Tag Archives: NextGEN Gallery

Jan 2013 Meetup Notes: Favorite WordPress Plugins

Things change rapidly in the WordPress world. The content in this post is more than a year old and may no longer represent best practices.


Ted Curran’s Notes

Meetup members shared WordPress plugins and other tools they rely on. Some of these plugins and services are free; some cost money.

Plugins Discussed

Columns and Appearance

Comment Systems and Anti-Spam

Backups & Security

Themes Discussed

Cloud Storage Discussed

Hosting Discussed


Sallie’s Notes

(Just a few items not included in Ted’s notes, and a few later addenda.)

July 2010 Meetup Notes: Choosing a Canon of Plugins

Things change rapidly in the WordPress world. The content in this post is more than a year old and may no longer represent best practices.

Questions & Answers

Susan started off by asking about putting a marquee (scrolling text) on her WP site as a placeholder for forthcoming content. Though none of us had used such a plugin, we found a few in the plugin repository and tested Marquee Plus on Sallie’s test blog.

Marquee Plus input

marquee plus options

The initial result was pretty bland, but what I didn’t notice during the test was that you can include HTML tags and style your text that way—or make links.

Marquee Plus first test

Enclosing the words in <h1> tags produced the following result:

Marquee Plus test 2

How do I keep a post on the top of the home page?

To keep a post at the top of your blog’s index page (index.php) even after you have posted more recent items, check the “make post sticky” option in publish. (You can also set this in the “Quick Edit” section.) This only works on the main index page, not on the archive or category pages.

Sticky Post in edit window

sticky post in quick edit

Image gallery that links to posts?

Mari asked how to create a gallery of images that linked to posts like the one at No Recipes.

post thumbnail gallery from no recipe

It appears to be a Random Posts widget of some kind. We took a look at the Advanced Random Posts plugin, which has an option to show post thumbnails, but no obvious way to leave out the titles. It’s probably worth doing some further searching and testing. Prizes for anyone who locates the best plugin.

Do you need a development server/test installation of WP?

It’s always a good idea to have a test site of some sort, either installed locally or online, where you can experiment with plugins and themes, particularly if the plugins are older and you don’t know whether they’ll work with your version of WordPress. But you can test them on a live site, too. The worst thing that’s likely to happen is that you’ll have to go into the plugin directory by FTP and delete the plugin if it breaks your site completely.

What’s the difference between WordPress.com widgets and WordPress.org Plugins?

WordPress.com gives you a set number of available widgets to add to your sidebar, and that’s it. On the plus side, they’re all guaranteed to work, and to work together. When you install a plugin on your WordPress.org site, there are many ways it can extend the site’s function. Sometimes that will be through a widget, but not always. The plugin could do something like back up the site, create a sitemap, add elements to posts and pages, etc.

Note that there are more than 10,000 plugins in the repository right now, and they don’t all play well together. No developer can test his/her plugin against all the others, never mind all the combinations.

Do widgets always have to be in the sidebar?

It’s up to your theme designer. Some themes also have widgetized footers or headers. If you’re designing a theme, you can put a widgetized area almost anyplace. But if you’re not comfortable editing the code to insert a widgetized region, you’re stuck with what the designer has provided, and should look for a theme that already has widgets where you want them. Note that widgets don’t always translate from theme to theme, so if you change themes, your widgets might end up in the “Inactive Widgets” section.

Is there a cross-platform offline blog editor?

Yes! You can use ScribeFire, the Firefox (and now Chrome and Safari) plugin to edit posts offline. I have no idea whether it stores local copies of those posts the way Ecto or Windows Live Writer does.

Can you post the same information to more than one WP site simultaneously? We want to keep the information on two sites updated in tandem.

You can use RSS to populate your site with content from elsewhere (if they’re posts), but you may need to do some tweaking. Talk to Anca about this; she’s working on it for a client.

How do I back up my blog?

There are dozens of plugins. The old standby is WP-DB-Backup, which backs up your database and mails it to you. There’s also Automatic WordPress Backup, which backs up your themes, plugins, uploads, and database to Amazon S3. Or you can use the amazing commercial BackupBuddy plugin, which makes restoring/moving sites easy. (With most other options, you need to do a manual restore.) Check for host compatibility before installing.

Your webhost may back up your site, but make sure the backups aren’t stored on the same server as the site itself.

Is there a gallery besides NextGEN that allows user uploads? NextGEN’s public uploader doesn’t give users the option to include a caption.

Uh…good question. If you have an answer, post it to the meetup mailing list!

Rotating Banners

Someone asked at the end about rotating banners. There are themes designed with this feature built in, but also plugins for it. One recent one that’s 3.0 compatible is Banner Rotator FX.


We didn’t approach the plugin list comprehensively, and if we’d covered everything, it might have taken us until 5 PM. I’ve distributed the list separately and uploaded it to the meetup site.

The summary is that Sallie thinks every site should have:

Other plugins tend to vary depending on what you’re using the site for.

You can find Sallie’s Plugin Bookmarks on Delicious. There are 257 of them as I type this.

Mobile Plugins/Themes

Note that there are times when you will want a custom mobile theme, because your blog header and footer and sidebar don’t display normally (if at all) in WPTouch or WordPress Mobile Pack. But these themes can make navigation of your site much easier for users of smartphones. You should give users the options to choose to use the mobile theme or not through a theme switcher link.

WPTouch switcher link

WordPress Mobile Pack Switcher Link

You’ll need to create custom icons for your different pages in WPTouch. You can generate them using the Flavor Studios iPhone Icon Generator. Note that these may be overwritten if you update the plugin!


Graham Bird won a copy of Beginning WordPress 3 by Stephanie Leary, donated by Apress. We look forward to reading Graham’s review. There’s another copy in the WordPress Meetup Lending Library at TechLiminal. If you leave a $10 deposit and sign the book out, you can take it home for a while.

New Sponsor

The Meetup has a new sponsor, WP Questions. If you’re a WP expert, you can make a few bucks answering questions. If you’re a WordPress newbie, you can get help for just a few bucks.

Future Meetups

We’ll hold our next meetup on August 22nd. The topic is BuddyPress. If you have a topic you’d like to present on, submit an idea or send me an e-mail.

March 2010 Meetup Q & A

Things change rapidly in the WordPress world. The content in this post is more than a year old and may no longer represent best practices.

Q: How do you use WordPress, when do you use it, and why use WP instead of something like Dreamweaver?


  • It automatically updates and changes things, so if the client wants to add a page about something, you just add the page and all the menus update. I don’t have to go in there and change every single page so that it has the new menu item on it. It saves time amazingly.
  • It’s very robust across browsers. Doing a straight HTML/XHTML website, it will look gorgeous in Firefox, wonderful in Safari—and then you open it up in IE and you have to do another whole set of conditions just to make sure it looks good in Internet Explorer. WordPress cuts your development time.
  • You can take this very easily and hand it over to the content producers. You don’t have to make all the changes because you know the secret code: they can go and do it themselves.
  • You can manage your content and your website through a web interface, so if someone steals your laptop, they’re not taking your website.
  • The fact that you keep your design and your content and your function separate means that if you want to give your website a new look, you can do that without ever changing any of the text. You just pick a new theme, activate it, and presto!
Q: What are the limitations of WordPress compared to other programs?

A: One of the limitations is that it’s not so easy to assign different sidebars to each page. (Sallie interrupts to say “There’s a plugin for that—it’s called Display Widgets and it lets you choose exactly which page to show a widget on. It’s a lifesaver because it saves you from having to make six different sidebar.php files.”)

Q: I love the idea of sending my clients off to make their own edits, but have you had trouble teaching your clients to use WordPress? How do you train them?


  • They can use an offline editor (e.g. Windows Live Writer or Ecto) that works just like a word processor.
  • You can do a webinar or in-person tutorial.
  • Tell them it will save them money.
Q: What’s the best strategy for managing images?


Q: Is there a plugin that will display multiple full-screen slideshows in one post/page?

A: Try SlidePress. It’s the WordPress plugin for SlideShow Pro. The plugin is free, but SlideShow Pro costs $29-$34.

Q: What’s a widget? Is there anything specific to the sidebar?

A: A widget is a little piece of code that runs in your sidebar that you can rearrange without having to hard-code your sidebar. Some people put widgets in their footers or other parts of their themes, but they have to define those areas as sidebars.

Q: Do you know of a plugin that would put a text box in my dashboard so I could update my clients/they could update me?

A: It’s hard to hear the precise wording of the question on the recording, but one of these might do what you want:

Q: How many people are using theme frameworks or premium themes versus building their own?

A: A handful of people are using Thesis. Diana recommends Thematic.

Q: Is Thesis as good as people say? How does it differ from other themes?

A: Ann says she found it early on, likes it, and stuck with it. She’ll show you the differences in her presentation. Anca points out that there’s a very long discussion on the value of Thesis on the WordPress LinkedIn Group.

These days more and more themes have theme options panels that let you customize some aspect of the appearance, but premium themes usually have more options.

After Ann’s presentation we took a look at the back end of Thematic and a child theme Diana had created based on it. (We’ll talk a bit about what child themes are at the April meetup.)

We then held our drawing for the two books. The winners were Diane Sangster and (I think) Anet Dunne.

Let me know of any corrections!