’m taken to a Google FAQ page instead. I’m wondering if with the new Google Feedburner the plugin is now obsolete?

    For the Analytics, I see it as an experience thing. If a blogger isn’t comfortable digging around in the php files, this plugin could be useful.

  23. James
    LOL – of course not ya silly genius. Sorry if my comment read that way, I meant I understand that the reason plugins are often used when they really don’t need to be is because the client / novice blogger can use the plugins easier than trying to figure out .htaccess codes and like Harry said, digging around in the WP code.

    Harry
    I’m with you on the experienced thing – and that’s what I was referring to in my comment James mentioned. I hope you didn’t take that as something directed at you, of course not.

    About Feedburner, I just did a search. Since the switch over, Feedburner has taken over the plugin’s development:
    http://www.google.com/support/feedburner/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=78483

  24. I think having “tweet this” at the end of a blog post is one of the most important. People are far more reluctant to stumble or digg.

    But tweeting, for whatever reason, is something that is done with less hesitation.

    Bamboo Forest – PunIntended´s last blog post…How to Make the Choices You Really Want to Make in Life

  25. @John: No offense taken, bro. Ironically, I just had a case where I went to add the Analytics code on a project and the theme being used has one of the most screwed up footer.php files I’ve ever seen. No / body tag at all!

  26. Great selection there. I’m working out a total redesign of my site, which is WordPress powered, and there’s a couple of plugins there that I hadn’t considered.

    A couple of others I find invaluable:

    Insights – great for interlinking your blog and searching your own posts for links when writing a new entry.

    Caption Disabler for removing the code post 2.6 that adds captions to images (although I admit I haven’t really checked in a while to see if WordPress has updated to make this easier within their own code.

    Robin Cannon´s last blog post…Why Style Guides Are Cool

  27. Harry, I am smiling so bright I think I just crashed the power grid. :-) I feel so special but you manage to do that all the time. This post is one of the many reasons why I not only adore you but love recommending your services. You not only know stuff but you generously share it. I hope that people really get that what they read here is just the tip of the iceberg of what you all do professionally. All knowing, all seeing, mighty pen men. :-)

    Karen Swim´s last blog post…Ebb and Flow

  28. @Bamboo: Now that you mention it, I would probably tweet over digging or stumbling (that sounded funny). Dropping a tweet is so much easier in my mind.

    @Robin: Seems like this was a timely post for a few people today! Finding the right plugin for the job is like discovering a new tool for the toolbox in the garage, or a new gadget for the kitchen. Sure, you could get by doing what you need to do some other way, but you never realize how much easier life can be when you’ve found that one plugin to do the job for you instead.

    @Mark: Thanks! There’s so many of them out there, I may have to do a part two later down the road.

    @Writer Dad: Only half? Damn, I was hoping they were all unheard of! I like those gallery plugins, too. I’d like to see the Smooth Gallery improved with some dashboard options to take care many of the options that have to be coded through the backend files though.

  29. How about the HeadSpace2, which I believe was developed by Joost de Valk. It goes beyond what other SEO plugins do and in fact imports some data from the All-in-One SEO Pack plugin and others. For any who are not familiar with it, check it out at http://urbangiraffe.com/plugins/headspace2/.

    Of course, everyone knows by now that I am not an expert in any of this SEO stuff. So beware. Maybe you guys at MwP or someone else who does know something about SEO will comments on this plugin.

    Thanks so much MwP for your always spot-on information.

  30. @Lawrence: Wow, I just checked out that plugin and my head nearly exploded. That one packs quite a punch, huh? Thanks for pointing it out, I’ll have to take it for a test drive now. :)

  31. Thanks for the list. I was familiar with a couple of these, but I’m definitely going to check out the ExcludePages plugin. I was in a situation last week where I was looking for something just like that. And I’ve got to get the Google Analytics plugin installed, too. I don’t think my stats are right the way I’ve got GA set up now.

    Joe Lofshult´s last blog post…The Value of Ownership

  32. Hi Harry,

    I will sure be interested to know how the HeadSpace2 plugin works for you. I am sure you will really check it out closely. I don’t have the knowledge base to check it out nearly as well.

    Cheers

  33. Hi again Harry,

    Please forgive my coming back to this older article time after time. For me it is an important article because it addresses plugins for WordPress. That subject is very topical for us guys who, compared to you guys, know little or nothing about which plugins to use.

    I am wondering what you think of the Ultimate Google Analytics plugin. I am sure you know of it, so I am assuming you do not think highly of it.

  34. @Lawrence: Hey, no worries, we all start somewhere, and we learn more each day!

    Haven’t had a chance to look at the Ultimate Google Analytics one yet, but I have heard it mentioned. I’ll delve into that one too and let you know what I think of it.

  35. great list! I created a lame workaround to exclude pages, but I’ll implement that now!

    brett maxwell – wedding photographer´s last blog post…Petal and Forrest – Wedding and Event Planners

  36. Thanks for this list, Harry. I’ve now switched to Tweet This and I love how it looks on the blog.

    Sharon Hurley Hall´s last blog post…39 Writers You Should Follow On Twitter

  37. Æ!!

    I created a plugin to help campaigns against Internet Explorer 6:

    http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/anti-ie6-army/

    It just take some campaigns and include their Javascript into your theme automatically, and you don’t need to change your theme, just choose a campaign on the plugin menu.

    If a lot of people use this, maybe we have more people hating IE6 and changing to other browser.

    Cheers,

    PotHix

    PotHix´s last blog post…Começando a falar de Ruby

  38. Thanks so much for the list, I’ve been searching for a better comment plugin…off to play with it now!

    Michelle DeRepentigny´s last blog post…How to Buy Homeowner Insurance

  39. Are most of these plugins free?

    Omar´s last blog post…Devil must live!

  40. Hey Omar, all of them except one are free. Most plugins carry no cost.

  41. Awesome plugins, and I especially like All-in-one SEO Pack, FlippingBook, Download Monitor, and the Google Analytics plugin.

    I’m using Amazon Reloaded, Chitika Ads, and Google AdSense/YPN Inserter plugins for ad hosting as well.

    I’m always looking for great new plugins, thanks for a great post!

    Nick Thacker´s last blog post…Judge Declares Cap’n Crunch’s “Crunchberries” Not Real Fruit

  42. Plugins are one of the reasons that WordPress is so great… they provide a lot of freedom that you can’t really get with other platforms. I’ll be doing a post on my blog soon all about why WP is great, Anyone’s interested?

  43. I like WordPress very much. I designed some WordPress themes myself and these plugins are some of the reasons why WordPress is so widespread.

  44. Wow! thank you for the great list. I am going to try these plugins.

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