The best free WordPress plugins for March 2014

Welcome, friends, to WebdesignerDepot’s monthly WordPress plugin roundup, March 2014 edition.

Every time I write one of these articles, I aim to include plugins that meet a variety of needs. This month however, there is a common thread amongst some (not all) of them: communities. More specifically, some of these plugins would be most useful on WordPress-based community sites. Anyone can use them of course, but they seem better-suited to WordPress sites with large numbers of users.

That said, look through the list. Try them out, have fun, and let us know what you think!

Simple Exclude Categories

Simple Exclude Categories provides additional settings for the Reading section in your settings menu. Simply put, it allows you to exclude entire categories of posts from your home page. There are numerous possible uses, especially if you can’t, or don’t know how to make custom post types.

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FTP Sync — theme, media & plugin files

FTP Sync is one of the more interesting plugins on this list for a couple of reasons. First, there’s the functionality itself, which could speed up the process of deploying small changes to WordPress sites. Secondly, you can use the same plugin to create remote backups via FTP. Sadly, SFTP is not yet supported, but that’s coming.

The developer gives this interesting recommendation on the plugin’s WordPress.org page:

For best results, setup your local site’s wp-config.php to use your remote site’s database so you every time you sync your files even the database will match up with everything (since it’s the same database!).

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WP Report Post

Remember what I was saying about plugins better suited to communities? WP Report Post is one of them. It adds a simple text link preceded by a small red icon to the header or footer of your post. You can, as an alternative, insert the link manually.

Clicking on that link loads a small form which allows the user to express why they think the post is inappropriate. On the admin side, you’ll see all flagged posts listed much as they appear on the All Posts screen. You’ll have the option to unpublish the post, delete it, or just delete the report.

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Youtube Like Rating

Like Youtube’s rating system? You can use Youtube Like Rating to add “thumbs up” and “thumbs down” buttons to each and every post (“Green vs. Red bar” included!). You can allow everyone to vote, or only registered users. You can also enable voting on comments.

WP Product Review

Want to write product review on your blog without creating a custom post type? Once WP Product Review is installed, just make a new regular post. At the bottom of the page, you’ll be asked if this post is a review or not. Selecting “Yes” opens up a whole bunch of extra fields, where you can list things like the product’s features, its pros and cons, add a product image, and so on.

Sender

Another great one for communities, Sender does just that; it allows you to send custom e-mails to all users. It’s a simple plugin, there’s no WYSIWYG editing, just a text field for your message. You can choose to send the e-mail to all users, or just select the ones you want.

You are given the option of sending the e-mails through the Wp-mail function, PHPs default mail function, or the SMTP server of your choice.

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WP Notifications Manager

WP Notifications Manager provides a simple interface for disabling the e-mail notifications that WordPress sends out. You can disable/enable the New User e-mails and Password Change e-mails separately. Additionally, you can have these e-mails sent to a different address, if you don’t want it going to the main e-mail.

Launch Check

Launch Check performs a couple of basic yes/no tests to see if you’re still using the default WordPress tagline, if you’ve opened up your site to search engines, and if you’ve installed Google Analytics. If your site fails any of these tests, you’re presented with notifications on the Admin side.

I’d like to see further development to this plugin. For example, if there was a plugin to remind me to change URLs in the content that still include “localhost”…

Contact Form 7: Wysiwyg Field

I don’t normally like just throwing WYSIWYG functionality around, but if you really want to have this option for text areas in your contact forms, it’s there. Just install this plugin, edit your form, and go. (Requires the Contact Form 7.)

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Cookieless Comments

WordPress uses cookies to remember things like names, e-mail addresses, and so on for people who comment on your site regularly. If your site is based in the EU, there’s a law that says you have to inform users about the use of tracking cookies on your site.

If you’d rather not bother setting up a notification of some sort, you can use Cookieless Comments to simply disable those cookies. It’s not an ideal solution, perhaps, but it works.

WP Pipes

Now, I’m not a developer, so I have a limited comprehension of how “pipes” work. As I understand it, they are a means of aggregating/pulling information for display elsewhere. With WP Pipes you can add Yahoo-like pipe functionality to your WordPress install.

A quick test reveals that you can use this plugin to pull in posts from RSS feeds, and re-publish them (link your sources, people). You can also select specific categories of posts (and, I assume, custom post types) and publish them in a separate RSS feed.

You can do more, of course, but that’s for brighter minds than mine to figure out.

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Inline Comments

Feeling the Medium comments-on-paragraphs jealousy? Feel jealous no more! Register your site with Disqus, and this plugin will give each paragraph in your posts its own comment thread.

Mind you, I do worry a bit. I’ve seen how long Disqus threads can take to load sometimes, and I wonder if using this system for each and every paragraph might be frustratingly slow. Still, I feel like it’s a step in the right direction. Having immediate context for a comment thread is a wonderful thing.

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Simply Map Me

Use a lot of Google map embeds on your website? Instead of pasting the full embed code into the Text view of your post every time, just grab Simply Map Me. Once activated, just use type in a location (ie. Toronto, Ontario) and wrap it with the [map] short-code.

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Bonus: WordPress Bitcoin

I marked WordPress Bitcoin as a “bonus” because I don’t know enough about Bitcoin to test it properly. Apparently, you can use it to accept Bitcoin payments via your WordPress site.

As a non-developer, I cannot speak to its security, either. Any cryptocurrency enthusiasts out there who want to give this a try?

Have you used any of these plugins? Have we missed one of your favorites? Let us know in the comments.

Featured image/thumbnail, uses news image via Shutterstock.

0 shares
  • gotzu.com

    Thanks for sharing. Nice to read as it is very informatic. http://www.gotzu.com

  • Joshua Olsen

    Great article with a good list of useful plugins. http://www.webexnews.com

  • http://mizine.de/ Viktor Dite

    simple Question please. If Youtube Like Rating is one of the best free WordPress plugins for March 2014, why you are not using it here?

    • http://www.webdesignerdepot.com/ Benjie — WebdesignerDepot

      Our site was built a short while back, the plugin wasn’t available at the time.

  • http://wpscoop.com/ WPscoop

    Nice list! I have just released WP Inject a few days ago, a plugin that makes it very easy to fetch creative commons images and add them to the post. Since finding good free images to include in a post is a problem many blogger struggle with maybe you would like to check it out and consider including it into next months post.

    This is it: http://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-inject/

  • Guest

    Nice share, I would say.

  • http://www.logodepot.co.uk steve sammuller

    Good list. Thanks

  • http://www.benchmarkemail.com Dorothy Le

    Benchmark Email has a new easy to use plugin called Benchmark Email Lite that combines your WordPress site with the traffic-generating benefits of email marketing.
    You can install an email sign-up form onto any page (it actually scans the colors of your page and adjusts itself so that it blends seamlessly into your theme), track down analytics, and even send email-friendly version of your blogs posts straight into your readers’ inboxes. And all straight off your WordPress dashboard.

    Definitely a two-in-one program that will save your time, let you exercise your creative,
    and increase engagement with your followers :)

  • http://www.webhostingreviewboard.com/ Chawki Trabelsi

    Thank you for these useful wordpress plugins, in fact I liked very much the WP Product Review I can use it for my website.

  • Rafael Pasqua Costa

    Hi I liked all tips but also the color change on the link when I mouse over. What plugin was used?

  • http://www.bibbledesign.com Bibble Studio

    Ohh like the FTP plugin!! Going to try that one out

  • Chitraparna Sinha

    Hi, is there any plugin which will allow me to show a “sign up to read more” message within a post?

    I mean after certain lines, the “sign up to read more” message hides the rest of the post and is accessible only after the reader signs up or clicks the ‘X’ button…is there anything like this?

  • vili

    A useful Q&A widget http://wordpress.org/plugins/alwaysupport/

    (instead of the old FAQ)