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The best WordPress plugins

Not having a list of favourite plugins on a WordPress-related blog is like not having a cute picture of your cat on your personal blog. Also, plugin developers deserve as much credit as possible! (I’m sure they appreciate donations, too ;-)

So, with thanks to all these generous developers, here’s my run-down. I’ve highlighted the ones that I include by default with the majority of my WP installations.

Site admin

WP-DBManager by Lester ‘GaMerZ’ Chan
Excellent database management facilities, including essential scheduled backups.
Smart Archives Reloaded by scribu
Some archive display options aching to be rolled into the WP core.
My Page Order by froman118
Again, something this will hopefully / probably end up built into WP soon.
Use Google Libraries by Jason Penney
I’ve found that this clashes with a plugin or two that relies on WP’s own JavaScript libraries. But if it works, this is a great idea—can really speed up load times by loading JS libraries from Google’s servers.
Exec-PHP by Sören Weber
If you need to do PHP in your posts and pages…
Executable PHP Widget by Otto
If you only need PHP in widgets…
Widget Logic by Alan Trewartha
Nifty way of altering widget placement through conditional PHP.
Search Regex by John Godley
Powerful searching of all site content (for the backend, very useful for admin purposes sometimes).
WP-Options-Manager by Marc Schieferdecker
Not for the faint-hearted, but if you want to clear out crud from old plugins and the like, this plugin will help. Be careful though!
WP-Optimize by Ruhani Rabin
A useful little tidying-up plugin.
Theme Test Drive by Vladimir Prelovac
Essential for trying out changes or entirely new themes on a live site.

Anti-spam & security

Akismet by Matt Mullenweg
Comes with WordPress. Just activate & enter a WordPress.com API key. A good part of an anti-spam arsenal.
SI CAPTCHA by Mike Challis
A good CAPTCHA plugin, for comment and/or registration form. CAPTCHAs are those images of squiggly letters you’re asked to type out. They provide a certain amount of protection, but are regularly broken by bots and low-paid humans.
WP-reCAPTCHA by Jorge Peña
This is genius in theory, and pretty good in practice. It’s a CAPTCHA system that uses doubtful words from projects that are digitizing written works. Spam gets stopped, and OCR efforts are helped. Like all CAPTCHAs, it’s not water-tight, but making this part of your anti-spam arsenal does some good as well as stopping some bad.
WordPress Exploit Scanner by Donncha O Caoimh
This saved my skin when my host’s server got compromised with one of those eval() PHP injections. Doesn’t fix things, but seems pretty thorough at checking for changes in your WP files.

Forms

cforms by Oliver Seidel
The forms motherlode. Incredily flexible and powerful, but you pay the price with forced manual upgrades and occasional tricksiness.
Contact Form 7 by Takayuki Miyoshi
If you just need a contact form, this is a leaner bet than cforms.

Search & SEO

Google Sitemaps Generator by Arne Brachold
I don’t think a site would die without an XML sitemap. Then again, I wouldn’t die without one of my arms—but I would miss it.
WordPress Advanced Search by Alex Günsche
The best plugin I’ve found for extending WP’s very poor search capabilities.
All-in-One SEO Pack by hallsofmontezuma
Gives you precise control over titles, keywords, description and so on. Of course you need to know how to use these well, but this plugin at least gets the technical bits out the way.
SEO Slugs by Andrei Mikrukov
Helps remove extraneous words from auto-generated slugs, keeping permalinks shorter and improving SEO.
Robots Meta by Joost de Valk
All-in-One SEO handles this stuff, but if you don’t need that plugin, this one will help control which pages get indexed.

Blogging & content extras

ShareThis
More corporate than your usual plugin source, but this is a great little all-in-one thingy that lets people email or post something from your site to a blog or social network.
Add to Any
I’m starting to prefer this to ShareThis—there are pros and cons to each.
Do Follow by Denis de Bernardy
I’m not a fan of WP’s habit of flagging links in comments so that search bots don’t follow them. The theory is that this renders the point of comment spam pointless and discourages it. However, I’m not sure the mindless nature of spamming will be that deterred; plus, I want to stop spam being published, not to make it impotent. And I want legit links to be part of the search engine calculus. This plugin makes comment links followable.
Google Syntax Highlighter by Peter Ryan
Neat formatting for code snippets.
Now Reading Reloaded by Ben Gunnink
A fantastic plugin for keeping track of your reading, including ratings and reviews. We’re grateful for Ben for following in the wake of Rob Miller‘s path-beating work.
Subscribe2 by MattyRob, Skippy, RavanH
The best plugin for email notifications of new content.
qTranslate by Qian Qin
Doing a multi-lingual site? This plugin’s a must.
Quotes Collection by Srini G
Good quotes manager.
Simple Tags by Amaury Balmer
WP’s built-in tagging is OK these days, but if you need more features, this is the best tagging turbo-charger.
WP-Polls by Lester ‘GaMerZ’ Chan
Polls!
GigPress by Derek Hogue
An excellent way for bands and other performers to show where they’re playing / have played. A good balance between features and ease of use.

CMS functionality & user management

pageMash by Joel Starnes
A much slicker option for managing page ordering than My Page Order, this also acts well as a replacement for paging through loads of pages in the default WP Edit Pages screen.
Page Tree by Måns Jonasson
If you’re happy with My Page Order, but want something that does the tree thing like pageMash, but simpler, this is it. Really helpful if you’ve lots of pages.
Lock Pages by me!
I know, I’m biased. But I created this plugin because I think it’s essential for many CMS-type WP installations. It allows admins to “lock” certain pages, preventing other users from moving them around, renaming the slugs, deleting them, or otherwise messing up key permalinks.
WordPress Download Monitor by Mike Jolley
Excellent download management and tracking plugin.
Members by Justin Tadlock
This plugin is in its early days, but it already feels very solid. It basically lets you completely customize the roles & capabilities of your WP system. Very powerful and very useful.
Cimy User Extra Fields by Marco Cimmino
Good for extending user profiles with custom fields.
User Photo by Weston Ruter
You should probably try to use gravatars where possible; if not, this will help for author profile photos.

Media

Viper’s Video Quicktags by Viper007Bond
Fully-featured video embedding. (Though WP 2.9’s oEmbed support might make this obselete.)
Simple Image Link by BlogWell
Really flexible widget to add images with links to your sidebar. Most useful in conjunction with the “Media Library URL column” hack.
FancyBox for WordPress by Jose Pardilla
A slick, simple image zoom.
Audio Player by Martin Laine
I’ve generally avoided any plugins that aren’t keeping up with WordPress. But this is a great little MP3 player, which sadly isn’t up-to-date. However, it highlights the wonders of open source to find someone’s done a patched version that makes it work with 2.7+.
NextGEN Gallery by Alex Rabe
Seems to be the best image gallery management plugin out there.

E-commerce

Shopp by Jon Davis
OK, you have to pay, but not much. Kind of fair enough for a directly commercial plugin. And OK, I’ve not used it extensively. But a look at the competition made me plump straight for this one, even though it’s in its infancy. It needs to mature a little before being great, but it’s already good, with a well-thought-out foundation, reasonable support forums, and, frankly, not much competition.

9 comments

  1. Best list ive seen so far… alot of what i was looking for in one place. I grabbed a bunch. also love your blog and your work… added you to my blogroll if thats ok. (have mercy my sites not ready)

  2. Steve Taylor avatar Steve Taylor

    Thanks, glad you found the list useful!

  3. Simon avatar Simon

    You’ll need to add in Fancy Box it is very useful!

    Good content here btw.

  4. Steve Taylor avatar Steve Taylor

    Thanks for the recommendation—looks good, will have to try it out to see if it’s fit for the list!

  5. Steve avatar Steve

    Thanks man. I especially like the all in one SEO pack. I need to implement this stuff ASAP.

  6. IBL Builder avatar IBL Builder

    reat list, thanks. If only the recaptcha plugin cold be repositoned!

  7. I’m surprised you haven’t included hte “Headspace” plugin. I found it invaluable and think it has a few advantages over all in one.. More customization ability and a more subtle integration.. just my 2c

  8. Steve Taylor avatar Steve Taylor

    Thanks John, looks interesting. Will have to test-drive some time!

  9. Thanks for a great list of plugins, i’ve stopped using all in one SEO however, it’s starting to feel a bit out-dated, i’ve been experimenting with SEO Ultimate, it has a lot more features, well worth checking out if you haven’t already!

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