One of the (many) great things about the WordPress blogging platform is the huge number of enthusiastic supporters who write third party plugins. Very often, if WordPress doesn’t seem to do what you want yet, you can find a Plugin that will modify its behavior so that it will.
With plugins, you can turn WordPress from an already great open source blogging platform into a fairly complete content management system.
The plugins I’ve downloaded have usually worked quite well “out of the box”, though from time to time I’ve done some “minor” tweaks — minor, that is, from a programmer’s point of view.
Here then are my candidates for the Top Five WordPress Plugins. Naturally your list will depend on what you want your WordPress installation to do.
Spam Karma 2
Top Five? Forget it — this is the one! As far as I’m concerned, No WordPress installation can be considered complete until Dr. Dave’s outstanding Spam Karma 2 is installed and activated. Spam Karma 2 deserves its description as the “ultimate spam killer”. If you’re suffering from WordPress comment spam, WordPress now ships with Askimet, which seemed to work ok when I last tried it, but it always struck me that Spam Karma 2 caught more spam than Askimet. Moreover, Spam Karma 2 itself has its own plugin system, allowing people to modify and extend how it behaves.
Spam Karma 2 Moderate
OK, this is not technically a WordPress plugin, it’s a Spam Karma 2 Plugin (which makes it a WordPress Plugin Plugin — yikes!). The point of the moderate plugin is that Spam Karma 2 — perhaps being the “ultimate spam killer” and all — thinks that you’d never need to moderate your posts, presumably since it got all the spam. The moderate plugin fixes this by capturing the obvious Spam and then still letting you moderate your posts. This can be helpful, for example, if you’re getting a lot of people stopping by for the sake of arguing with you, which can happen from time to time. (See the CollegeHumor parody on Blog Commenters). As a special bonus, if you scroll down on the moderate plugin you’ll see that I sent it’s author, Peter Westwood, a fix for a minor issue I discovered with the plugin. This proves that even real estate brokers can make good contributions to Open Source projects if they used to be programmers!
Page Links To
One of the neat things about WordPress is that you can use it not just to blog, but to manage web site pages that are not chronological. In other words, you can use WordPress as a full-fledged content management system — which is a fancy way of saying it’s an easy tool for creating or changing the pages on your web site. Many WordPress themes support adding pages, so when you add a page to WordPress, you automatically get a link to that page added on your menu. But what about the case where there’s already a page somewhere that you want to link to. Maybe it’s part of your IDX system, for example your MLS listing search page that’s maintained by another company. Now what? The Page Links To Plugin let’s you add some code to a sort of “dummy” page, which in turn tells the navigation system to link not to the page, but to whatever web address you tell it that the (ta da!) “page links to”.
Page Category Plus
I recently discovered Yellow Swordfish’s Page Category Plus, and installed it immediately because it struck me that by using it I could set up the page navigation at the left. Page Category Plus lets your pages have categories just like your posts do, so that using it, you can set up left hand navigation for all your pages. Being a programmer, this was not a big deal for me personally, since the old non-Wordpress way of tweaking the navigation bar (put it in a file and then just re-edit the file and FTP it up to the site) has always worked for me. What Page Category Plus allows me to do is create the very same look as I could achieve manually but have it all be part of the WordPress page system. This means that custom web site clients could update their own pages themselves if they wish.
PlanetOzh’s plugin, BetterFeed, allows you to automatically make some neat changes to your RSS feed. Why would you care about what’s in your RSS feed? Well, for one reason, your RSS feed is what your subscribers see. So let’s say want to offer someone an incentive for subscribing, an idea I’m testing out on my Sacramento Blog. I’m using PlanetOzh’s plugin to add some links to the Subscriber-only content directly into my feed. (Please note that you don’t want to add anything really secret this way, since chances are pretty good your feed is available to non-subscribers as well — that’s how people turn into subscribers is by accessing your feed. But in the case of discount coupons and the like, if someone thinks they found a “forbidden freebie”, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.