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The Home Office Website: How to Customize Wordpress, Part 2

written by: Mary Rajotte•edited by: Jean Scheid•updated: 7/5/2011

Part 1 of this 3-part series provides an overview of working with plug-ins; this article gives you the top ten plug-ins to install as you get started with customization, so you can immediately improve your efficiency and make your website easy to use.

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    1: One Click Plug-In Updater

    Available at this website.

    This plug-in adds a little tab to your plug-in menu bar called "Install a Plug-in." When you want to add a new plug-in, you simply download it to your computer, go to your admin interface, go to the "Install a Plug-in" tab, and then choose the file from your computer and click "Install." It's much easier than the original process and saves having to log-in and ftp files to your server's file system. You can also install new themes this way, which is why you should wait on a new theme until you get this plug-in up and running. So go through the old process to get this plug-in installed, then continue on down the list and use the Plug-In Updater to install the rest.

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    2: Wordpress Automatic Upgrade

    Available at this website.

    This plug-in does just what you think it does. It simplifies the upgrading process, so when a new version of Wordpress is released it will take you about five minutes to upgrade. It eliminates the more complicated process of a normal upgrade: backing up your database, downloading the new version of Wordpress and then uploading it to your server, and moving your plug-ins and themes. With the Automatic Upgrade, you complete all of those steps in about five minutes by clicking through a few buttons on the Admin section of your website.

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    3: WP-Spamfree

    Available at this website.

    One thing you'll notice as soon as you start updating your site consistently is an annoying number of spammy sites trying to comment and link in to your site. Ick. You can waste a large part of your time online deleting individual comments and links. Install this plug-in and activate it to block those spammers from wasting your time.

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    4: Page Link Manager

    Available at this website.

    Wordpress allows you to write static pages as well as chronologically arranged posts. By default, every static page you create is linked from the top menu bar. That's great for things like About and Contact pages, but sometimes you want a page you can access for reference (or whatever) but you don't want it in the top menu bar. This plug-in adds a little check box to your admin panel when you are creating a new page that allows you to choose whether or not the page is including in your site's navigation (i.e., menu bar).

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    5: Oceia Bar

    Available at this website.

    This plug-in gives you a quick little admin bar at the top of the page when you are logged in and viewing your own site. That way, if you notice a typo in a post or decide to add a picture, you can get there in one or two clicks, versus typing in "wp-admin" up in the url bar.It may not seem like a big deal, but after you've gone back and forth a few times, you'll appreciate having this shortcut in place.

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    6: Google Analyticator

    Available at this website.

    If you don't care about Google analytics, then skip this plug-in. If you do, or have any curiosity whatsoever about how many people are visiting your site, then install it. It allows you to enter your Google Analytics UID, and then it places the appropriate code into your website to allow tracking. Much simpler than figuring out where to put the code yourself.

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    7: Audio Player

    Available at this website.

    This plug-in provides a nice, simple, but configurable mp3 player for sharing a song or podcast from your website. It isn't mean to house a library of songs, but it is a simple interface for inserting a single song or podcast into a post. It's streamlined and won't be bulky on your individual posts.

    If you're going to get serious about podcasting, another plug-in to consider is Podpress, which is available at this website.

    It has lots of features, helps you set up a feed preview your podcast on iTunes, configure your player in your post, and more.

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    8: Add to Any: Subscribe Button

    Available at this website.

    Very nice if you're wanting to build a readership, the Add to Any puts a selection of Reader buttons on your sidebar so that visitors can subscribe to your blog using any feed reader.The plug-in gives you a few different styles to choose from for displaying in your sidebar, so you can pick the one that best fits your theme.

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    9: Sociable

    Available at this website.

    You can't ignore social networking, even if you might want to at times. Install this plug-in for an attractive array of social network buttons that will appear at the bottom of every post, encouraging readers to "Share This" on the network of their choice. It automates the process so you don't have to remember to add code to every post you publish, and having the buttons there makes it more likely that your readers will use them.

    Also in the social networking category is Wordbook, a plug-in available at this website.

    Wordbook syncs with your Facebook accounts so that every time you publish a new post on your Wordpress site it is announced on your Facebook page.

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    10: KB Easy PicasaWeb

    Available at this website.

    If you don't use Picasa, this particular plug-in won't help you much but you can find others like it for Flickr and other popular photo management sites. Picasa is what I use, so I installed this plug-in that allows me to put a link to any of my Picasa albums in a post, and then when I publish the post it automatically retrieves the album and displays it (with or without captions, as I choose) in my post. If you're a Picasa user, include this plug-in to vastly simplify photo-sharing on your website. If you favor another photo management site, just do a search on the plug-in database and you'll find lots of options.

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    Next Up: Themes

    Now that you're nearly a professional in finding and installing plug-ins for your site, it's time to start customizing your look. Read Part 3 of this series for all the basics.