WordPress: Best 13 Free Make-My-Life-Easy Practical PlugIns

WordPress: Best 13 Free Make-My-Life-Easy Practical PlugIns. (Paradise Shelduck, female. Snapped @ Duke Gardens, Durham NC)

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♦️ Pub: Aug 23, 2018 | Updated: Aug 29, 2018 | Reading: 8 min. | Words: 3,258 ♦️

The world of free WordPress plugins offers much more than fancy pants stuff. Many serve a single nitty-gritty practical purpose, designed to ease a blogger’s server-based chores. Those powerful gems earning an express nod in my BuJo gratitude pages appear below. All free; no nags for upgrades. Each makes my blogging life much easier.

Audience: Business Tier WordPress.com; self-hosted WordPress.org


The Purpose of this WordPress PlugIns Article

Bloggers toil, drafting and formatting posts, despite an oppressive number of unrelated responsibilities overflowing plates. Small wonder that, behind the scenes, efficiency serves as a harried blogger’s BFF.

Why this WordPress plugins article- respect time! (Downy Woodpecker, male. Snapped @ Triangle area backyard, NC)
Why this WordPress plugins article- respect time! (Downy Woodpecker, male. Snapped @ Triangle area backyard, NC)

My blog-related approach nods to a self-imposed rule: make thy way easy, where possible. Translation: exploit tech to convert time into a friend. Examples:

  • make desired columns in the Admin Dashboard visible (e.g. view the featured image)
  • enjoy both auto-selected Related Posts and the power to choose, correcting the goofy selections automation sometimes provides
  • kill trauma-inducing concerns about wiping out a live post during refresh sessions
  • add muscle to the Admin Editor to ease formatting chores (e.g. an icon for yellow-highlighting a phrase in one-tap fashion)
  • make it easier to see both what’s been published and what’s scheduled for posting, i.e. gimme a standard month view; the default list view induces Popeye-arms per successive filtering taps
  • shut-up WordPress’ incessant pinging during massive refresh chores (i.e. establish a no-pings-Dude! timeframe, like 95 minutes, to prevent a spam designation)
  • lemme add notes, for my eyes only, when drafting or editing within the Admin screen


This article details how to address AND resolve such practical concerns. By the time you read the last line, you’ll know the precise steps required to

  1. convert your WordPress Admin Dashboard into your personalized ultra-friendly cockpit; and,
  2. add little extras your visitors will appreciate.
Plugins, used wisely, shave tedium from a blogger's workflow (Spectacled Owl (South America). Snapped @ The National Aviary, Pittsburgh, PA)
Plugins, used wisely, shave tedium from a blogger’s workflow (Spectacled Owl (South America). Snapped @ The National Aviary, Pittsburgh, PA)

The Best 13 Free Powerfully Practical PlugIns Inducing Sloppy Grins

1️⃣ Admin Columns

Mere months ago I finally grasped the importance of featured images. The idea of revisiting EVERY published post to discern related featured-image status sent shivers up my spine.

Admin Columns plugin- one-glance goodness (Downy Woodpecker, male. Snapped @ Triangle area backyard, NC)
Admin Columns plugin- one-glance goodness (Downy Woodpecker, male. Snapped @ Triangle area backyard, NC)

Meanwhile, I also learned about branding. That coerced enhanced focus on the featured image issue. Why? Images + branding mimic pancakes + syrup. Not a required breakfast coupling, but a fab 2fer for the tastebuds. As a general rule, I ignore (the fake promise) of multi-tasking. But where, as here, I can accomplish two goals with one action —conjuring and tweaking images, while inherently pushing consistent branding— yo, GirlFriend is soooo there!

I resolved to assign a featured image to every post. And, I vowed to create the most efficient workflow I could. The twin goals ushered me to Google and, ultimately, the WordPress.org PlugIns home.

The Admin Columns plugin plays no fancy games. It exists for one reason: put the blogger in charge of the columns appearing within the Admin Dashboard. Guess what? The options include making visible the <wait for it> Featured Image</wait> column!

I situated the featured image thumbnail to the far right of the Dashboard. The thumbnail gives me a decent idea of precisely which image, if any, acts as current featured image per post. This saves a boatload of time, as I don’t need to visit every post’s page to see if a featured image’s been assigned.

A chore I thought would take months to complete —tackled within a day of starting. All because of this one plugin. Hear the Hallelujah choir singing?!

The screenshot underscores the luxury of efficient quick-glance review. How I managed to skip the featured image for a photography post eludes me. But courtesy of this plugin, the boo boo was easy to spot, and just as easy to rectify.

Net result?

 

2️⃣ LH JetPack Related Posts

This genre of plugins, related posts, earned a horrendous reputation. Many appear on the ban lists of well-maintained hosting sites. The reason? They kick the blip blog outta da server, extracting a mean speed hit in the process.

The good news? When you bump into an article recommending such well-known enemies to a server, you know the credibility level of the blogger.

LH Related Posts plugin, corrective companion to JetPack's Related Posts feature
LH Related Posts plugin, corrective companion to JetPack’s Related Posts feature

WordPress.com sites —all tiers including free— have the JetPack Related Posts plugIn pre-installed. But the full features are available only to Business Tier users. Self-hosted folks must create a .com account as a requisite to use.

Conjured by the WordPress folks, the plugin adores the server. But another problem materializes, in terms of a specific feature: it ain’t a smartypants in choosing its version of 3 related posts.

The temptation to replace this plugin with another died quickly per my discovery of the nasty server-hit issues. In addition, replacing JetPack’s related posts requires deactivating that feature. Read: all related posts, everywhere, would boogie smack dab into BuhBye! mode. Me no think so, Sherlock!

I’ve visited enough tech playgrounds to know: if I have a need, some brainiac somewhere has likely addressed it. So I scoured every nook and cranny of the plugin repository. The LH JetPack Related Posts plugin appeared as my bingo. A grrr! → not one review graces the plugin’s description page.

I searched for other plugins by the same outfit. Glowing reviews. That proved sufficient to trigger my “ok, I’ll trust you on this plugins vibe” decision.

The beauty of this gem lies in its flexibility. Its mini screen shows in the Admin screen’s far right column. If I’m satisfied with JetPack’s 3-way selection, I do nothing. If I want to change the selections, I tap the associated plugin-generated button, run searches, make my selections, and I’m done. A minute, tops, and that time mostly reflects me inserting different search terms.

Bottom-line: an onerous chore, when multiplied by hundreds of posts, tamed into submission.

 

3️⃣ Last Modified TimeStamp (Show Modified Date in Admin Lists)

Among my blog clean up chores:

  • create a fall-back generic featured image per post type → video, audio, quote, quicknote (link, aside), article
  • assign featured image per post
  • schedule my multistep refresh-content chores


With that degree of work overflowing my blog plate, I craved mini helpers. I wanted a signifier, within the Admin Dashboard, advising whether I’d made any change to any post, and if so, when.

The convenience of a visual last-modified column, throughout tweaking sessions, defies exaggeration.

This plugin provides an extra delight: the column relates to a click, reshuffling blog post titles into chronological order of modification date.

In short, where the modified date preceded the 2018 Memorial Day weekend, I knew I was in Isley Brothers territory:

 

4️⃣ Revisionize

My typical blogging workflow:

  • draft in my blogging app
  • let it sit a day or so
  • edit
  • add links —external, internal
  • possibly, additional research
  • pinpoint images to add to content
  • ditto re featured image, Pinterest image
  • more editing
  • format for web-based readability
  • upload to server via the blogging app
  • visual inspection
  • formatting tweaks for enhanced readability
  • clean-up and polish
  • schedule


Once the info sits on the server, published, how can I work on a refresh off & on — “quietly”? There’s no save-draft button, only “update.”

To work on a post, instead of tapping Edit, I click Revisionize which makes a copy. I work on that copy, for minutes or over days, without fear of replacing the original prematurely. Once I’ve finalized the refresh, this plugin handles the mechanics of replacing the original, as desired. One-tap goodness.

Happy dance!

 

5️⃣ Duplicate Post

Duplicate Post
Duplicate Post

Not every theme recognizes assorted post-formats. Because that reality limits theme choices, I conjured a scheme to ensure some version of post-formats persists across theme changes. That scheme relies on the Duplicate Post plugin as step one. Result: no more theme restrictions per this now-resolved issue.

Once I had a branding scheme in place, with built-in recognition of the post-format, I wanted a fail-safe mechanism to repeatedly add the scheme to every similar post. With thus plugin, I set up —say, an audio post— once. Thereafter, instead of tapping NEW or EDIT in the Admin screen, I choose NEW DRAFT. I replace the content, enter the title, and assign related posts. All else is already in place. Woot!

Publish converts the copy to a live or scheduled post. It’s clean. It’s easy. It’s fool proof, precisely what this gal needs when toiling during brainMush hours.

 

6️⃣ TinyMCE Advanced

Ever wanna highlight text in a post, yellow highlighter style? Or craved an easy way to rifle through a post, replacing every xyz with abc? This plugin responds to these issues and more with finesse. By adding super-helpful icons to the Dashboard’s Visual Editor, TinyMCE Advanced replaces tedious multi-step editing with intuitive one-tap ease.

TinyMCE plugin, adding goodies to the WordPress Dashboard's Visual Editor
TinyMCE plugin, adding goodies to the WordPress Dashboard’s Visual Editor

 

7️⃣ WordPress Ping Optimizer

Didcha know? WordPress auto-pings one or more services when you update your site. Translation: Duuude, new content over here, come check it out!

Ping services smile, unless they get an excessive pings from a single site within a brief period of time. That heightened activity within a too-short timeframe triggers the service’s payback mechanism → deeming the site a spam source. 😱 Uh oh!

The WordPress Ping Optimizer plugin avoids that predictable travesty. The intuitive settings screen permits establishing xx minutes as a no-pings zone, arresting pings until the designated time increment passes.

WordPress.org: WordPress Ping Optimizer plugin, preventing an inadvertent spam designation
WordPress.org: WordPress Ping Optimizer plugin, preventing an inadvertent spam designation

Example: A published “quote” blog post appears on this site for each day in 2017. I covered 20 quotes within minutes — changing/assigning a featured image for each of those 20 quote-format posts. Ditto the audio and video posts. I even managed to select related posts for every video and audio post.

I started preDawn on a Sunday. By noon, an honest ✓ appeared next to these task entries. Mind you: I did NOT work straight through that period!

We’re talking speed demon, as I enjoyed “in the flow” single-task concentration.

That process would have generated an insane number of rapid-fire pings, had I not set a 95-minute no-ping zone. When you don’t have to worry about silly stuff like this, you work more efficiently.

 

8️⃣ WordPress Editorial Calendar

WordPress.org: Editorial Calendar plugin: —See your posts in standard calendar view
WordPress.org: Editorial Calendar plugin: —See your posts in standard calendar view

While working at the server, trying to discern what was published when gets tricky. Ditto determining scheduled posts. My mind likes day names. The sever provides only numerical dates. Filtering is provided, but it’s anything but a fluid experience.

The WordPress Editorial Calendar plugin tosses the entire word-wrapped (!!) blog post title within a month view grid. Tapping any title reveals both an Edit and a Quick Edit link. One glance scratches my itch, telling me date and day name. Convenience, on steroids.

Because of this plugin, I no longer waste time pretending I’m a filtering queen. No need. Multiple taps converted to one, courtesy of this delightful monthly Editorial Calendar info view. Ahhhhhhh!

 

9️⃣ Outerbridge Nested Shortcodes

Call me greedy. I wanted an easy box-this shortcode. ✅ Done.

A box opens this page, reflecting my goal to answer predictable Qs immediately:

  • When was the post published?
  • Refreshed?
  • How long is it?
  • How long will it take to read?
  • And, what’s the post about?


By presenting the answers within an opening box per page, folks know what to expect.

Oreo-cookie style coding, called nested shortcodes. No problemOh! (Red-Bellied Woodpecker, male. Snapped @ Triangle area backyard, NC)
Oreo-cookie style coding, called nested shortcodes. No problemOh! (Red-Bellied Woodpecker, male. Snapped @ Triangle area backyard, NC)

Problem #1 concerns constructing the box itself → I know diddly ’bout CSS nuances. Research told me how to create a box, but the sheer number of coding lines made me dizzy. To duck that monster, I rely on a shortcode (Shortcodes Ultimate, free plugin).

Why isn’t Shortcodes Ultimate on this list? It deserves a sole-focus article, all by its lonesome.

Problem #2 concerns the text within the box. The post publication date, the last updated date, the reading time, and word count —it all changes post to post. Each of those info nuggets comes by way of a one-purpose shortcode. I wanted all of those shortcodes within the opening box. But the box itself appears via a shortcode.

Researched: can I put a shortcode within another shortcode??? (Think: cracker, peanut butter, cracker; bread, peanut butter, jelly, bread.) Answer: yeah, but ya gotta add certain coding to one of the files. This free plugin adds the required coding to the theme’s functions.php page, slavishly honoring the WordPress gods’ dictates for proper nested shortcode coding.

The caveat: the Outerbridge Nested Shortcodes plugin taps a theme page for its life’s breath. Therefore, you must reinstall when a new theme is introduced. I know I will soon change themes. I’ve made BuJo notations, to treat the theme switch as a 3 part affair:

  1. Be sure CSS is saved
  2. Switch themes
  3. Immediately reactivate this plugin.

By the way, my Spidy sense tells me I should be able to circumvent this reinstall business. So, I added a note in my BuJo’s Daily Log. I’ll get to that AFTER I complete the global refresh of this blog.

 

🔟 Hide This

The best illustration of my “need” for this plugin sources in posting Pinterest pins. Pinterest identifies pins by numbers, which forces flipping between the Visual and Text Admin Editing screens to see the pin —unless you somehow memorized it.

If WordPress includes a built-in invisible commenting feature, I’ve not found it. Google also failed.

The usual option, CSS, won’t hide comments from a view-source inspection. Sometimes I want an absolutely hidden comment or note.

The Hide This plugin provides shortcode satisfying this need, in a ridiculously easy manner. Surround the text you want hidden from all but you with the shortcode. Example:

  • [ hide ] write the hidden text here [ /hide ]


Done!

 

⏸ Enable Media Replace

I assigned certain photos as defaults per post format. Much later, SherlockReena here got a clue ’bout branding.

Example: I WANTed to replace the default pic I attached to every video post. I did NOT want to revisit the dozens of posts sporting the video tag.

This Enable Media Replace saved my bacon. Among its highly intuitive features: replace an image with a new one; keep the same fie name and, hence, url.

Hey y’all, Houdini ain’t got squat on this dude. Give it a few hours, to allow the cache to refresh. But you’ll see that it works precisely as advertised on the tin.

🤔 Before continuing, an admission-style FYI. I realized, midway through drafting this post, the number icons stop at 11 (⏸). The next morning, as I poured my mug of coffee, a sly grin spread across my face. Figured out a work-around for that “11” limitation. 😛

 

🔟+2️⃣ Insert HTML Snippet

Insert HTML Snippets, settings example
Insert HTML Snippets, settings example

Shortcodes usually welcome instructions. Quick example:

  • [  shortcode color=”red”  ]


Now, imagine you decide, months later, you want blue instead. That shortcode lives on 200 posts. Wanna go into each post and make the change? PuhhhLeeeeeeease! S’ pose you could instead go into one settings page, within the Admin Dashboard, change ONE “red” to “blue”, and see that change filter to the 200 pages concerned. Oooo baby!

Welcome to the Insert HTML Snippet plugin. Killah feature: this badBoy smiles at shortcodes, meaning you can include shortcodes within the snippet. LawdHaMercy Goodness!

 

🔟+3️⃣ Publish Date Picker

The Admin Editor screen invites a mistake when scheduling posts, courtesy of its abysmal publication-date mechanism. You select month, date number, and year. Options to ensure you’ve selected the correct date number for next Tuesday:

  • count it out on your pinkies
  • find a calendar for reference


The Publish Date Picker eliminates the annoyance. It adds a drop-down full month view, with each date selectable via a click. Check out the screenie.

WordPress.org: Publish Date Picker plugin
WordPress.org: Publish Date Picker plugin

 

 

WrapUp

We each confront the same number of hours / minutes comprising a day. Choice:

  • Try to impress others by spouting “I’m too busy to…” Reality check: you’re telling on yourself, and not in the manner desired. Doubt me? Google → “too busy” really means. In short, productive people don’t waste time giving others a status report; don’t care if others perceive them as busy; and, comprehend the difference between mere busy work vs genuine productivity..
  • Or, quietly impress yourself by finding/devising mechanisms to kill tedious time wasters. Translation: enhance your productivity level.


When you realize how much time these fab tech wonders save, meThinks the thrill will infect your tootsies….

 

 

Call to Action

Have you studied the repetitive tedious actions in your life? Have you researched alternative mechanisms for accomplishing the same tasks?Example: I didn’t care about Alexa until I realized it’s potential role in both my Morning and Evening Routines.

  • I’m out of bed and boogying around 4a weekdays, because Alexa plays my desired Motown tune on command.
  • When I go downstairs fresh coffee awaits, courtesy of a shotgun marriage between an off-the-shelf $15 “switch” coffee brewer, a Wemo plug, and Alexa.


Added “skills” permit thesaurus checks while editing, and a white-noise background while drafting. Little things, adding up to big grins —a mighty fine way to start and progress through my day.

Thought: 10 minutes saved daily nets at least an hour by week’s end. Multiply by, say, 40 weeks a year. You’ve gained a full standard work week of “extra” time! Nuff said.

 

WordPress: Best 13 Free Make-My-Life-Easy Practical PlugIns. (Paradise Shelduck, female. Snapped @ Duke Gardens, Durham NC)
WordPress: Best 13 Free Make-My-Life-Easy Practical PlugIns. (Paradise Shelduck, female. Snapped @ Duke Gardens, Durham NC)

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