Tag Archives: WordPress

WordPress Plugins: Jetpack

Although WordPress.com users cannot install plugins for added functionality, they do have access to a number of features that aren’t included in a basic self-hosted WordPress installation. Fortunately, the folks at Automattic (creators of WordPress) have developed a plugin called Jetpack giving you access to most of that WordPress.com goodness. Some of the things you can do with Jetpack include:

  • Offer your readers a mobile site even if you don’t have a mobile-ready theme.
  • Display links to related posts at the bottom of the current post/page.
  • Automate managing comment spam.
  • Additional widgets for your sidebar along with the ability to define which widgets appear on specific pages within your blog.
  • Shortcodes for embedding content on a post or page. This makes including YouTube videos or Flickr photos in a post so easy.
  • A form builder that lets you build a lot more than just a simple contact form.
  • Markdown support so you can use Markdown instead of HTML if you prefer.
  • Site stats hooks you into WordPress.com’s very impressive site stats platform so you can see how many people are visiting your blog, where they are coming from, what they are looking at and much more.

There’s lots more – 33 at the moment with new features added regularly.

Jetpack home screen

Once you install and activate the Jetpack plugin, you’ll see a Jetpack section added to your Dashboard menu. Before you can use Jetpack’s features, you will need to connect your site to Jetpack so that some of the features will function. Jetpack will walk you through that process.

With that done, you’re ready to activate features and define their settings. Some of the features – like Omnisearch, Akismet and Site Stats – permanently reside under the Jetpack menu but most of them are incorporated somewhere in the WordPress back-end. For example, if you activate the Contact Form feature, it will appear as a button in the page/post editing screen (right next to the Add Media button). Others may appear as widgets. Some – like the embed shortcodes or Markdown – don’t “appear” anywhere. They are codes you’ll use when editing. There is a Jetpack Support site with details on using each of the features.

Future posts will look at individual Jetpack features and how to best use them. Stay tuned and see what Jetpack can do for you.

Tumblr Experiment

I have found Tumblr to be a delightful news service – both for reading and aggregating news and other items of interest. Some time back I created a Tumblr to support a weekly genealogy workshop I’m doing at our local Council on Aging. For me, it is an easy way to collect articles, videos, links and other relevant online information. Although my workshop participants have varying degrees of tech skills, they seem to be able to navigate the blog and find it useful. It’s the perfect tool for this project.

Below is another experiment using Tumblr as a news service. Here I’m using two WordPress plugins – Widgets on Pages and Tumblr Widget. The Tumblr Widget makes it easy to display the latest posts from a Tumblr on my blog and Widgets on Pages lets me put a widget into a page or post – not just the blog’s sidebar or footer. In the experiment below, you’re looking at the latest posts on my Personal Publishing Tumblr. Why is this an experiment? I want to learn two things: 1) the best way to format my Tumblr posts for display here at WordPress and 2) how the widget will display in both newsreaders and email.

So here for your viewing pleasure (I hope!) is a look at my Tumblr experiment in news-gathering.

    Mobile Blogging

    The latest update to WordPress’s mobile app for iOS is delicious. Each update has created a smoother and more functional app, but this one has taken a huge step forward.

    The latest version of WordPress for iOS lets you create new posts and pages, edit existing ones and add images and videos. You can moderate and reply to comments. Your site stats are also visible. If you have Markdown activated on your site (requires Jetpack on self-hosted site – turned on in Settings > Writing screen for WordPress.com sites), it’s even easier to compose your posts in the mobile app – especially when you include formatting or links in your articles. You’ll find a quick reference for Markdown at the WordPress.com help site.

    Here are a couple of screenshots showing the iPhone version of the app.

    I’m finding my iPad with the Logitech keyboard/cover is great for traveling and my iPhone makes it easy to take and post photos to my personal blog from just about anywhere.

    The WordPress Media Library

    We all quickly learn how to upload and display images on our posts. WordPress’s Media Library offers even more functionality that can be quite useful. Here’s an introduction to the Media Library giving you a look at some of those features.

    I haven’t paid much attention to the attachment page except to notice that it’s an option for linking to your image as you place it into a blog post. For family history sites, this page could be used to describe a photo – and its provenance – in greater depth. By taking advantage of these features, our WordPress blog can become more than just a storytelling platform. It could also be a digital museum and archive for our family treasures.

    How to install Jetpack Site Stats on a self-hosted WordPress site

    The Jetpack plugin gives self-hosted WordPress sites many of the features available to blogs hosted at WordPress.com. Site Stats is an impressive analytics package. This video shows you how to install Jetpack and set up the Site Stats component on your blog.

    Video: How to create an image gallery in WordPress

    This video offers a quick look at how to build image galleries on your WordPress blog. One thing not mentioned in the video is the two types of galleries. The thumbnail grid type gallery is used in the demonstration, but there’s also a slideshow gallery. Experiment to see the difference in these gallery types, then choose the one that best suits your purpose.

    WordPress 3.8

    We could see version 3.8 released as early as today. One thing I’m looking forward to is the “responsive dashboard”. If it lives up to its hype – and WordPress features usually do – it means publishing from mobile devices will be a lot easier in the new version. Oh, and the new default them – Twenty Fourteen – is a magazine-style theme. Interesting . . .

    Categories, tags and menus, oh my!

    One of the *** many *** benefits of blogging your family history is that it doesn’t take too long before those family story posts become quite a collection. Fortunately, WordPress gives you a number of tools to help you display those individual posts as a well-organized family history. Let’s take a look.

    nested categories screenshot

    An example of nested categories.

    First there are categories and tags. Think of categories as sections within your site. You can organize your content by timeline, by location or by surname just by assigning each post to a category. You can even separate content – like an area for family history posts and another area discussing your research efforts. And, since categories can be nested, you could have a category for a surname with sub-categories for the different family groups in that surname.

    While WordPress uses categories to organize the display of content on your site, tags are the digital equivalent of the index. You can assign any number of tags to a post to further identify what it discusses. For example, if your post is discussing an ancestor’s service in the Civil War, you could include tags to identify him, his unit and the battle or location being discussed. WordPress can quickly display all posts assigned a specific tag so with a bit of thought you can use them to quickly display all military stories, Civil War stories, stories about traditions or stories related to a specific location.

    There are no limits to the number of tags you can include with a post, the challenge is to maintain consistency. WordPress doesn’t know that “World War II” and “WWII” are the same event. It’s easy to add or update tags at any time using WordPress’s bulk edit feature.

    bulk edit screenshot

    Bulk editing post metadata

    From the posts list, select the posts you want to update, choose the Edit option from the Bulk Actions drop-down menu, then click on Apply. The bulk edit screen appears giving you the ability to change several post parameters – including tags. Here you see I’ve entered a “lost” tag. Next click the Update button and each of the selected posts will be updated. Note that the number of posts being updated will impact how long it takes for the process to complete.

    So, how do you use these features to construct a beautifully organized site? Here’s where custom menus come in. Most themes automatically use categories to build the default main menu. Your top-level categories will become the menu items and most will display sub-categories as some kind of second-level menu item. Exactly how and where these things appear depends on the theme. You can build your own custom menus (yes, more than one) and use them in more ways than just presenting a main menu at the top of the screen.

    WordPress menu editor

    WordPress menu editor

    In this example, I’m building a “section” menu for the blog section of Moultrie Creek Books. The menu editor is located under the Appearance section in your work area. In this example, I’ve set up “Blog” as a parent category and created sub-categories for News, Book Notes, Reviews and Authors. My bookstore’s main menu lists the Blog category with only the Author Interviews and Book Reviews as sub-categories. If a visitor clicks the Blog menu item, WordPress will display all of the blog content and all of the sub-categories’ content as well – all in reverse chronological order. What I want to do now is build a small menu that will only appear on the Blog category screens to allow visitors to just wander through the various types of blog content.

    custom menu widget

    Configuring the Custom Menu widget.

    Notice the left panel in the menu editor is used to collect the content that will be presented via your menu items. You can present specific pages, custom links or specific content categories – which is what I’m using here. I have already checked each of the blog sub-category items and then clicked the Add to Menu button. Those items then appear in the right pane for additional editing. Next I rearranged my menu by dragging the News menu item to the bottom of the list. Now I want to change the label that is displayed for the Authors category to read Author Interviews. I clicked on the down arrow icon to the right of the menu item to display this pane, then made my changes. I could also add a title attribute to this link if I wish. The title attribute is used to specify additional information about the link and often appears to the visitor as a tooltip. In this case, I’m not going to use it. Click on the down arrow again to close the edit pane. When I’ve finished building my menu, I’ll click the Save Menu button.

    One last step – displaying the menu. In the Widgets section, drag a Custom Menu widget to the appropriate widget area (the sidebar in this example). I’ve given my widget a custom title, then selected which menu to display. I then clicked the Visibility button to define when this menu will appear in this sidebar. I added the Blog category and each sub-category so it will be visible when a visitor is looking at any of the blog category collections. Save the widget and I’m done.

    By organizing my site content with categories and setting up several custom menus, I have “built” sections within my site in a matter of minutes. Yes, each category is still presented in reverse chronological order, but if you want to create menus of specific posts in a customized order, you can use the links section to build links to individual posts then arrange them in whatever order you prefer.

    And what about those tags? Many themes display the tags assigned to a post as part of that post’s metadata. Often, they are displayed as links which, when followed, will display all content tagged with that tag. You can also put a Tag Cloud widget in the sidebar or footer and label the widget with something like “Choose a Topic”. Tag clouds are becoming common enough that most people are quite comfortable using them to find content. You might even create custom menu links to specific tags.

    Developing a plan for using categories and tags on your posts makes it easy to use WordPress’s many tools to display your content in creative ways. Thanks to WordPress, you’re not stuck in reverse chronological order forever.

    Fun with widgets

    Widget visibility screen shotWordPress.com users and self-hosted users with Jetpack can now select which widgets appear and in what circumstances. Notice the new Visibility button at the bottom of your widgets. Once clicked, the highlighted section appears giving you options for when and where this widget will be visible on the site. Why would you want to do this? In this example, I’m setting up a links widget to only appear when the visitor selects the Digital Storytelling category to view. I might want one set of links to appear on the Digital Storytelling category screen and a different set of links to appear on the Blog Bytes category screen. Now I can do that!

    After setting up the parameters, click the Add link shown on the right. You can have multiple parameters if you want. For example, I could say show this widget only if the Category is Digital Storytelling and the Tag is “software”.

    This visibility feature can be very useful as your content grows on your family history blog. You can now build sections within your site for different family groups, each with its own customized sets of sidebar information thanks to widgets and this new visibility feature.