If you have been using WordPress for some time, or if you are planning to start a blog and have done some research, you would know that one of the key strengths of WordPress is the plugin system and an almost infinite number of plugins available to you – both free and paid.
Let us understand what WordPress plugins are, why you need plugins, and how you can easily install a plugin and extend the functionality of your blog .
What is a Plugin?
WordPress is a complete blogging system – if you just install WordPress and nothing else, you can start and run a blog. That is why it is the most popular blogging platform in the world today.
WordPress has many features built-in, and this makes it awesome. But any mass market system can not cater to every possible need.
One way to get additional functionality is by tweaking WordPress itself – you go to the code, change something or add some functionality. Or, if the system is modular in nature, you just plug-in additional functionality.
WordPress is a modular system, an that is why adding any new functionality to it is extremely simple – this is done using a piece of additional software called a plugin.
The best part about a plugin is that once developed and tested, it can be installed on any other WordPress site as well to get the same functionality!
What can a Plugin be used for?
As I mentioned earlier, a plugin is used to extend the functionality provided by the standard WordPress installation. Thus, a plugin can be used for anything.
Here are some possible uses for a plugin:
To have an image gallery on your blog
- To make your blog search engine friendly – Search Engine Optimization – SEO (a popular plugin for this is SEOPressor)
- To integrate YouTube videos on your site
- To have a better administrator interface
- To find out the most popular posts on your blog.
- To run a membership site (WishList Member is a popular plugin)
- To make your blog mobile-friendly
- To integrate social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc) with your blog
- To increase the speed and loading time of your blog
- To create backups of your blog
- To have a discussion forum on your blog (bbPress is a popular plugin)
- To block spam comments / spam filtering
- To import content from other blogging platforms
The uses are endless – how you use a plugin is limited only by your imagination!
In fact, the WordPress plugin system is so rich and developed, that you can find a plugin for almost anything under the sun! You can have a look at all the available WordPress plugins at: http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/
Installing a WordPress Plugin
Now that you know what WordPress plugins can do, I am sure you would want to dirty your hands and install some plugins yourself!
Are you wondering about how to install a plugin? Its super easy! Here’s how.
Step 1: Go to the “Install Plugins” screen
In the admin area of your WordPress blog, go to Plugins > Add New. You would see the following screen (please click to enlarge the image):
Step 2: Search for the Plugin
There are multiple ways of doing this:
- You can type the name / feature of the plugin, and click on the “Search Plugins” button
- You can click on any of the popular tags at the bottom of the screen to see a listing of the plugins relevant to that topic
- You can click on Featured / Popular / Newest / Recently Uploaded link on the top of the page
Doing any of these would open a screen with a list of plugins matching your search criteria. Here is how it looks like (please click to enlarge the image):
Step 3: Install the WordPress Plugin
Scroll through the plugins list, read their description, look at their user ratings, and narrow down on the plugin you like.
Once you know which plugin you want to install on your blog, just click on the “Install Now” link below its name. A pop-up dialog box would appear asking you if you are sure about installing the plugin. Click on “OK” to proceed with the plugin installation.
Step 4: Activate the Plugin
You would see the following screen:
That’s it – the WordPress plugin is installed on your blog! It’s so easy, isn’t it?
Now you just have to click on the “Activate Plugin” link, and you are all set to start using it!
Step 5 (Optional): Plugin Configuration
Some plugins – especially plugins having complex functionality – need further configuration before you can start using them. Most plugins also let you choose options to tweak and tune the plugins performance.
Also, some paid plugins may require some kind of activation (like entering your ClickBank receipt number) before you can start using them.
You can go to the plugin’s setup page (normally found under the “Settings” menu in the WordPress admin of your blog), and perform these actions.
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