Boosting Up Blog Capabilities with Essential WordPress Plugins

posted by Smirnovi4 @ 15:47 PM
February 8, 2010

In this post I would like to share some of the great WordPress plugins available today free of charge. As you probably know, there are thousands of plugins available today. It can be a tough goal to select the ones that not only perform the required actions, but also are stable and secure. In order to provide you with some kind of a starting point I have conducted a search for essential WordPress plugins. This is a sort of a recommendation review aimed at introducing available capabilities and helping you choose what suits you best.

I tried to introduce some order into the numerous plugins functionality descriptions and came up with the following purpose classification matrix:

The plugin purpose classification matrix

Plugin purpose classification matrix

I have been looking for some great plugins for WP lately. In this post I would like to share the results of search for the essential WP plugins available today free of charge. The main idea was to find the most useful plugins using the minimalistic approach. What this means is that as there are literally hundred thousands of tools available nowadays only few of them are stable, efficient, comfortable and productive. So I set off to find the plugins that may be helpful both to me and all of you out there. So below is what I wound up with.

In order to introduce some order into the functionality descriptions of numerous plugins the following purpose classification matrix has been created:

I placed the useful plugins into groups according to this matrix. So let’s take a closer look…

Back-end oriented plugins

Backend related operations

Tasks implemented by back-end oriented plugins

These tools are aimed at making management of your WordPress as pleasant and easy as possible (the descriptions were taken from the official plugin pages at These plugins help you do the boring operations quickly and in bulk quantities.

HeadSpace2 SEO – HeadSpace2 is an all-in-one meta-data manager that allows you to fine-tune the SEO potential of your blog. Visit the HeadSpace page for a video demonstration.

WP-DBManager – Allows you to optimize, repair , backup, restore database, as well as to delete backup database, drop/empty tables and run selected queries. Supports automatic scheduling of backing up and optimizing of database.

TinyMCE Advanced – This plugin adds 15 plugins to TinyMCE (the WordPress WhatYouSeeIsWhatYouGet editor): Advanced HR, Advanced Image, Advanced Link, Context Menu, Emotions (Smilies), Date and Time, IESpell, Layer, Nonbreaking, Print, Search and Replace, Style, Table, Visual Characters and XHTML Extras. All of the above add a huge amount of functionality to the process of writing and editing your posts.

Ozh’ Admin Drop Down Menu – Allows you to view the second level menus by simply hovering over them with a mouse. Rationalizers  and power users will love it : all admin links are available in a neat horizontal CSS driven drop down menu. No need to click on “Manage” then “Pages” to edit pages, you can navigate between any administration pages with just a single action.

Maintenance Mode Plugin – Adds a splash page to your blog which lets visitors know your blog is down for maintenance. Logged in administrators get full access to the blog including the front-end. Visitors will see a message like “Maintenance Mode – SITE is currently undergoing scheduled maintenance. Please try back in 60 minutes. Sorry for the inconvenience.”

Theme Test Drive – This plugin allows you to safely test drive any theme on your blog as administrator, while visitors still use the default one. It happens completely transparent and they will not even notice you run a different theme for yourself. Best part is you can even set the testing theme options (if it has them) in the Admin panel while you are testing the theme.

Front-end oriented plugins

Front-end related operations

Tasks implemented through plugins for front-end customization

Helping your readers enjoy the stuff they see and do on your blog can eventually not only drive the old visitors back to check out more new posts, but also attract new ones. Makes the communication process useful and comfortable by correctly adjusting the commenting options and eliminating spam from your blog, which can lead to community establishment on your website. The plugins listed below can help you do these things:

WP Greet Box – This plugin lets you show a different greeting message to your new visitors depending on their referrer url. For example, when a Digg user clicks through from Digg, they will see a message reminding them to digg your post if they like it. Another example, when a visitor clicks through from Twitter, they will see a message suggesting them to twit the post and follow you on Twitter. You can also set a default greeting message for new visitors (not matching any referrer URLs) suggesting them to subscribe to your RSS feed. Having these targeted suggestions will help your blog increase exposure, loyal readership, and reader interaction.

WordPress Thread Comment – This Plugin is an enhancement for WordPress’s comment function. It enables users to reply to an existing comment, and the discussion will be displayed threaded or nested. This helps keeping the comments organized and transparent to all participants, taking the communication on your blog to the next level.

Top Commentators Widget – As the name suggests itself, this widget allows you to display your top commentators in the sitebar. Adapted from Show Top Commentators plugin at Personal Financial Advice, this widget is easier to manage via the control form (no need to edit the PHP file); additional options are also available to make it more flexible. Read the FAQ section on how to customize it and take a look at the screen shot to see the control form for customizing the Top Commentators Widget.

Akismet –This one checks your comments against the Akismet web service to see if they look like spam or not and lets you review the spam it catches under your blog’s “Comments” admin screen.

WP-reCAPTCHA – is an anti-spam method originating from Carnegie Mellon University which uses CAPTCHAs in a genius way. Instead of randomly generating useless characters, which irritate your visitors, and risking the possibility that spammers will eventually write sophisticated spam bots which use OCR libraries to read the characters, reCAPTCHA uses a different approach. While the world is in the process of digitizing books, sometimes certain words cannot be read. reCAPTCHA uses a combination of these words, further distorts them, and then constructs a CAPTCHA image. After a certain percentage of users solve the ‘unknown’ word the same way it is assumed that it is the correct spelling of the word. This helps digitize books, giving users a reason to solve reCAPTCHA forms. Because the industry level scanners and OCR software which are used to digitize the books can’t read the words with which the CAPTCHAs are constructed, it is safe to assume that in-house spam-bot OCR techniques will not be able to bypass the CAPTCHA either.

NextGEN Gallery – This is a fully integrated Image Gallery plugin for WordPress with a Flash slideshow option. This plugin incorporates really good design with simple and easy administration back-end. Using this plugin you can effectively manage multiple photos, galleries and albums.

cbnet Different Posts Per Page – This plugin will allow you to modify the number of posts shown on your homepage, archive (category, date, author, etc.), search pages and feeds. You can even set the order of posts by ascending or descending order. Also, you can set different number of posts for specific category.

Visitors oriented plugins

Visitors related operations

Tasks implemented through plugins for managing visitors related functions

This section is dedicated to the list of plugins that have to do with the visitors directly. Language tools and Advertising tools are aimed at impacting the customer. Statistics plugin is aimed at counting the number of visitors and perform other web metrics related tasks. So here is the list:

Global Translator – amazing plugin that automatically translates your blog into the following 41 different languages: Italian, Korean, Chinese (Simplified), Portuguese, English, German, French, Spanish, Japanese, Arabic, Russian, Greek, Dutch, Bulgarian, Czech, Croatian, Danish, Finnish, Hindi, Polish, Romanian, Swedish, Norwegian, Catalan, Filipino, Hebrew, Indonesian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovenian, Ukrainian, Vietnamese, Albanian, Estonian, Galician,Maltese,Thai,Turkish,Hungarian. The number of available translations will depend on your blog language and the translation engine you choose to use. Of course the quality of such translation will not be perfect, but it will still let many people out there at least get tthe idea of what you are writing about.

Ultimate Google Analytics – Plugin to add Google Analytics JavaScript to each page on your web blog without making any changes to your template. The plugin can also adds tracking to outbound links, downloads from your own site and mailto: links. The plugin is highly configurable. Read trough the list of features below to get a feeling of what this plugin can do. You can enable and disable all features individually, although the default configuration will suffice for 90% of the users.

Advertising Manager – This plugin will manage and rotate your Google Adsense and other ads on your WordPress blog. It automatically recognises many ad networks including Google Adsense, AdBrite, Adify, AdGridWork, Adpinion, Adroll, Chitika, Commission Junction, CrispAds, OpenX, ShoppingAds, Yahoo!PN, and WidgetBucks. Unsupported ad networks can be used as well.

Outside resources oriented plugins

Outside resources related operations

Integration with outside resources

The set of the following tools is intended to provide simple integration with the most popular social networks. The idea is to simplify the procedure of interconnecting the information provided on your twitter, Facebook and WP website. Why manually tell your Twitter followers about your post when this can be done automatically each time you post something new!

Sociable – This is a great promotion tool. Sociable plugin automatically adds links to your favorite social bookmarking sites on your posts, pages and in your RSS feed. You can choose from 99 different social bookmarking sites!

Simple Facebook Connect – Simple Facebook Connect is a series of plugins that let you add any sort of Facebook connect functionality you like to a WordPress blog. This lets you have an integrated site without a lot of coding, and still letting you customize it exactly the way you’d like to. First, you activate and set up the base plugin, which makes your site have basic Facebook Connect functionality. Then, each of the add-on plugins will let you add small pieces of specific Facebook-related functionality, one by one.

Twitter Tools – This is a plugin that creates a complete integration between your WordPress blog and your Twitter account.

General recommendations

I would recommend installing and trying all of these plugins. Even if the plugin doesn’t meet your exact requirements, you can always continue the search. Here are a few plugin related posts you can check out for more plugins:

Also, please keep in mind that it is highly recommended to install only those plugins that are listed at the WordPress official plugin directory. Plugins coming from elsewhere may pose security and stability threats to your WP. And of course, always remember to backup prior to performing significant changes to your WP site.

If you do not yet have a WordPress hosting account yet, you might want to check out affordable, yet extremely flexible plan at The plan comes with pre-installed WP so that you can start blogging without any installation complications.

Good luck with experimenting.

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