WordPress offers core functionality when you download an installation package to use it on your server or localhost. This core functionality offers a user to write post, pages and basic user management. However if a blog owner wants to extend the functionality of blog there are 1000’s of wordpress plugins available to enhance the wordpress core and give it more power. WordPress plugins often pose challenge to a beginner wordpress user. In this post we demystify all things about wordpress plugins a beginners must know to extend the core wordpress functionality to his/her likeliness.
What are wordpress plugins?
In a simple language wordpress plugins are PHP scripts, which alter or extend wordpress’ core functionality. WordPress plugins can be simple, complex depending upon the type of features they add to the wordpress core. Few examples of wordpress plugins are – Social networking plugins, E-commerce plugins, Memebership site plugin etc. There is no limit to what wordpess plugins can do.
Where can you find wordpress plugins?
There are a lot of sources on internet which offer wordpress plugins for download but the single largest source of wordpress plugins is the official wordpress directory. This directory has more than 10,000 plugins available and millions of plugins have been downloaded from this repository. The advantage of using plugins from official wordpress directory is that they are 100% GPL and free to use for personal or commercial use. Downloading wordpress plugins from this repository also means that you are downloading from a trusted source which follows strict wordpress coding and maintenance standards. Doing the same from an untrusted source can land you in danger as it could not be keeping up with wordpress standards and who knows what malware or damage it could do to your wordpress core files so that the site or blog might crash.
Types of wordpress Plugins
There are generally four types of wordpress plugins it is good for a wordpress beginner to understand the difference among these types so that management of plugins doesn’t create hassles.
1. Active wordpress plugins: These are plugins that are currently live and running on your wordpress install. Plugin is active and running in WordPress.
2. Inactive wordpress plugins: Though the code and files of these plugins are present in the plugins directory but they are not running and are having an inactive status. No code from these plugins is executed by wordpress core.
3. Must – Use wordpress plugins: These plugins lie in wp-content/mu directory. These are Must Use plugins and are loaded automatically by the wordpress core. If you don’t want a wordpress Must Use plugin you’ll have to remove the associated file from the above mentioned directory.
4. Drop – in Plugins: These plugins are PHP files located in the wp-content directory and perform specific functions for wordpress. These files are auto-loaded like the must-use plugins and are listed under the Drop – in filter on the Plugin screen. Currently ten Drop – in plugins are available:
- install.php — Custom installation script
- db.php — Custom database class
- db – error.php — Custom database error message
- advanced – cache.php — Advanced caching plugin
- maintenance.php — Custom maintenance message
- object – cache.php — External object cache
In addition to the above wordpress drop-in plugins the following four drop-in plugins are specially used for wordpress multisite install. These are not loaded for a single wordpress site/ blog installation.
- sunrise.php — Advanced domain mapping
- blog – deleted.php — Custom blog deleted message
- blog – inactive.php — Custom blog inactive message
- blog – suspended.php — Custom blog suspended message
This information is good to have for a wordpress beginner because he might not use must-use or drop-in plugins in his entire blogging career but knowing about them before hand always helps. The most plugins used by any wordpress site owners would be standard plugins.
Installation and management of a wordpress plugin
Wordpress plugin installation and management can be done only by and administrator or a user with administrative previliges.
Installation of wordpress plugin can be done in three different ways. How and where have you set up the hosting for your wordpress site or blog defines the method to be used to install and activate a new wordpress plugin.
1. Auto Installer: This method uses the built in installer in wordpress to search the wordpress plugins directory and install from the admin dashboard of your wordpress website. The auto installer searches the directory and offers you with an option along with ratings. Just click on the plugin you want to install and its done.
2. Zip File Uploader: This method requires the zip file to be uploaded to the site by wordpress itself. WordPress then unzips and uploads the file. User have to click the install plugin link to install the plugin.
3. Installing via FTP: In this method a file transfer program is used to transfer the plugin files from the local computer to your server in the appropriate directory. User can then activate the plugin from the administration panel of the site.
WordPress plugins are a boon for people who want to extend the functionality of wordpress core and extract new features from it. Every wordpress plugin is constantly updated for new features, bugs, fixes and compatibility issues with newer version of wordpress admin panel provides automatic updation features to keep your site or blog secure with latest version of the plugins. Hope this post helps you clear some doubts around wordpress plugins. Please add your suggestions and tips to make it more useful for the beginner wordpress users.