The best free WordPress plugins for September 2014
Plugins, plugins, and more plugins! We’re back with another roundup of WordPress extensions that might be just what you need for your next project. Or they might just make you marvel at the sort of things people can make.
This month’s selection is eclectic to say the least. We’ve got new features designed for non-coders, a file manager, and better IFTT integration for developers, and more.
Simple Author Box
Simple Author Box provides a number of slick-looking visual improvements and customization options for those “About the Author” sections at the bottom of articles. It’s great for when you either can’t code in your own customizations, and for those who don’t know how.
Features include styling for avatars, web fonts from Google’s collection, icon-links for social networks, and more.
WordPress’ default templating PHP functions are powerful. Even as a non-developer, once they get the hang of basic loop queries and other WP-specific functions, anyone can build some pretty complex sites.
Still, it could be… easier. Now it is. Twig allows you to develop WordPress themes with the scary-powerful Twig templating language. Instead of calling in data with raw PHP, you can use simple, easy-to-read tags. Since these tags resemble HTML to some extent, most front-end developers should feel right at home.
Head to Twig’s main site for a quick overview of how to use the templating language, and check out the plugin’s main page to learn how to get started using Twig with WordPress.
Oh, and you can also still use plain PHP. No reason to take that away from developers.
Memoria Ticket System
Memoria Ticket System creates a quick and easy form that allows users to create help tickets. These tickets are saved as a custom post type, and they can be reviewed & handled from the admin interface.
They’re also public, and can be accessed from the front end. Since it’s a custom post type, you could always create a separate section for displaying all tickets. You can sort them by both “Category” and “Department” taxonomies.
The form itself is customizable to an extent, and you can use custom CSS. Just use the shortcode in any post, page, or template, and you have yourself a ticket system.
It has only one drawback, in my mind: the form layout is accomplished with tables. You can’t turn it off, and I don’t get it. I hope they change this in a future release, making it easier for people to customize the form’s layout.
Another one for the average user, wanna put a full-screen background on your site, but don’t know how? Now you do: install this plugin. It adds a section to the appearance menu called “Background.” Upload your photo, choose the alignment and tiling settings you want, and you’re done!
Note: this plugin uses the BackStretch jQuery plugin. This is cool for a couple of reasons, but especially because images are loaded after the rest of your site so that users can get started before the image actually loads.
This plugin allows you to create custom RSS feeds based on post categories and other taxonomies on your site. Just type in the slug that your taxonomy uses, write in a description, and you’re good to go!
You can also create custom templates for your feeds, but WordPress’ default RSS2 should work just fine in most cases.
This plugin provides a number of useful shortcodes for customizing posts and pages within the content editor. This is especially useful for people who want to spice up their content, but can’t — or don’t want to — go into the actual templates to make it happen.
The elements that can be created with these shortcodes include: buttons in various colors, alert boxes, drop caps, grids (I know. Doing layout inside the post or page body is not ideal. Still, sometimes you need to put things side by side, but you don’t want to use a table…), video and map embeds, and tabbed content boxes. All of these elements are, of course, responsive.
A simple plugin with a simple premise: give media items (such as images and videos) taxonomies and categories of their own. And why not? They’re already technically a post type, accessible from the front end if you know the URL.
xfile is a fully-featured file manager for your WordPress installation. As long as you’re on a Linux server (no Windows support yet, sorry) you can browse through all of the files in your WordPress installation directory.
Create new files and folders, copy or move existing files, rename them, download them, or compress them into zip files, it’s all there. Better yet, the file manager comes with dual panes by default.
In the settings, you can edit the permissions (or the things that the file manager is allowed to do), define which file types are allowed to be uploaded, change the visual theme, and more.
If you need web-based access to your WordPress install files, this extension gives it to you in spades. Just be careful. You can probably screw up your CMS if you move the wrong files around…
User Login Log
This plugin does exactly what it says on the tin. If you’ve got multiple users, you can track who logged in, and when, all through this handy little tool. It creates a new menu item in the “Users” section, where you can see all recent logins. What’s more, you can sort the information by the User ID, the Username, time, or IP address.
OSD Outdated Browser
This one is for anybody who wants to show a simple, customizable message when a user shows up with an outdated browser. The plugin focuses on IE (duh), but developers can, in theory, add other browsers and their old versions to the mix.
IFTTT Bridge for WordPress
Developers, rejoice! So far, the default WordPress-related recipes on IFTTT (If This, Then That) have been limited to say the least. IFTTT Bridge for WordPress provides a more flexible means of working with the service.
As an example, the team behind this plugin released an add-on that uses IFTTT to create a gallery of Instagram photos on WordPress blogs, instead of the usual one-photo-per-post allowed by the default recipe.
For Fun: Cat Game
Remember the Cat Game from Super Troopers? This silly little plugin counts the number of times anyone writes “meow” in a single comment. That’s it.
Ezequiel Bruni is a web/UX designer, blogger, and aspiring photographer living in Mexico. When he\‘s not up to his finely-chiselled ears in wire-frames and front-end code, or ranting about the same, he indulges in beer, pizza, fantasy novels, and stand-up comedy.