Must-have WordPress Plugins

I’ve written about plugins a couple of times on my blog. I’ve talked about my favourites, ones for backing up your site, how to pick a good one and even my serious love affair with Editorial Calendar. I haven’t talked much about the ones that I consider essential however. Here are a few plugins that will help keep your website secure, safe and running smoothly.

  • Akismet This plugin is built by the folks at Auttomatic (the guys who make and maintain WordPress). It is the best plugin for keeping spam off your website. It ships with all WordPress installs, but you have to make sure that you Activate it and sign up to get an API key. It’s run by donation, so if you love it, throw them a few dollars.
  • Backup Buddy I’ve written about other backup plugins, but I especially love this one! You can set it to automatically backup both your website and database (which is where all of the content is stored), which means that it is sort of a set it and forget it plugin. That said, it’s important to check with your hosting company to find out how regularly they back things up. It’s really smart to have two back up systems in place. If you want to be even more careful, use a plugin like Duplicator, to manually back everything up, every once in a while.
  • W3 Total Cache I don’t use this plugin on every site, but I could! It really helps keep the site moving quickly and things loading as they should. Install it and use this blog post to set it up properly.

Editorial Calendar Plugin for Better Blogging

Diary-style CalendarEver find something that, every time you use it, you think “Wow, this is just awesome.” I think that every time I sit on my new couch (not having a college dorm futon after 30, is awesome, amiright?). Right up there with the new sofa, is the Editorial Calendar plugin for WordPress.

The concept is very simple: This plugin allows you to see your posts in a calendar instead of a list. It also allows you to keep a list of blog posts that you’d like to write but don’t necessarily know when you want to schedule them. Even though the concept is simple, it is a lot easier for me to visualize my blogging schedule when it’s in a calendar. When I can see that I have a post written for every Tuesday, life feels good! And if it’s not blocked out on your calendar, is it really going to happen?

How I Use Editorial Calendar

So, truth time: I love blogging (it’s the whole reason I got into WordPress development) but I’m not often inspired to sit down and do it. I actually blog on three different websites, this one, Urban Stream‘s website (my husband’s company) and the website for the WordPress Meetup Group. I handle writing a lot of posts by sitting down and writing four to six of them at once. But all that writing means that I need to stagger my content right? That is where Editorial Calendar comes in. I can visually see when my posts are going to go up, and what state they are in (i.e. draft or scheduled).

Editorial Calendar also helps me come up for post ideas for the blogs. I could use Evernote, a note on my iPhone or even keep a list in my paper notebook, with ideas for blogs but I find it a lot easier to just jump into the blogs I write for and add the blog post idea to Editorial Calendar. Sometimes I put the title in the calendar so that it’s scheduled (though it won’t post unless I’ve gone in, written it and scheduled it) and other times I post the title to the unscheduled posts list. The unscheduled posts list is a great place to drop ideas that may not be fleshed out or that I’m not sure are good. That way, when I sit down to write, I already have a whole bunch of ideas to write about. It makes content creation much less daunting and means that I just have to focus on writing.

What tips do you use to produce your content? What motivates you to write blog posts?

This is part of my Better Blogging series.

* Image by photosteve101 under Creative Commons.

How to Use Special Characters in WordPress

How to Add Special Characters in WordPress | Kate Moore HermesOne of my own personal pet peeves is seeing editor markup in blog posts. (Editor markup is stuff like using two hyphens instead of an em dash.) I know, it shouldn’t matter and I’m persnickety, but I think that using actual special characters, adds a really nice level of polish that a lot of people miss. Also, WordPress makes proper punctuation quite easy! In this little post in my Better Blogging series, I’ll tell you how to make use of the special characters palette.

I’ll make this shorter and sweeter than I usually do … The special characters palette can be found six in from the right, on the second line of the kitchen sink in your WYSIWYG editor in WordPress. (Check out my post from two weeks ago, if you need a refresher on where to find the second row.) Special characters include em dashes (used to separate parts of sentences), en dashes (used between numbers, among other things), letters that require accents and even icons for clubs, hearts, spades and diamonds.

Don’t be afraid to check out all of the options that the WordPress WYSIWYG editor has. Using the tools that are available to you, will give you blog posts with style.



Create a Custom Palette in the WYSIWYG Editor

Create Your Brand's Colour Palette in WYSIWYG Editor
I thought that I’d start a new series about better blogging, to share a few of the things that WordPress can do to make your blog posts better. If you’re a stickler for formatting like I am, there are some things in the WordPress WYSIWYG editor that will give your posts greater clarity and style. I may not cover all of the options in the WordPress editor, but I thought it might be helpful for me to point out a few of the lesser known ones.

Firstly, what am I referring to when I say the WYSIWYG editor? Well, WYSIWYG stands for “what you see is what you get.” It’s basically the editor box that you type out your blog posts out in. I’m typing in one right now to create this post! Side note: What you see is what you get, is a bit of a fallacy. Unless your web developer has inserted a piece of code into your custom theme to actually show your custom typography in your editor, you will see a pared down version of your specific typography. (Ask them to add:¬†add_editor_style(‘style.css’); to your functions.php file. They’ll know what you mean.)

Let’s look at the WYSIWYG editor. The top row of icons, above the editor, has the basics: (from left to right) bold, italics, strikethrough, bulleted list (or unordered list, in HTML), numbered list (or ordered list), blockquote (a specific HTML tag for text that is quoted from another source), horizontal line, text align left, text align center, text align right, link, unlink and insert read more tag (this will break your post up so that your readers must click this link to delve into the full post). The last icon in the first row is important! It is the toolbar toggler. When you click it, it gives you many more options for formatting. The full set of tools is called the kitchen sink (as in “everything but”), and a lot of people don’t know about that handy second row.

So what’s in the second row? From left to right, you have: typographic styles, underline, text align justify, text colour, paste as text, clear formatting, special characters, decrease indent, increase indent, undo, redo and keyboard shortcuts. Today, I’m going to talk about text colour. In the coming weeks, I’ll cover many of the other features in this row of the WYSIWYG editor.

Text Colour

This little icon allows you to change the colour of the text in your post. Coloured text can help bring emphasis to your words, but when misused, can make your posts look very sloppy. If you read my post on How to Create Your Visual Identity, you know that I would recommend that you stick to the colours in your website’s colour palette in your posts to prevent sloppy-ness. If you have a professional brand or a DIY version, you should have the colours you used readily available. pro tip: Colours all have specific codes and to create a colour palette in the editor, you’ll need the hexidecimal code, which is a six-character alphanumeric code. To create a palette specific to your brand, follow these steps:

  1. Click on the text colour icon.
  2. In the dropdown palette, click on the word custom.
  3. You will see a colour picker take over your screen. Paste the hexidecimal code of one of your brand’s colours into the space next to the pound (or hash, since it is 2014).
  4. Repeat until you have your full palette.

Once you have the full palette in your text colour icon, it will remain there. This will ensure that anytime you need to use a colour, you can use just the colours within your brand. Again, I really recommend that you use these colours sparingly, but knowing how to use your brands colours can’t hurt!

Was that helpful? If you have a burning question about how to use something in WordPress, especially as it pertains to blogging, please let me know in the comments below, on Twitter or Facebook.