A plugin is just an extra bit of code that allows you to extend the functionality of your main WordPress installation by appending to the core WordPress code. That makes it sound more complicated than it really is though. Basically, if you find yourself limited with your WordPress blog somehow, chances are someone has coded a plugin that you can download and install (usually for free) that will add the missing functionality. Some examples of popular plugin functions would include:
- Anti spam filtering for the comments.
- Enhanced blog statisitics.
- Search engine optimization.
- And much more.
The first step in adding a plugin to WordPress is to actually find and download the desired plugin. There are many different plugin directories available, but the most comprehensive and up to date one is the official WordPress plugin directory. This is part of the WordPress.org Extend section (where you can also find other downloads to help extend the functionality and look of your blog).
On the official WordPress plugin directory, you’ll find a few different ways to find plugins:
- Search Box: There is a search box at the top where you can type in key words or the actual plugin name if you know it and search their extensive collection of plugins.
- Popular Tags: There is a popular tags sections on the left bar that has some of the more popular plugin categories that you can click on and view complete listings of each subject. This usually takes more time but you can sometimes find plugins you may want to install that you wouldn’t have even known about otherwise.
NOTE: It is very important that you pay attention to both your WordPress installation version number and the required WordPress version for the desired plugin. It is also a good idea to visit the plugin authors Web site to check for the latest version of the plugin if possible.
Once you have downloaded the plugin, installation instructions can vary depending on the complexity and author of the plugin, but for the most part, the following instructions will work with most plugin installations:
- If the plugin is zipped or archived, use the appropriate program to extract all of the files somewhere on your local machine where you can easily find them.
- Using your favorite FTP program, upload either the plugin file (usually a single PHP file) or folder to the plugin directory:
- Auto-Install from Site Manager: Your plugin directory will be located at /var/www/html/wordpress/wp-content/plugins/ if you have used the auto-install of WordPress from your Site Manager.
- Manual Install: Your plugin directory will be located at /wp-content/plugins/ from your WordPress install folder.
- Login to your WordPress admin and click the Plugins link from the top nav bar. If you successfully uploaded your plugin, it should show up in your list here with the status set to Inactive.
- Click the Activate link under the Action column for the plugin you wish to activate.
NOTE: Some plugins require extra steps once activated (i.e. inserting additional code in the template files). Please refer to the specific documentation included with each plugin to ensure proper installation, the above steps are just basic guidelines.
That really is all there is to it. With plugins, you can extend and customize WordPress to grow with you, allowing for a powerful yet intuitive blog interface and administration.