WordPress is a marvelous tool for building websites for blogging or any number of other purposes. In fact I use WordPress for this site, VicHargrave.com.
WordPress has a huge developer community that contributes some really awesome plugins that can greatly enhance the system’s capabilities. There are many plugins I have added to my WordPress system but here are the 5 that I think are must haves.
Much as I love WordPress, there is one thing I just can’t stand about it, the bare bones default editor. Not only does the editor not have much capability, but the real kicker is it has no way to justify blog text to both left and right margins.
The TinyMCE Advanced editor provides a rich set of buttons, including my beloved justify button, as well as table creation and management tools. You can chose the buttons you want and leave out the rest. It gives you full WYSIWYG capability.
TinyMCE does have one slight problem when used with WordPress 3.5 which is really more the fault of this WordPress version. The editing window is impossibly large. So much so that it goes off the bottom of the browser window. However that is easily taken care with the fix I discussed in my blog WordPress 3.5 Set Editor Height Workaround.
Many of my blogs are devoted to programming in which I include a lot of pre-formatted code. SyntaxHighlighter Evolved is an implementation of Alex Gorbatchev SyntaxHighlighter that enables you to style your pre-formatted text blocks to have line numbers, alternating background colored rows (in version 2.x) and simple keyword syntax highlighting for a large number of programming languages or just plain text.
The 3.x version displays scroll bars when the text is wider than box in which it is displayed. You can modify the CSS for this version to get alternating colored text lines like version 2.x by following the instructions in my blog WordPress SyntaxHighlighter 3.x Tweaks. Syntax highlighting really makes your pre-formatted text stand out nicely agains the background your other blog text.
To make SyntaxHighlighter Evolved work you have to apply “brush” CSS styles to the your pre-formated text <pre> tags. This can be a little tedious not to mention error prone due to the sheer number of brush styles and options not to mention the syntax is not straightforward.
SyntaxHighlighter TinyMCE Button takes care of this complexity by adding a button to the TinyMCE Advanced editor that enables you to apply brush styles through an easy to use dialog box interface. All the supported text formats are listed in a single menu that you use to select the style your text. You can also elect to disable line numbering.
If you are given to writing long blogs with several sections providing your readers the means to easily navigate to different sections in your blog from a table contents is essential. Table of Contents+ will scan a blog and automatically create a hierarchical list of the blog’s sections with a Wiki-like menu of links that lets your readers quickly jump to sections of interrest. The plugin comes in several color schemes to blend with your blog’s theme. Once in place readers can choose to either use the table of contents or they can collapse to keep it out of the way. You can also set it to first appear on any blog collapsed instead of expanded.
iThemes Security is the updated version of the plugin that was formerly Better WP Security. Like its predecessor, iThemes Security will fix the most important security issues with your WordPress site with a single click. But it is the new dashboard that really makes iThemes Security shine.
On the main dashboard the security protections are organized in to High, Medium and Low sections. There are also tabs that conveniently take you to those sections. When you click on the “Fix It” button for each protection, you jump directly to the settings that control the given protective feature. This is a huge improvement over Better WP Security which tried to do this but often dumped you in a section where you got lost in settings for other protections.
Some of the key features of iThemes Security that I use include:
- Protecting my site from brute force attacks.
- Enforcing the use of strong passwords for all users.
- Blocking suspicious looking info in URLs.
- Blocking unnecessary HTTP requests like TRACE, DELETE and TRACK methods.
- Disabling directory browsing.
And this just scratches the surface. You can also schedule WordPress database backups and even protect against bots probing for vulnerabilities in your website. This is a plugin that you should consider having in you plugin arsenal.
Author: Vic Hargrave