Tag: FTP

WordPress Plugins and Themes

Now that I’ve covered Getting Started, and the Admin Panel, we can move on to some other WordPress related things, namely Themes and Plugins. Let’s start with Themes, as that’s going to impact your WordPress application the most.

A “theme” is really just a design for your site. It gives your site that “customized” feel to it, even if there’s a thousand other people using the same theme. Generally, themes are free to use and will only require a “linkback” to the author’s site, as payment. Given, there’s some themes that are “for pay”, but it’s up to you if you want to pay for those.

Installing a theme is generally one of the most simple things to do with WordPress:

  • Download your new theme from wherever you’re getting it.
  • Unzip the folder (usually requires WinZip)
  • Open FTP for your site, and head to the /wp-content/themes/
  • Upload your theme folder directly there, leaving the file structure in tact.

That’s it. You’ve installed your new theme. To activate it, just go to the “Presentation” tab, in your Admin panel. You should now see a screenshot (assuming that your theme came with one) of the new theme. To “turn it on”, simply click on it. The page will refresh, and your WordPress application will now be using your new theme. Simple, right?

That’s themes in a generalized view. Check back in a few days, and I’ll be detailing how to modify or create your own theme.

On to plugins! To me, plugins are the most important part of any WordPress installation. Plugins are files or scripts that add functionality to the default workings of WordPress. They enhance what WordPress does right “out of the box” (which is quite a bit), and make it do more things. Plugins range from filtering spam, to creating contact forms, to photo galleries, to a zillion other things. In my opinion, no WordPress install is complete without adding a handful of plugins.

Some plugins I can’t live without: Akismet – Akismet fights spam comments by comparing their content to a centralized database of “known spam” content.
Adsense Deluxe – Adsense Deluxe is for WordPress users who want to generate some income, presumably with Google Adsense. I’ve tested this, and used it successfully with other ad providers, as well.
Netgen Gallery – Allows you to quickly, and easily add photo albums to your WordPress, with fancy AJAX abilities when viewing the photos.
Similar Posts – This plugin is great. It searches your content for other posts containing similar words and phrases, and automatically links them to the post the viewer is reading. It helps get people to other pages on your site.
Simple Pop Up Images – By default WordPress’ handling of images clicked to enlarge, is ugly. This plugin allows you to configure it to show them in a nice popup, without too much extra work on your part.

There’s really a zillion more plugins that you can use on your WordPress, and it’s entirely up to you which ones you want to use, and what benefit they’ll be to you. There’s two “main” places I go to look for plugins:
The WordPress Codex – Their central location of all of them.
Wp-plugins.net – Not official, but just as good.

Installing a plugin is just as easy as installing a theme to your WordPress:

  • Download the plugin from its author’s location
  • Unzip the plugin folder
  • Open FTP
  • Upload the folder to /wp-content/plugins

That’s it. Plugin installed. Now, you need to activate it. Head on over to your WordPress admin panel, and click the “Plugins” link. You should see your newly installed plugin there, with a link (on the right) to activate. Just click that link, and that’s it.

Just be sure, once you activate, to go test it on your site, and click around a little bit on other things. Sometimes plugins aren’t compatible with one another, and may not work well together. If this is the case, you’ll need to check with the author (usually they list incompatibilities on their site) for a fix.

One of the great things about the new WordPress (2.3) is that on the Plugins page, it notifies you if there’s a new version detected of the plugin. When there’s a new version, you should always update. There could be potential security flaws in using older scripts. Upgrading is just like installing for the first time. It’s recommended that you deactivate the existing plugin before upgrading, but I never do that. (Do as I say, not as I do.)

That’s it for plugins and themes. Pretty easy stuff that can heavily impact your WordPress installation, and the success thereof. Check back in a few days, my next write-up will be on how to customize a theme or even create your own from scratch. This will truly give your site a “custom” feel to it.

Getting started with WordPress

As the web becomes more and more saturated with people who want websites or blogs, it’s becoming easier as a web-dev guy to help people who aren’t HTML savvy get a website. While WordPress is designed as a blogging tool, it’s so much more than that.

As a designer, I can build the site on WordPress, implement a custom “theme” (design layout) for whomever I’m building it for, and spend an hour or so teaching them how to use it. Even if they’ve got no intention on using it as a blog, it’s still a great, and easy, way for people to update content on their site, without even having to know what an FTP client is.

To get started, simply head over to WordPress’ Site and grab the latest version of the software.

Once you’ve got the latest version, you’ll need to unzip it, and get it onto your webhost. Obviously, this part takes a bit of know-how. If you’ve already got an FTP client, great. If not, I recommend SmartFTP it’s a great, and free application. Assuming your webhost provides MySQL and can run PHP, you shouldn’t need much else. (If you’re not sure, check the knowledgebase of your host, or just ask them. This stuff’s pretty standard these days.) You should also know the FTP information for the host, also can be provided by them.

Once you open up your FTP client, all you need to do is simple. 1) Make the decision if you want your WordPress installation in a subdirectory or not. All that means is, do you want your WordPress to be located at www.mysite.com/blog, or simply at www.mysite.com? I usually opt for installing it at the highest level (known as the root level).

For the sake of example, we’ll say that we’re installing into a subdirectory called “blog”. What we’ll first need to do is create a folder in our FTP, called blog. Generally, webhosts don’t allow you to create something through FTP, so you’ll need to create the folder on your desktop, and drag it into the FTP window. Once uploaded, double click on it, to open it.

Now, head back over to your desktop, and open up the “wordpress” folder that you got when you unzipped the latest version of WordPress. You should see a whole bunch of files in there, that mostly start with wp-, as well as three folders (wp-admin, wp-content, wp-includes). Grab this whole bunch of files, and drag them over to FTP into your “blog” folder. If you grab them all at once, they’ll all get uploaded to the right file structure, and the install will work cleanly.

Once that’s done, head on over to your webhost to create a MySQL database. This is generally done through a control panel of some sort, which varies from host to host. If you’re unsure how to do it, ask your webhost or check their knowledgebase. They should also be able to provide your “mysql host”, which you’ll need when you install WordPress into the database. Most times this is just “localhost”, but sometimes it’s different.

Once the database is set up, and you have your database information, simply head on over to your website. www.mysite.com/blog/wp-admin

You’ll get a message telling you that you need to install the WordPress application into the database. The install’s very easy, however, you’ll need to be sure that you do one last thing first. Head back over to your FTP program, and locate “wp-config-sample.php”, right click on it, and select rename. Change the name to “wp-config.php”. Once that’s all set, right click again on the file, and look for an option for “permissions”, or “CHMOD” (varies depending on your FTP client). Once the menu opens, change the number from 644, to 777. This will allows the WordPress application access to edit this file, with the information you give the webpage, and save it for you. This is the easiest way to set up WordPress.

Once done, head back to the web install interface, and click the “First Step” link. The next page will ask you for a Weblog Title, and an e-mail address. It’s very important that you provide a real e-mail address, so that your username and password can be e-mailed to you once the WordPress install is done. Click “Continue to Second Step” once you fill in those two details. That’s it! WordPress will install some phony data to get you started, so you can see how things work.

Be sure to write down the username and password you get on the next page, in case the e-mail doesn’t make it through your spam filter. Otherwise you won’t be able to login to your admin panel. Also, be sure to bookmark the Admin page, which is usually located at www.mysite.com/blog/wp-admin (which will vary, depending on where you installed WordPress to)

That’s it, WordPress is now installed on your site. If you visit www.mysite.com/blog, you’ll see the phony data, with the default template. Easy enough, right?

The next step in running WordPress is learning your way around the Admin Panel. Check back in a few weeks, for a detailed post on how to use the Admin panel to write posts, pages, moderate comments, and more.