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.

Responses to “WordPress Plugins and Themes”
  1. Christine says:

    Where do you find themes?

Leave a Reply