More useful WordPress plug-ins

Apart from a widget that puts a login form onto a blog sidebar, I am not really on the lookout for WordPress plug-ins but here are two that came to my attention recently. I have found them to be useful; maybe you will too.

The first is WordPress Admin Themer. This allows you to store wp-admin.css in your blog’s theme folder, out of harm’s way from future upgrade cycles. A neater way of otherwise storing your customisations of admin pages -- I keep changing the logout destination to the front page of my blogs -- would be a bonus but the style plug-in is a good step forward.

One use to which I was going to put WordPress Admin Themer was to hide some elements of the WordPress dashboard page but I happened accross another plug-in that does just this kind of thing: Dashboard Editor. Activating this gets you an extra admin page where you can select the components that you want to see using the tick (check) boxes. You can even take things further by having your very own dashboard instead of what WordPress offers or by activating widgets for using with your dashboard. It’s all good stuff and I have got rid of extraneous pieces such as Planet News and the getting started section (I have using WordPress long enough that I should know my way around by now…).

Now, I know why my site layout changed on WordPress.com…

One of the caveats of using themes authored by others is that you don’t quite know how things are set up. The reason that this has come home to roost for me is that I was trying to change the title of a widget last night and was wondering why it wasn’t filtering through to the blog pages. I went for a spot of googling as you do and it dawned on me what might be going on. The plug-ins used by the Andreas09 theme are defined in its functions.php file and I was being scuppered by naughty piece of hard coding in there. If it was using the standard widget from widgets.php in the wp-includes directory, then everything would have worked as expected. A quick spot of code porting resolved the issue and all was well again.

What this has to do with WordPress.com is that they seem to have encountered the same problem and fixed it using what could be viewed as a more ham-fisted approach: deleting the widget functions from functions.php for Andreas09. This would have meant that the default widgets shone through, thus explaining the changes that I had seen and why my nice categories listing now grabbed less attention. I reckon that my more surgical approach is the better one: at least, I still have my categories looking how I want them…

TechnologyTales.com has moved server…

The last week on WordPress.com has featured decisions that some may question, to say the least. For instance, the death of Feed Stats was something that I saw as a retrograde step. Next, I saw a slight change to the appearance of my blog that led me to take full control of the situation; a previous discussion with WordPress.com staff about changing a theme to the way that I wanted it to be got me nowhere so I wasn’t about to try again… I might miss having advance notice of where WordPress goes next but I am not sure that I want to be a guinea pig either.

So, you now find this hosted by Streamline.net and, apart from a lengthy hiatus (at least, it felt like forever thanks to recurring thoughts of PageRank loss; yes, I know that sounds silly…) spent awaiting FTP access to be sorted out, the set up ran smoothly enough; I think that my request for transfer from a Windows server to a Linux one might have been the cause of the delay. Setting up a MySQL database was a breeze and it’s part of the package too. In fact, the Pro package that I am using is £31.99 ex VAT per annum, not bad at all, and, teething problems out of the way, it’ll be interesting to see how things will fare from now on.

Having a self-hosted WordPress installation is nothing new to me since I do it for my hillwalking blog and everything came together very quickly this time around. knowing what plug-ins add real value was a definite help: Bad Behaviour and Ultimate GA headed the list but a Spam Karma 2 is another option. Feedburner integration is another potential item on the configuration list. I have stuck with the Andreas09 theme but am unsure as to how far I will take customising it; it’s not a high priority right now. In fact, I may find another three-column layout that takes my eye now that I am not limited to the offerings available from WordPress.com.

The posts from the old blog have arrived over here and that seems to have worked fine first time around thanks the WordPress’ import/export functionality. I still have to get the images over but there’ll be time for that yet. Another thing on the to do list is to transfer over the links and set up any text and RSS widgets that have been a feature of the previous rendition of the blog. That means linking to wp-links-opml.php on the old blog using the import links functionality. There is no other link export function and you can only import into a single category; a link import/export plug-in that retains the link category information would be a bonus.

While I wonder if I have made a rod for my own back with my having two self-hosted WordPress blogs, it does feel good to have more control and it’ll be interesting where where this journey goes next.