WordPress, in and of itself, is an incredible blogging and content management system. But once it’s installed, that’s really all it is. A website with a title, some different articles, and some blocks for searching, navigating and advertising thrown in.
The truth is, most WordPress sites don’t really start to shine until their owners add the necessary plugins to enhance that site’s performance and functionality.
Finding WordPress Plugins
Finding plugins is a lot like searching for a theme. You can locate them from withing your WordPress dashboard by selecting “Add New” from the plugins module.
The easiest way to locate the plugin you need is to perform a search right from this screen. simply type in the keywords you want to base your search on (what you need a plugin to do, or it’s name if you have a specific one in mind).
From the results of your search, you’ll be able to see the name and description, as well as a rating from other users, for each plugin.
Clicking on the name of the plugin will take you to the plugin’s homepage (in most cases), where you can look for more information if needed.
On the right hand side of the screen, each plugin will have an “Install” link. Click on that to load and install the plugin on your blog.
In addition to finding plugins from your dashboard, you can also perform a search on WordPress.org. Just click on “Extend,” and then “Plugins.” Anything you find here will need to be downloaded to your computer, and then installed (which we’ll cover in a moment). The same holds true for any plugins you find elsewhere on the internet – through a search or other source.
For plugins that you’ve downloaded from WordPress.org, or any other site, you’ll need to upload them to your blog.
To help you with this, WordPress includes a handy “upload” function on the Install Plugins screen. Simply click on the “Upload” link (just below the page’s title) and you’ll be able to type in or browse to the file you need.
Plugins should be uploaded in
.zip format (which is usually how they are downloaded anyhow). Once you select the file and click the “Install Now” button, you should be good to go!
Uploading Via FTP
If you like to do things the old-fashioned way, you can always upload your newly downloaded plugins with an FTP client.
First you’ll need to decompress the folder (you don’t want to upload the
.zip file. Then upload the plugin to the (surprise!) “Plugins” folder on your server. You’ll find this folder in
wp-admin, which for most users is in either the root of the domain, or in the subdomian that WordPress was installed in.
Activating and Managing Your Plugins
Once your have some plugins installed, you can view and manage them by selecting “Installed” from the plugins module of your dashboard.
The “Installed Plugins” screen will show a list of plugins based on the selection you make from the row of links near the top of the list. You can choose from “All,” (this is the default) “Active,” “Recently Active,” and “Inactive.” These different options are all pretty self-explanatory.
On occasion, a fifth link for “Upgrade Available” will appear, to show you a list of plugins that can be upgraded to a newer version. More on that later.
Below the name of each plugin, you’ll see a pair of links. Using these links, you can Activate/Deactivate a plugin, or delete a plugin that has already been deactivated.
If you’d like to perform any of those actions on several plugins at once, simply check the box next to their name, choose what you’d like to do from the “Bulk Action” drop-down at the top and bottom of the plugin list, and click the “Apply” button.
If you choose to delete your plugin(s), you’ll be taken to a page where you can confirm that you want to delete the files associated with it.
Upgrading Your Plugins
From time to time, plugin developers will release a new version of their code. Sometimes this is done to add new features, other times it is to fix a bug that’s been found, or enhance security, or for other reasons.
You’ll know your plugins need updating a couple of ways. First, when you log into your dashboard, a small orange circle with a number inside of it will appear next to the title on the plugins module. That number indicates how many plugins have an upgrade available.
Secondly, if you open the Installed Plugins screen, you’ll see a notation below each plugin that is ready to be upgraded. This note will also contain links to either download the new version, or upgrade automatically.
If you have multiple plugins that need to be upgraded, you can upgrade them in batches of up to 10 at a time, thanks to the Upgrade Plugins feature, released in WordPress 2.9.
Under the Tools module, select “Upgrade.”
The top of this page indicates the status of your current WordPress version, and provides a link to upgrade if necessary.
Below that, the lower section will list all of the plugins that have an available upgrade. Simply check off the ones you’d like to apply, click the magic button, and the next screen will provide a log of the upgrade progress for each plugin. The upgrade process is usually pretty quick.
Different plugins are designed to accomplish different tasks. Because of this, some will have options that need to be configured before they function properly, if at all.
The process for configuring a plugin is entirely up to that plugin’s creator. The settings page can appear in any number of places, so if you aren’t sure where to configure your plugin, check these spots on your dashboard:
- The Settings module – some plugins will create a new option here to access their settings pages
- The Tools module – sometimes the configuration options for you new plugins will be accessible here
- An entirely new module – some plugins will create their own section on the dashboard. Usually this will show up at the bottom of the screen, but sometime they can be up at the end of the first section as well (between Comments and Appearance).
- If all else fails, check the Installed Plugins screen. Sometimes there will be a “Settings” or “Configuration” link in or just below the plugin’s description
That’s about it! You should now be ready to search out and install the plugins you need to turn your basic blog into a site that’s capable of whatever you need it to be.